Last time these two teams met up, it went down to the wire and took a last-second field goal by Donny Hageman to decide the victor. Both these teams are on the ropes, and a loss here could spell the end of that team’s playoff hopes.
Salt Lake has not been able to win close games.
Three of their five losses have been by less than five points. They have also struggled to win the turnover battle this season, having a -11 turnover ratio. Josh Woodrum has had an up and down season, playing well at times while at other times holding his offense back. De’Mornay Pierson-El and Nick Truesdell have both become the most reliable receiving threats in Salt Lake, as both are in the top 15 in receiving yards. Their rushing attack has waned in recent weeks, but their rushing offense still tops the league, as they only allow 75.5 yards per game on the ground. They also boast one of the best pass-rushing unit in the league, headlined by Karter Schult, who has seven sacks on the year and is looking to add more before the season is up.
San Diego has had an injury bug all year.
It started at defensive back with Jude Adjei-Barimah, continued with Phillip Nelson, and now extends to both Dontez Ford and Ja’Quan Gardner. San Diego will be looking to guys like Nelson Spruce and Marcus Baugh to pick up where Dontez Ford left off while Bishop Sankey’s role is expected to expand. The offense has to find a way to move the ball consistently as they have thrived off of defensive/special teams touchdowns, tied for first with four of them. The defense has struggled to limit points in the last two weeks and has to find an answer for opposing quarterbacks, as they have thrown six touchdown passes over the last three weeks. The pass rush has still been getting to the quarterback, but they have not had a whole lot of help from their defensive backs.
Both of these teams are fighting for playoff survival as a loss could put either of their playoff hopes on life support. This game was close three weeks ago, and I would expect much of the same on Saturday.
- Fleet Defensive Backs Need to Step Up
One big problem for San Diego’s defense against Arizona is that the defensive lineman didn’t have time to reach Wolford. A lot of Wolford’s passes were out quickly due to receivers being open right off of the line of scrimmage. The Fleets defensive line only had nine total pressures against Arizona and Wolford completed 15 of his 19 passing attempts. In games like that, where teams are using the quick passing game to eliminate players like Shakir Soto and Damontre Moore, the defensive backs have to step up and make plays on the ball. Without the quick passing games, teams will be forced to do other things to move the football, which plays right into San Diego’s hands.
- Mike Bercovici needs to be Accurate
The biggest gripe many fans have with Bercovici is his struggles with accuracy. In each of the past two weeks, Bercovici ranked seventh of the league in True Accuracy. He was accurate on less than 60% of his passes against the Hotshots and struggled throughout the game. If the offense wants to be successful in the future, he needs to improve his accuracy at all levels, especially in the short game. He can make plays with the football, but his play-to-play accuracy can and should improve.
- Use the Running Backs in the passing game
One way to improve Bercovici’s accuracy is to include the running backs in the passing game. Quick passes out of the backfield will keep the pressure off the quarterback and allow for a quarterback to get comfortable and in rhythm. It also allows San Diego to get their running backs into open space, something the team has struggled to do for the past couple of weeks. Bishop Sankey and Terrell Watson have both shown an ability to make plays as a receiver, and it needs to be utilized more often, especially with Dontez Ford now on Injured Reserve. It should also be noted that San Diego’s biggest play featured a running back in the passing game. Terrell Watson caught a 41-yard pass from Bercovici early in the fourth quarter that put the Fleet in field goal range.