Well, this is going to be a tough one to write. Not because the San Diego Fleet were devoid of stars on Sunday. There are too many players that deserve to be mentioned.
I could select just three stars just from the defensive line if I wanted too. Or I could pick both running backs. And maybe a quarterback. A couple of the linebackers played really well too. Or maybe a wide receiver!
You get the point. After a dominating performance by the Fleet, there are only so many stars to hand out. So this week, you all get some honorable mentions!
The first is the entirety of the Fleet’s defensive line. Week in and week out, this has been San Diego’s most complete unit. They dominated in the run and the pass on a consistent basis, totaling 5 sacks and doing well against the run. This group has been the anchor of this defense (pun intended).
The next one is Ja’Quan Gardner, who totaled 121 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown. This one is going to cause a bit of a stir since he’s not one of my stars. He played well and proved to be a difference maker late in the game, especially with that impressive 83-yard run.
My last honorable mention is the Fleet offensive line. They gave Phillip Nelson a ton of time throughout the game and opened up running lanes for Terrell Watson and Ja’Quan Gardner to the tune of 202 total rushing yards at 7.2 yards a rush. This group has finally gelled and it’s a beautiful sight to see a liability become a strength three weeks in.
And now we can get to our three stars. You readers probably know how this works. My three stars are the third most impressive guy, my two stars are the second, and my one star is the most impressive guy on the field today.
Three Stars: Terrell Watson (13 carries, 79 yards, 2 two-point conversions)
A lot of people probably think this should be Ja’Quan Gardner. Trust me, I was consistently flip-flopping between the two as they both deserved one of these stars. But Watson was more consistent to me today. He was consistently powering through tacklers and picking up 5-6 yard chunks and keeping the defensive line honest. While 79 yards at 5.6 yards a carry isn’t stunning, it showed that Watson can be a workhorse when Gardner isn’t being as consistent as he usually is. Whether there was a hole or not, Watson seemed to find a way to gain positive yards. This helped our offense find a balance and kept the Commanders defensive line honest. His ability to consistently run the rock was huge for the Fleet.
Two Stars: Phillip Nelson (17-25, 193 yards, 2 TD’s, 1 INT)
I have to include Nelson in these three stars. After the early miscue, he played nearly perfect. Nelson made all the right decisions and didn’t make any mistakes late. He was amazing in the pocket, staying away from sacks and making plays on the move. His best throw was the 43-yard dime to Laquivonte Gonzalez on the left sideline. His successful play had a lot to do with the 25 points the Fleet offense put up against the Commanders. The Fleet have lacked consistency at the helm of their offense through the first two weeks, and Nelson seems to have taken control. He made a lot of smart decisions throughout the game and cemented himself as the starting quarterback moving forward.
One Star: A.J. Tarpley (5 total tackles, 1 INT, 1 PD, 1 TD)
The undisputed leader of this defense, A.J. Tarpley gave San Diego all the momentum when he undercut that slant route and took the interception to the house. The best player in a good linebacking unit, he was always around the ball on Sunday and made plays when they counted. He wasn’t a tackling machine, but he still made his presence felt against the Commanders. He was constantly eating blocks and forcing the ball towards other defenders. His ability in pass coverage shouldn’t be understated, as he had an impact their with a pass deflection and interception. He was a big part of holding the Commanders to 11 points and winning this game.