While Zach Mettenberger and the Memphis Express prepared this week for the first visit of a San Diego named team to the bluff city since the NASL Sockers came in 1980, Express fans celebrated the potential first win of the season by elevating Mettenberger to sainthood and discussed “running the table.” However, one team stands in the way of those perceptions, the San Diego Fleet.
Through three games the Fleet has shown themselves to be one of the most well-coached and schemed teams in the AAF. They too have made an early season change at QB by replacing struggling Mike Bercoviciin with Philip Nelson. San Diego made this change earlier than the Express did making their offense more developed.
The thing scariest thing about the Fleet is their offensive game plan. In almost every game the Express have been beaten by a team who methodically went to the ground late in order to put them away. And that is exactly what the Fleet will most likely try to do. Terrell Watson ad Ja’Quan Gardner’s big back/small fast, back, one-two punch has been impossible to defend late in games. While QB Philip Nelson has shown the ability to throw the early interception and the bad ball, he has sprinkled the ball equitably among his receivers and won two games in a row. He also has the ability to scramble and run for yards as Orlando’s Gilbert did last week.
The Express simply has to be consistent. Consistent success on offense will help the defense stay healthy and ready for what is going to be a brutal fourth quarter. Mettenberger will have to find receivers wherever he can find them as he did last week. If Zac Stacy and Sherman Badie continue their own one two punch, it will decrease the pressure on Mettenberger and allow him some room to stretch out the field with some long balls. It will also be important for a receiver to step up and show himself to be the favorite. While Devin Lucien, Gerrard Sheppard, Reese Horn and “Pig” Howard have all shown individual flair none of them have emerged as a go-to guy.
Though the Express defense once again played well through three quarters last week, they crumpled in the fourth quarter once again as the offense didn’t provide the full game support. We will need to see a better performance from stalwarts like DeMarquis Gates and cornerback Channing Stribling. Stribling had a quiet day last week with only one tackle after playing lights out in the first two. Linebacker Davis Tull stepped up mightily last week with six tackles and a sack and fellow linebacker Drew Jackson has led the team two weeks in a row in tackles.
Fleet Defensive Injuries
The Fleet has played well but has shown weakness in both running and passing defense. Two of the best Fleet defenders will be out due to injury this week. Defensive end Damontre Moore who is a top pass-rusher and linebacker A.J. Tarpley who had a pick-six last week against San Antonio are slated to miss the game.
Memphis has got to avoid penalties. False starts have been sprinkled all along the offensive line and there have been an excess of too many men on the field penalties. Big penalties have hurt defensive stops, leading the Apollos to the game winning TD last week, when it appeared that thee Express was going to stop them on 3rd down.