The Orlando Apollos hit the road this weekend and traveled to San Antonio to face the Commanders in a Sunday afternoon clash. Both teams enter the contest unbeaten, but one will leave as the first 1-1 team in the league. Will the Commanders protect home field? Or will the Apollos play spoiler? Let’s break down the 3 keys to victory for the Apollos.
1. Running back by committee
The Orlando Apollos have a fantastic running back group. All three backs last week had 20+ yards or a touchdown. Akeem Hunt led the pack in rushing with 10 carries for 73 yards. D’Ernest Johnson added 5 carries for 35 yards and 1 catch for 33 yards and a touchdown, while De’Veon Smith had 13 yards and a touchdown rushing and 1 reception for 8 yards. Each back provides a unique threat when they are on the field, and it is difficult to switch defensive personnel as often as the Apollos can switch running backs. If Coach Spurrier can keep a healthy rotation going, the Commanders’ defense will have a heck of a time keeping up.
2. Utilize the “extended handoff”
The is no question that the Commanders’ defense is solid. Heck, they have dubbed their secondary “Area 51” because “that’s just somewhere you don’t want to go”-Orion Stewart. The Apollos are going to want to sling the ball much as they did in week one against Atlanta, but they are going to have to soften the defense up a bit. Insert the short passing game. The most effective route that the Apollos ran in week one was the 2 to 3-yard drag route. It was open everytime they ran it, and it went for 10+ yards each time. They will need to utilize that again this week. The Commanders have a very good pass rush and Shaan Washington’s sack heard ’round the world is still prominently displayed all over twitter. The name of this game will be to get the ball out quickly and accurately.
3. Strong secondary performance
The Apollos are going to have to play tight and tough coverage downfield against the Commanders. San Antonio had three receivers go 65+ yards receiving, and all three had at least one gain of over 20 yards. San Antonio has great blocking up front and is able to create time in the pocket for Logan Woodside. With time comes deep route development, and I would expect the Commanders to take a number of shots downfield this weekend. The Apollos’ secondary did a solid job last week defending the pass, but when Matt Sims was able to roll out of the pocket and create a little extra time, he was completing passes for chunk yardage plays. They don’t need to stop every play, but they can’t allow anything to beat them over the top. If the can slow the deep ball and big plays, this secondary will spark the rest of the team.
You can watch the Orlando Apollos vs. San Antonio Commanders game on CBS Sports Network starting at 4:00 PM EST.