The San Antonio Commanders’ first road game of the season resulted in a loss to the San Diego Fleet that saw the defense get burned for big plays.
In the last two games the Commanders defense has not only shown the ability to clamp down, but has been producing turnovers. In those two games, the Commanders came up with road victories including a 29-25 win over the Arizona Hotshots. The Commanders had three interceptions in the first half against Arizona. Strong safety Derron Smith had two of those, including one he returned for the first touchdown of the game.
“I think what everybody knows, sometimes you have to get burned a little bit to bring you back to earth,” Commanders head coach Mike Riley said. “While you want to in every way be aggressive, I coached the secondary for for a long time so I understand the mentality and I like it, but you have to be able to blend in that aggressiveness with really, really doing your job. If your job is the deep third, you have to play the deep third. If your job is man to man, you can’t give up the big one.
“So many times football is about what you can’t have happen. The secondary there is no better place to describe it than that.”
Four Commanders defensive backs have multiple interceptions on the season. Cornerback De’Vante Bausby is tied for the league lead with three and cornerback Zack Sanchez and safeties Orion Stewart and Smith have two each.
“I think there are some guys a lot of them with good instincts,” Riley said. “Everybody has the assignment. Like in the secondary everyone has a job like a man or an area. But there’s also a special guy called an interceptor. They don’t all have that quality. Sometimes you get a great cover guy who really doesn’t have many interceptions. A bump and run guy who is in their face and you don’t see the guy catch many balls but you don’t get many turnovers from him. So there is a tradeoff. And that’s a good tradeoff.
“But the other guy you can sometimes have some vision on the quarterback while he’s doing his job. That was a great example of Derron Smith the other day. He really was just playing an area. The quarterback extended. He had his eye on him the whole way and the quarterback obviously didn’t see him. Some guys have instincts. They’re opportunistic. They’re aggressive. A like all those parts.”
In the case of Smith, he not only made the interception on the Hotshots’ first drive, his 66-yard return produced the first points of the game. The Commanders took a lead even before their first possession and led the rest of the game.