Thursday, June 13, 2019

Riders vs. Hamilton: Season Opener

Thursday the Riders travel to Hamilton to open the 2019 season against the Ti-Cats. The last 2 times the Riders opened the season against Hamilton (2014, 2012) they won so hopefully that continues. Its interesting on both sides of the field as both teams remain relatively unchanged from the previous season… except for fairly major coaching changes. Both Dickenson and Steinhauer are entering their first seasons as head coaches.

If you believe what people are saying in the media and on social media (which as we all know are always correct), the Riders are screwed and should just give up the season and go into full rebuild mode now while the Ti-Cats should just sit back and wait for homefield advantage in the East Final to be handed to them. I suppose based on that I could stop my pre-game analysis here and save us all some time.

Problem is I don’t buy it. Look I get that the Riders are not the favourites to win the West. Not going to try and argue that but personnel-wise they are essentially the same team as the one that won 12 games last year and had the best record against west teams of any team. Obviously losing Jones hurts and there’s no way they score that many return TDs again so maybe a bit of a regression there but the defense is still very good. As for the offense they were damn near historically awful last season… and still won 12 games! Run game will be better, receivers will be better, back-up QB can’t be worse. Based on those offsets, even if you factor out the "lucky" wins from last season why is it so crazy to think 9-10 wins is realistic? Maybe I’ve just hit the rye too early, I don’t know... ok well full disclosure I definitely hit the rye early but it may or may not be the reason for my optimism. As for Hamilton, yes they are the best team in the East but that’s like being the least racist guy at a KKK convention, not really something to brag about. They only won 8 games last season and haven’t really improved a great deal on paper. Long winded way of saying think this match-up is far closer than people think.

Might as well start on the defense since it’s no secret they will need to carry us. We finally get to see our new look front 4 unleashed. A fresh and healthy Hughes-Johnson-Evans-Leonard, look out! It needs to start up front with them. If we can be disruptive just with rushing 4 then our defense has a huge advantage. Two things you need to take away to beat Hamilton. Need to contain Brandon Banks (which I assume will fall to Ed Gainey again, who did well with the assignment last year) and need to keep Masoli in the pocket and not gaining yards with his legs. That requires the D-ends playing contain and the LBs staying clean and making sure tackles. They are going with Thomas-Erlington at RB. He’s an underrated runner but our front 7 should be up to the challenge. Outside of Banks and Tasker, their WRs aren’t anything special… certainly not for our secondary. Hamilton averaged 26 point per game against west teams last season and I see us keeping them under that. Probably not the flashy game changing plays people are expecting but just solid suffocating D. That said Masoli is a turnover machine with 18 INTs and 6 lost fumbles last season.

Offensively if we can find a way to score 3 offensive TDs, we win. Given that we averaged less than 2 last season that’s a big ask. Its no secret that we will be a run first offense. Hell we will probably be a run second and possibly third offense. Key to the game is Powell… and of course the OL creating holes for him. Add in a little Thiggy here and there and we should have a solid, ground game. Passing? Well that’s the big question mark. Hamilton has a very good front 4 in Davis-Laurent-Wynn and the other guy who I know relatively little about. They also have Adrian Tracy and Jamaal Westman on the IR so will only get better. Clearly we will look to help our line with running and short passes (behold the return of the hitch screen in all its glory!). We are going to need to stretch the field at least a bit to sustain drives. Roosevelt is the key guy there but he will most likely see a heavy dose of Delvin Breaux so guys like Cannon and Evans will need to step up. I would also look for ways to get Kyran Moore the ball in space. I expect Steinhauer to have the Ti-Cats playing really good D. So this could be a low scoring affair. We don’t need Collaros to do much just not make mistakes and sustain drives.

I don’t have much to base this off other than gut feel but I do think the Riders will win. It will be nail bitter and it will likely be ugly but they don’t ask how they just ask how many.

Riders by a Fajardo QB sneak TD.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Official Prophecies 2019

It's time for my annual prophecies and I'm continuing what I started last year and taking a bit of a different slant on the format. Hope you enjoy.

Yo, avid readers, let's kick it!
Prophet baby
Rider Prophet baby

All right stop, grab a drink and listen
Prophet’s back with a brand new prediction
Prophecies, something I don’t take lightly
And I stick to em’ wrongly or rightly?
Will we reach the top?
Yo, I don't know
Turn up my mic and I’ll flow
To the extreme, I drop my thoughts on this year
I just they don’t cause much fear
Beginning will be better than expected
The Jones awful start, Dickie will get corrected
Deadly, that’s what we’ll see from our D
As long as someone doesn’t get a felony
Ugly, not pretty, That will remain the tone
Best news yet, we’ll find the endzone
If there was a problem
Yo, Dickie’ll solve it
Check out the hook while my DJ revolves it

Prophet baby
Rider Prophet baby

Now Rider Nation is jumping
Start 6-2 and the fans be bumpin’
Quick to the point, the sacks we’ll rake in
Front 4 cooking QBs like a pound of bacon
Lock down, will our defensive aim
Elimimian will play less than 10 games
Big years for Moncrief and Marshall
Also towards Cam Judge I am partial
Rollin at second in west
On Labour Day you know we’re still the best
But that’s when it will falter
And the course of the season it will alter
Will people freak out?
Only excessively
Late season skid put postseason in jeopardy
I immediately regret trying to rhyme with jeopardy
But are we dead?
No! we’ll continue despite calls for everyone to be fired

Collaros will be better but he’ll be no genie
Powell will run our offense he’ll be a meanie
Offense will be better but people will whine
More TDs and INTs less than 9
Fajardo will start 1 or 2
Look for Kyran Moore to have a breakthrough
Come year end we’ll be 10 and 8
Third place with the Bombers on plate
Playoffs at IG Field
Hard fought game where we refuse to yield
Collaros will have a big game
Nichols? Well he’ll come up lame
Onto the Stamps at McMahon
But things won’t go according to plan
That’s what I see
In 2019
But don’t worry too much, been years since I’ve been right

If there is a problem
Yo, O’Day’ll solve it
Check out the hook while my DJ revolves it

Prophet baby
Rider Prophet baby

Monday, June 10, 2019

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Preseason and Roster Thoughts

It was a busy few days for the Riders. They closed out the preseason on Thursday and then proceeded with the easiest part of the any coach's job... the cuts. I don't want to dwell too much on the preseason results with actual meaningful football just days away but I will give a few thoughts on the game and then some thoughts on the names that made the team, and those that did not.

Thoughts on the preseason game:
- We saw what we needed to from the offense. Collaros started off still struggling to throw to the correct coloured jersey but recovered to turn in a good half. Not a great half but after last season, a good passing game would be an upgrade. We would have killed for 2 passing TDs in a half last season. Sure the Bombers didn't have the full starting D but it was still good to see.

- Powell came as advertised. It's nice to see a run game that's not based on 3 yard runs up the middle.

- Shaq Evans remains the american Chris Getzlaf. Drop an easy one. Catch a hard one. I'm glad for him he found the endzone but I have this sinking suspicious he blew his TD on a meaningless game. Hope I'm wrong.

- Dyshawn Davis is a baller. Glad we have him with Elimimian such an unknown.

- Justin McInnis showed just a flash of what he's capable with at his size.

- There's a reason the people who played in the secondary in the second half aren't the starters.

- Bouka's performance was not all that comforting. His coverage seemed fine but his ability to make a positive play when the ball arrived was not on display. Hope that was on anomaly.

- For a brief moment when the Bombers fumbled late in the game I thought we were destined to finally win preseason game. That feeling lasted mere minutes before reality came crashing back in. Oh well, at least it was a competitive, entertaining game.

- The Riders' approach to sprucing up game day seems to be throw a bunch of shit at the wall and hope something sticks. A DJ in Pil Country (still not sure why), trying to get "the Rider stomp" going (it failed), the new Flex Cam (has potential) and random bloopers (stunning success). 

Still good to be back in the stands.

Onto the roster.

- Only one cut really surprised me and that was Chad Geter. 3 sacks and strong special teams play. I thought he was in line for a bigger role but seems to have been beat out by Lavar Edwards... who had a strong preseason.

- Crezdon Butler surprised many but not me. His career was not on the right trajectory. He went from great halfback, to decent corner to not having a set position in consecutive years. The shelf life a of DB is not long (especially given how many NFL miles Butler had before coming here). Seen it with Chris McKenzie, seen it with James Patrick. DBs don't trail off slowly in performance. It makes guys like Eddie Davis and Brandon Smith who can sustain success for so many years all the more impressive. 

- Deon King was a bit of surprise based on much time they gave him with the 1s during camp. But Dyshawn Davis being awesome was a factor. Also it would appear Idowu beat him out. 

- Other than that if you were surprised by the cuts, you weren't playing attention. They were as predictable as the fact that Brandon Bridge and Josh Stanford are both currently unemployed.

- I'm going to get pre-emotively on this and pump the brakes on the Harker hype train. I can already predict that following Collaros' first interception there will be calls to appoint Harker the starter. As a back-up QB in Saskatchewan he ranks only behind Corner Gas cast members and Jon Ryan in terms of popularity. I like his potential but he's 3rd on the depth chart for a reason. Let him develop a bit before naming him saviour of the franchise. 

- By my math we need to put 5 people on the IR by Thursday. I assume Elimimian, Lenius, Arceneaux will be on there. Terran Vaughn may go the one game. Sounds like Labatte might as well (which isn't great but we do have depth to survive). We have a ton of Cdn Lbs on the roster and I have a hard time thinking we dress all of them (Judge, Hurl, Gagne, Chevrier, Teitz, Bartlett)

Overall I think we are in good shape. Question will be if Means/Bouka can lock down the CB spot. 

Buckle up Rider Nation. Regular season is days away. 

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Riders vs. Bombers: Preseason Game 2

Thursday we get our first taste of live Rider football at Mosaic... or at least as close to that as you get in the preseason. I shared some stats in my Monday Sentimonies about just how awful the Riders are in the preseason. So I'm fully prepared for us to play miserably and I'm fully prepare for portions of Rider Nation to lose their collective minds about the results. That's how we roll around here. Lose a preseason game = fire everyone, call Kevin Glenn and convert Jon Ryan back to receiver. Win = plan the parade route. There is no in between.

I did some research into just how meaningful preseason results are. I went back to 2006 (yes I am somewhat ashamed of how much effort I put in researching the preseason) and the results were telling. No team has lost both preseason games and gone onto win the Cup. So if you believe that correlation is causality then Thursday is a big game.

Sounds like Collaros will play the first half... which means that on every single offensive play (and any defensive plays that head towards our sideline) fans will be anxiously holding their breath hoping he doesn't get hurt. I don't want to see him in the game unless the starting 5 OL is in front of him and a veteran RB and WRs are available to block. I get that he needs to get some real game action in to prep for the season but if we are being honest, given our offensive strategy (i.e. do the absolute least possible) I'm not sure you'd notice a rusty Zach Collaros over a finely tuned one. I'd like to see him make quick decisions, get the ball out quickly (and to the correct jersey). 

As for what else to watch I'll be watching...
- I'll be watching the line and how they perform without Labatte (who is being rested). Be interesting to see how Clark does so quickly after his car accident. 

- Hopefully the WRs step up. Kyran Moore was not great in the first game and it will be Shaq Evans' first game. They will probably only get 5 yard passes on 2nd and 9 but hopefully they make the best of the cards they are dealt.

- In the second half we should see the back-ups so I'll be watching Justin McInnis in particular in his first action.

- Defensively Micah Johnson is sitting which gives guys like Jeremy Faulk, Charbel Dabire and Tresor Mafuta and opportunity for some valuable reps at DT. 

- The linebacking core will be an area of interest for me. Each passing day makes Elimimian's likelihood to play week 1 less and less which means someone needs to be ready to step up. Looks like Plan A is Cam Judge at MLB and Dyshawn Davis outside. We will likely see a lot of Deon King in the middle as well. Hope they can instill some confidence.

- In the secondary we will get to see what we have at safety outside of Edem as he is being rested as well. Looks like Crezdon Butler gets first crack at the spot with Bouka on CB. BE interesting to see if Butler can translate his veteran savvy and sure tackling to success in the middle. It would also be nice to see at least one new DB show some promise. I love our starters but I'm not sure what we have backing them up... plus no Duron to bail us out there this year :)

- Lastly I will be watching the crowd give a standing ovation for every Jon Ryan punt regardless of length. Look he's a great guy on and off the field but a punter should not be the most hyped guy on the team... even one like ours who make frequent use of our punter. 

I'll just be happy to be back in the stands watching football. Normally this is the game were we would play the Official Rider Prophet Preseason Drinking Game but when you factor in the Thursday night game and the price of alcohol... I can't see that being good for your employment/wallet/health/relationship status etc... But hey... if you're still hardcore like that, the rules are below (participate at your own risk).

1.     Every dropped pass of fumble you drink
2.     Every time the announcer screws up, drink
3.     Drink 2 if a flag bearer is out of formation during pre-game
4.     Every time count, illegal formation, no yards or offside penalty you drink. Two if it’s on the Riders. Four if it’s Too Many Men
5.     Every TV timeout you drink 
6.     If someone calls for a fair catch you shot-gun a beer
7.     If a player who is not dressed gets credit for a stat or penalty, you drink
8.     If a cheerleader falls, you drink
9.     If a Mexican player scores a TD, down a bottle of tequila while wearing a sombrero (Traditionally this was the Jordan Sisco, it just gets modified each year).

Monday, June 3, 2019

Monday Morning Sentimonies: At Least We Weren't Shut Out

Riders 1 - Stamps 37

I've just gotten used to the fact that the Riders are awful in the preseason. I decided to look into how awful after Friday's game. The results: since 2009 we have won just 3 times (and tied once) and since 2016 our average margin of defeat has been 26 points. So yeah, preseason it not really our thing.

Preseason is usually ugly ball but the Riders started 2019 with a particularly ugly performance even by preseason standards. We scored just one point and there should really be an asterisks beside it because it seems wrong that we were rewarded with a point for a field goal "attempt" that was so wide it almost didn't cross the goal line before going out of bounds.

But before we get all doom and gloom about it. Let's remember that this is preseason and the results are about as valuable as Alouette stock. If you want to extol the wonders of Bo Levi Mitchell and his starting receivers for carving up a defense featuring only 3 projected starters be my guest. If you want to bemoan the fact that our offense couldn't do sweet diddly despite the best players being rested then go ahead. But it will make you look silly.

Sure I would have liked to have seen more positive things but I'm not ready to go in full panic mode. Though given that the Green and White scrimmage sent some people into a panic maybe me telling people to calm down is futile.

There was some good, so let's look at that:

Cody Fajardo looked good. What I liked was that he was quick and decisive with his reads, got the ball out quick and placed the ball well. Now the caveat is that its hard to give too much praise to a guy who produced 0 points and never attempted a pass over 10 yards. But he did his job (exactly what McAdoo wants from his O) and wasn't helped out by his WRs.

Both RBs showed nice flashes. Butler seems to be the faster more explosive player but he really pissed me off on that one run where he has a sure first down and channeled his inner Josh Stanford and geared down and got tackled short. Still like his potential. Morrow was not as speedy as Butler but still looked fast and seemed to make better decisions and cuts.

The O-line only really allowed 1 jail break and it was late in the game so the group that started did a decent job. It was good to see Shepley go back in after getting hurt.

Defensively Dyshawn Davis stood out. I thought our edge rushers got close on a number of plays. Give them our starting DTs and it would have been a very different story. I maintain that Geter will have a good year. Mak Henry had a good push resulting in a goal line stuff... that was promptly erased by at least 3 people lining up offside including Bouka casually sauntering around well offside.

Brock McCoin was about the only WR who stood out but he looked like he broke something in his arm so that's unfortunately probably it for him. (Also remember that he only stood out in an offense that didn't throw over 10 yards).

That was about it for the good. 

Watford looked OK but he was noticeably slower on his reads and way more erratic in his ball placement. He remains a faster Michael Bishop. I don't really see him progressing much beyond what we've seen. Did Harker show enough to unseat him at #3? Not decisively but he didn't look out of place on the field so I'd almost be inclined to keep him over Watford and see if he can progress.

Our starting secondary seems pretty safe because there was not a lot of good in terms of back-end coverage. 

The game was a whole lot of awful but most people involved will soon be unemployed or glued to the bench so take it for what it's worth and just enjoy the fact that football is back.

Other random thoughts:
- That shanked Ryan punt would have resulted in a standing ovation at Mosaic.

- I strongly believe that if you attempt to challenge in the preseason you should be kicked in the nuts. Punishment should be tripled if you lose... that said I think the booth got the call on the challenge wrong (go figure)

Friday, May 31, 2019

Riders vs. Stampeders: Preseason Game 1

Football is back tonight! It may be football that is as ugly and meaningless as an encounter with a discount hooker but its football nonetheless and I am pumped.

Normally my pre-game post consists of breaking down the match-ups and what needs to happen for the Riders to win. With this being a preseason game I'm going to take a different approach given that the match-up breakdown is essentially the future unemployed vs. those destined for the practice roster. Also, I'm too lazy to look into the actual number but it seems to me the Riders have an abysmal pre-season record (not that that matters).

Monday's post was about guys I was keeping my eye on so I won't rehash that. Instead I'll look broadly at the positions of interest.

The first is the trenches. Defenses will likely be running some very vanilla schemes so there should be lots of one-on-one matchups ot see where we stand on both lines. Guys like Shepley and Schram should get lots of reps on OL. On the D-line I want to see how new guys like Dabire, Faulk and Graves hold up when they start pushing for real.

The other place that you get a good sense of in preseason is running backs and LBs. In practice you don't get a good sense of who can tackle or break tackles or who has a nose for the ball. Our 2 young RBs have a great opportunity to show there stuff. One will be retained in some form and I will damn near guarantee will see at least 1 game this season (I stand by by "no way Powell and Thiggy both play 18" claim"). 

Receivers and DBs are a lot tougher to get a sense of just by watching. I've seen DBs get picks and WRs get long TDs and be cut the next because they only got those because they we're in the wrong spot and got lucky. Obviously you can see if a receiver is making contested catches or if a DB has good man coverage but beyond that its tough to read much into the stats and what the fans see. I would like to see Picton have a good game. He patiently waited 2 years on the PR and now with both top drafted Cdn Wrs out has a golden chance to impress. 

Then there is QBs which I'm honestly not excited about. Fajardo will be our back-up. Its a done deal. Obviously him not looking like hot garbage tonight would be a real morale booster. I think the only battle is whether Watford can show enough to be kept another year or whether we've seen his ceiling and its time to try developing someone else (i.e. Harker).

As much as this is a meaningless game I think it is an important one for the Riders. Not as far as determining the starters or even the majority of back-ups, that's mostly decided. But I count at least 10 projected starters who are 31 or older. I think we are lucky if 7 of those play a full 18 games. That means success this season will require tapping into our depth. This game is a chance to see what we have in terms of depth and a chance for guys to step and show they can be that next man up.

It's also a Friday preseason game, so a great chance to "drink this game pretty". It will take a lot.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Monday Morning Sentimonies: I Got My Eye On You

I'll start off today with a disclaimer. Given that I don't reside in Saskatoon, I have seen exactly zero minutes of Rider training camp firsthand. It's been the same issue every year since camp got moved out of Regina. Good for fans outside of the Queen City, bad for me. And really that's all I really care about. I'm a selfish dick like that.

But more to the point of my story... my lack of firsthand witnessing of players' performances make it very difficult for me to comment on how training camp is going. I read everything I can get my hands on but at best that leaves me giving my opinion about someone else's opinion. Let's be honest some people's opinion (including certain members of the media) are worth about as much as a voucher for Blue Bomber Grey Cup merchandise. So trying to sort out the actual good opinions from the idiots, the clueless and helpless over-hypers (let's not forget that Joe Sykes was destined to re-write the record books)... we its difficult.

So with our first real look at the 2019 Riders coming on Friday, I figured I would spend today talking about a few newcomers that I am excited to see and why. I'm leaving injured guys like McInnis and Lenius-Dickey off the list. Obviously I'm intrigued to see what they bring but that will have to wait.

RB James Butler - Clearly Powell and Thigpen will start as 1 and 2 at RB but at a combined age of 732 it would be nice to know we have some youth that can step in if need be. Butler has been getting some good reviews in camp but you never really know an RB until people are trying to tackle him for real. 

LB Obum Gwacham - Best name I've seen in a while. I'll refer to him as Ol' Bum Gotch. I will also give him my official Rider Prophet Endorsement. I've given that endorsment to the likes of Eltoro Freeman, Chad Kilgore, Ikenna Ike, Gabe Nyenhuis, Jose Valdez, Boo Robinson and they certainly went on to great Rider careers. (Seriously my apologies to Ol' Bum Gotch, that endorsement is the kiss of death).

Los Mexicanos - I'm curious to see how Brassea, Olvera and Garcia do in game action. If it goes well we won't notice them. If it goes poorly some may call for their deportation... I'd like to think I'm better than that but if I'm being honest, there's a chance its me.

LB Deon King - With Elimimian missing most of camp so far, King has been getting the bulk of reps at MLB. When the bullets start flying for real it will be interesting to see if he can those reps helped him progress his game.

DL Chabrel Dabire - He's been getting a lot a camp hype (which is actually a red flag for me). The book on him is that he has raw power but needs to work on technique and conditioning. So I'm hopeful but skeptical. Let's not forget he was a 5th round draft pick. Is there a chance we got a steal? Possibly. But more likely he's a developmental project and I want to see how much development he'll need.

DB Blace Brown - Interesting young prospect in the secondary. 

WR Paul McRoberts - The most hyped non-QB this year. Is he for real? Or a budding Terrence Nunn? I'd like to find out.

You'll note I did not mention QBs. This is Saskatchewan, tell me you're not already sick about QB talk. Oh no, Collaros didn't light it up in a scrimmage, he must be a bum. Hey Watford completed a long pass against a DB who won't be employed in a week, he's the saviour of the franchise. Harker is new and we've never seen him... he must be awesome! And of course, Why haven't we signed Kevin Glenn yet? We've got a lot more of this coming our way, so I'll not add to it for now.