Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday Evening Sentimonies: Back On Track




Riders 37 – Argos 9

It’s nice when things go as they are supposed to. The Argos were a team with a weak defense and no receivers playing on the road. It’s a game we should have won handily and we did (unlike our first encounter). For me the biggest difference between the win this week and the last loss to BC was capitalizing on opportunities. Against BC we had the ball inside their 5 three times and only got one TD. Saturday we quickly turned great field position thanks to 2 defensive takeaways into 2 TDs. Unlike last season, we don’t have the offensive fire power to dominate other teams so it’s important that we capitalize on the opportunities we do get if want to remain successful. That game was what I had expected to see out of the Riders early in 2014. Solid defense, solid running and a passing game that has just enough decent moments to get us by.

Saturday our defense was more than just solid, they imposed their will on the Argos. You could tell they were fired up to prove they were better than the last 2 games showed. The hits we harder, the tackles actually happened, Ray was under constant pressure, turnovers aplenty and only 3 FGs allowed. Brackenridge was a monster, all over the field and his stats should have even been higher if not for a that bad offside call. Tearrius George looked so amped up he might have killed someone. Keep in mind we dominated a team without their best 3 receivers but still, it was the level of intensity and the overall effort that impressed me most. If we can keep up that level of play we will easily contend with any team.

Offensively, there was some good and there was some bad. On the good, the thing that stands out for me is the fact that I forgot that Dan Clark was starting at centre. The fact that he was mostly invisible tells me he must of done pretty good. Also, good was Will Ford becoming the 3rd RB of the year to put up big numbers behind our line. I like his speed, I like how he ran. I also noticed him step up and attack when pass blocking. While its too early to appoint him the guy (remember what we said about Allen after his first game?), he likely earned a second start... which is pretty good by the way our RBs have been going. I was curious how long our “don’t throw a pass” strategy could work. Honestly you should not dominate games where you only complete 9 passes (and half the yards came on 2 of them). I haven't rewatched the game to see if our receivers weren't open or if Durant just wasn't getting his reads. But more than once Durant had lots of time and still failed to make the pass so that tells me people weren't open. DePalma looked good enough to stick in the starting bunch but the issue is that we have a bunch of decent #3/4 type receivers like him but only 1 guy we can lean on. Durant would not have thrown that long pass if anyone but Taj was there. But we are going to need a better effort from the passing game in the future.

The good news is that for once one phase of our team was able to carry the other phase when it sputtered.  The win was good but let’s keep things in perspective we have 2 wins against really bad East teams. We still have a ways to go. The good news though is that we at least have hope back. 

Other random thoughts:
- Loved the running rugby kick from Bartel. It was honestly one of his best punts of the night... off his left foot on the run. He should do that a few more times... like when Boreham used to do that.
- I know there is risk in having your starting CB as a returner, but Jackson certainly added a spark to our return game. Not sure where preseason Marshay Green went but regular season Marshay Green just hasn't shown that same spark.
 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Riders vs. Argos: Back At It


After a bye week that seemed to last an eternity, the Riders will finally be back on the field Saturday night as they host the Argos looking to atone for a god awful performance when these 2 teams last met. Both teams come into the contest with 1 win. The Riders will be looking to climb out of the West basement, while the Argos could conceivably grab sole possession of the first in the East. Parity my ass.

The Argos will have a very different look offensively from the first game as Owens, Durie and Barnes all played in that one but are now on the 6-game IR. It seems as though Darvin Adams and rookie Anthony Coombs have earned the most trust from Ricky Ray in the absence of the big 3 and that is who we will need to focus on shutting down.  The passing game for me though is a secondary concern (no pun intended) as we are currently downright embarrassing against the run. We are allowing close to 130 yards rushing per game and a disgraceful 6.5 yards per rush.  We can’t expect to win games if that continues. At lot of it boils down to tackling. If we could actually do it then the numbers would not be nearly as bad. Toronto has yet to decide on a primary RB but quite frankly the way we are tackling, Henri Childs could be successful as their rusher (though I think Childs is tentatively penciled in as the Riders’ Week 11 starting RB). Of their backs, Slaton actually concerns me the most, he’s a guy that could take advantage of poor tackling and hurt us. So priority #1 will be tackling from our LBs. The other thing we need to be mindful of defensively is the short pass. Ray loves to throw short, high % passes and let his receivers get YAC yards. If I’m Milanovich and I know my receivers are short on experience and my opponents have a hard time tackling I would call a lot of these passes until the Riders show they can stop it. Again it comes down to tackling.  If we can limit the run and short passes it will allow Chick and Foley to get into the backfield and throw Ray off his rhythm, which is key to beating him.

I am confident the D has a solid game in them. I am a bit more concerned about the offense.  The match-up last time was ripe for the taking against a weak Argo D but (with exception of a 2 minute span) we made them look like a dominant defensive force (which they are not. Only Montreal allows more points per game than the Argos). Sounds like still no Getzlaf but we do get Schillens back (which has the dual bonus of getting Schillens’ skill set back in the lineup and getting Riley’s out).  We will need to lean on Taj but the only way to do that will be to establish another receiver (be it Schillens or Swain) as a viable option to take defensive pressure off Taj. Last time we played it was the long ball that was most effective so our OL will need to buy Durant time to take advantage of an Argo secondary rated last against the pass.

A strong running game it needed too and honestly despite what the gong show at RB would imply, we actually have a solid running attack. We have the most rush yards per game and per attempt in the league… the production is there, we just can’t commit to a guy (or find a guy who doesn’t fumble).  All that offseason talk about “any RB could get 1000 yards behind our OL” is actually looking pretty accurate. That’s why I’m not as concerned as I should be about whether Messam, Ford or Allen will be the primary back. I’d like to see Allen get the chance but have a gut feeling Ford is our new guy… until he fumbles.  Either way I expect us to run the ball effectively. I just hope we stay committed to it even if something goes wrong. A strong run game can carry us until our passing attack starts firing on all cylinders.

Also, if our guys can’t coax Dwight Anderson into at least one objectionable conduct penalty, I will be disappointed. DA will be fired up and looking to make an impact. We should be able to take advantage of that by baiting him into jumping early and getting beat deep as well as a few penalties (not like we’ve seen many of those from the refs this season). Toronto is the most penalized team so if we can stay disciplined and let them hurt themselves we will have yet another advantage.

I can’t tell if I’m just a sucker for believing in this team but I see this as a very winnable match-up even before you factor in the noise of a big Mosaic crowd on Saturday night. I’m expecting us to need to win ugly, and I’m also expect to utter some profanity throughout the game but in the end I think the Riders will show up focused, ready to play and will get back on the winning track against the Argos. Honestly if we can’t beat a team from the lowly East division who is missing their top 3 receivers, at home then we’re in trouble.

Riders by a rushing TD (I was going to say an Allen TD but who knows who will be carrying the ball)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Are You Smarter Than A Toddler - Week 5 Picks

Here are the Prophet family picks for week 5

Prophet Jr - Edmonton, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Saskatchewan
Rider Prophet - Calgary, BC, Hamilton, Saskatchewan
Mrs Prophet - Edmonton, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Toronto
Step-Prophet - Calgary, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Toronto
Momma Prophet - Calgary, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Saskatchewan

Be sure to have your picks in by kickoff on Thursday

Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Mail It In Monday

I realize the quality of writing you've come to expect from this blog is not very high to begin with but today's post will likely not be even up to my low standards. Saturday night was Man in the Bush's stag so I'm not exactly in peak mental (or physical condition). Combine that with a Rider bye week and no game to write about and you get "Mail it in Monday".

I won't leave you high and dry though since you already went through all the trouble of coming here. So here's my random thoughts on the other 8 teams after four weeks.

BC Lions - This is the team I am most unsure of. Sometimes they look good, sometimes they look very mediocre. Having Arceneaux back has been huge for their offense. Still not sold on that OL and if one guy gets hurt their depth is questionable at best there.

Calgary Stampeders - Best team in the CFL in my opinion. They keep winning without their best offensive weapon. As usual, Rich Stubler is running a top notch defense. Only weakness I see if injuries that are piling up at LB.

Edmonton Eskimos - Admittedly they are a better team than I expected, but I am not completely sold on them just yet. I think a relatively easy schedule has made them look better than they are. I still see them contending for second but wait and see how they look against Calgary this week. I expect a set back for them. That defense is pretty legit though.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers - Much like Edmonton, an easy starting schedule made them look better than they are and hid some issue. Edmonton reminded everyone just how bad that Bomber OL is. Also, as more film on Willy becomes available, expect life to get harder for him and that offense.

Hamilton Ticats - As much as they have sucked they could easily have 2 wins at this point. If Masoli goes down instead of letting Watkins steal the ball they beat Edmonton and if they could execute a short FG they have a shot against Calgary. Their O-line is a mess and until that gets sorted out it doesn't really matter who is starting at QB. They desperately need Dyakowski back. I had my concerns about their defense but holding Calgary to 10 on the road made me think maybe they aren't that bad.

Toronto Argonauts - If it weren't for Owens, Durie and Barnes all being on the 6 game they may have clinched first in the East by now. Their defense has progressed a lot quicker than I thought they would. As long as they can stay in the hunt early, they could be a dangerous team down the stretch.

Ottawa Redblacks - Nice to see them win in their home opener but had Toronto's good receivers been healthy they would have lost. I think Ottawa has a good core for a new team but they are relying on a group of receivers that weren't good enough to stick as the 4th receiver on other teams as their go to guys. All opposing defenses have to do is shut down Chevon Walker and that O won't be doing much of anything.

Montreal Alouettes - Their defense is very good as usual... at least until midway through the game when they are exhausted because their offense is garbage. Not sure if its all Troy Smith (who makes Michael Bishop look good by comparison) or if the Ryan Dinwiddie offense is playing a role. Defense will keep them competitive (especially given how weak the East is) and I fully expect Tanner Marsh to get some starts before Labour Day.Their games have been painful to watch.

Friday, July 18, 2014

What's Wrong With The Riders?

The question on everyone's minds and lips ever since the Riders dropped their second straight game has been "What is wrong with the Riders?" Since its the bye week I figured I'd take the opportunity to tackle this question. I also figured I better tackle it while I'm sober because I get a lot more angry, ranty and loud when I've indulged in a few rye and once the weekend hits, all bets are off.

So what is wrong with the Riders? ... Honestly not as much as people seem to think. I've watched most of the CFL season so far and when I watch us I don't see some of the glaring issues I see on other teams. We don't have the O-line mess that Hamilton has, we don't have the serious injury problems Toronto does, we don't have the QB problems Montreal has and we don't have the complete lack of anything resembling a reliable receiver like Ottawa has (don't get me wrong we have issues at receiver but we are better off than Ottawa right now). I'm not going to blow smoke up your ass and say that everything is rainbows and sunshine but my point is that are issues aren't as massive as some would make it seem.

Issue #1... Health. We knew coming into the season that our depth at receiver was very thin on experience. Then we lost Getzlaf which is huge (if you had asked me a few years back I would have sworn I'd never utter those words). Losing Schillens made it worse. Those injuries caused an already thin WR group to lose its #2 and #3 guy. That meant relying on guys we projected as 5th and 6th receivers heavily. The results are predictable. Receivers aren't always where Durant thinks they should be, they aren't adjusting their route for things like blitzes, they aren't calling out DB blitzes. Having a vet like Getz out there who can do all those things and be one less thing Durant has to worry about will improve our offense. Tough to say yet whether Schillens will also boost the O but he's gotta be better than Riley. By next week hopefully we will be back to the starting WRs that we expected. Don't expect a dominant offense to suddenly appear but remember that we had the ball inside the 5 three times last week and only got one TD so even a couple more offensive plays made can be the difference between us winning games.

Issue #2... Running Backs. While issue 1 is beyond our control, this issue is the most frustrating because its completely within the coach's control. Its its almost as inexplicable as roughing the passer calls have been this season. We refuse to commit to a back and are intent on switching them every time a mistake is made in order to send a message. Well the message being sent is "stop trying to make plays. Play conservatively and don't make mistakes". Its a recipe for mediocre performance when we need a strong running attack. And the crazy thing is, we HAVE a strong running attack! Allen was leading the league in rushing before he got yanked. Charles had close to 90 in a half. The run game is working but we just refuse to put our faith in a RB. At this point I don't even care which one but show one of them some faith and I bet they will reward you handsomely. For such a smart coaching staff this one just baffles me. The good news is that its very correctable.

Issue #3... LB. Injuries again play a big factor as Kilgore was our guy and if we can survive until Game 7 I think he will be an impact player. But we still have 3 games minimum until he's back and he can't fix the issues at both LB spots so we need to address it. I'm not calling for personnel changes. For 1 I don't think it would be a miracle cure. For 2 we don't have anyone who can step in (unless you want to try Shomari again, or beg Rey and McCullough to unretire). Much like the RB I think we will need to commit to Hurl and Peters and let them grow into the roles. We also need to teach people how to tackle (and this applies to everyone on defense). Between poor angles and poor tackling (seriously its like they think they can catch a disease by tackling someone too hard) we have gifted our opponents way more yardage than we need to.

To me that's the list. There are small things like Maze having a couple bad games, or Green not looking near as good on returns now that the games are for real. But if the 3 issues above are addressed then we will be a competitive team. It's too early to be panicking.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Are You Smarter Than A Toddler - Week 4 Picks

Here are the Prophet family picks for Week 4.

Prophet Junior - Winnipeg, Toronto, Hamilton, Montreal
Rider Prophet - Edmonton, Toronto, Calgary, BC
Mrs. Prophet - Winnipeg, Ottawa, Calgary, BC
Step-Prophet -  Winnipeg, Toronto, Calgary, BC
Momma Prophet -  Winnipeg, Toronto, Calgary, BC

Please have your picks in by kickoff on Thursday

Monday, July 14, 2014

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Sinking To The Bottom

Riders 13 - BC 26

Well the good news is that we didn't suck as bad as last week... the bad news is that we still aren't playing good enough football to win games. The Riders dropped their second straight game on Saturday night and in the process sunk to the bottom of the West division standings (which if we played in the East may have clinched a home playoff game).

We knew coming into this season that we weren't likely to steamroll teams like we did at points last season. We knew we'd have to eke out some close wins. We aren't built at this point to overcome many mistakes and Saturday was full of them. Charles dropped a TD (at first I was curious why we even challenged that because it clearly was not a catch, then I remembered this is the CFL and that would not have been the most ridiculous thing to result from video review that I have seen). Eron Riley dropped a beautifully thrown ball (and in the process I hope ended his Rider career. If we needed a tall useless receiver we should just bring back Prechae). Those are the kinds of plays a team like us can't afford not to make.

Our defense was supposed to be the strength of this team... if what I saw on Saturday is our strength, we are screwed. Andrew Harris was single-handedly better than all 44 players we dressed.While Harris is one talented player, if we were capable of tackling on the 2nd or even 3rd attempt, we could have cut his production in half. It was embarrassing. I am a huge Maze fan but these last two games have been by far the worst of his CFL career... timing couldn't be worse as this is precisely the time we needed him to step up. Chad Kilgore can't get healthy soon enough because teams are realizing that the Hurl/Peters/Black combo is a liability and are exploiting it. Even our D-line wasn't near as disruptive as they should have been. Too many penalties hurt us as well. That said I will give the D credit they did show some resilience and made enough plays to at least give us a chance.

The same can't be said for our offense which is just useless. The the impact the injury to Getzlaf (and too a lesser extent Schillens) had on our offense was painfully obvious. Riley is useless. Swain was uncharacteristically invisible. Even Bagg couldn't seem to get on the same page as Durant. Ryan Smith has potential but is not yet the kind of WR we can lean heavily on. Taj Smith tried but one receiver cannot carry an offense. You can just tell Durant feels uncomfortable out there. He doesn't have a feel for the receivers out there and most of them liekly aren't where they should be anyway. That uneasiness is making him less decisive and more mistake prone. You can also tell that our inexperienced receivers are out of their league went it comes to recognizing blitzes and adjusting their routes accordingly. That's a side effect of going from a veteran group that made life easy for Durant to this group that are making his job harder.. and he so far isn't responding well.

Normally when your pass game struggles you lean on your run game. Unfortunately our run game is degenerating into comic absurdity. We focused on it early and had some success. Charles look good early. He even looked good running up the middle which is a good sign for a scat back. But then he fumbled and it all went to hell. Charles was never seen from again. (For the record I said in my pre-game write-up that Hugh Charles is not the answer if ball security is the issue so it doesn't come as a big surprise) Back in comes Allen... at least until he fumbles at which point Messam will come in... until he fumbles and then we will ask Cobourne to unretire until he fumbles. It's a joke. At some point we need to pick a RB and commit to him. What we are doing now is causing the RBs to play timid and try to avoid mistakes as opposed to playing aggressive and trying to make plays. It's not a recipe for success. It hurts the players, it hurts the continuity of our O. It's poor coaching.

Bottom line is that we knew we'd be in tough coming into the season and the fact that we are without Getzlaf, Schillens and Kilgore has compounded the issue. We had a chance to beat BC but didn't make near enough plays to make it a reality. I'm not going to write of the season like some as I think we are in for a strong finish but in the short term we are going to be in for some struggles. We aren't good enough offensively. We have issues at LB and the rest of our D can't tackle. Hopefully the bye week will do us some good and we can figure some of this out.

Other random thoughts:
- That final offensive series was beyond idiotic. Why on earth are we throwing short passes and putting our star receiver at risk at the end of a game we have already clearly lost?!? We are Taj didn't get hurt while he was being spun like a ferris wheel.

- How complicated is a freakin' coin toss?!?! BC almost managed to screw it up. Hamilton had issue 2 weeks ago. It's crazy

- Not sure if you noticed but Gainer was almost invisible that game. I have 2 theories: Either Gainer was beyond hungover and was mailing it in or the real Gainer was on a Craven bender and didn't show up so they put some random dude in the Gainer suit and told him to not do anything to attract attention to himself.