Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Belated Evening Edition

Riders 19 - Eskimos 24

Only the Riders could manage to have me walk into a game I fully expected to lose and have me leave feeling disappointed. Such is life as a Rider fan.

Before I get to the game, let illustrate just how bad things had gotten in Riderville over the past month or so. On the first offensive play of the game when Joseph took a deep shot, there was damn near a standing ovation despite the fact the pass feel incomplete. On the next play Joseph hit an 8 yard pass and as he and the offense were headed to the sidelines, there was another raucous ovation despite the fact we just went 2 and out. We have been so desperate for competent play at the QB position that even failure of the less embarrassing variety was a welcome sight. Every ounce of me wanted to stand up and yell “Really?” to the fans cheering a 2 and out but I couldn’t bring myself to do it because I was also happy we didn’t suck quite as bad. For anyone who watched Mad TV, the whole scenario reminded me of a sketch they did about a really bad dating service call Lowered Expectations.

As for the game, a competent QB changes everything. Plain and simple. Was Joseph great? Lord no. Was he good? Good enough. And low and behold, given the talent we have around him, “good enough” was almost enough to beat the 2nd best team in the CFL… hell we should have beat them. I figured Joseph would do good but admittedly he looked better than I expected. He was poised, made reads, bought time, made passes, moved the ball, scored points… you know all those things that our other QBs just couldn’t do. Clearly it was advantage Joseph in the first half since the Esks would have had no film on him running our offense and they certainly made adjustments in the second half to level the playing field. Regardless, Joseph showed enough that I think we can win with him. The whole team played better around him. O-line had their best game in many weeks buying tons of time for Joseph. Heenan had a rough outing but as a unit they were improved. Receivers were a mixed bag. They made some good plays… but also dropped far too much. I like what Korey Williams brings at that wide-out spot. Our run game was clearly affected by the late scratch of Allen. His back spasms should come as no surprise given his attempt to carry the entire team on his back last week. While our run game was a disappointment, what was refreshing to see was us be able to adjust and still move the ball without it. Joseph and the O will need to be better but I have faith in their abilities overall which is something I did not have in the Sunseri/Doege offense. More importantly the coaches seem to have confidence in Joseph given that he didn’t get the training wheels playbook.

Overall a very good effort by our defense. They really manned up and contained the run, both of White (68 yards) and Reilly (11 yards). Foley was a monster out there. That D-line looks a whole lot better with Derrick Walker in the line-up. He is very underrated in my opinion. The injury to Maze was devastating. While he was in, we really contained Bowman and the rest of the passing game. When Green was forced into action, it all went to hell. Hopefully Maze will be back soon because he is a key piece of that secondary.

That kick return TD was a killer. We had all the momentum going into half after an outstanding 30 mins of football and lost it all right then and there and let Edmonton back into the game after having them on the ropes. Simply put we are currently not a good enough team to overcome major mistakes like that. We need to play our best football in all three phases in order to compete with top teams like Edmonton and Calgary. The second half displayed less than our best in all 3 phases and we weren’t able to overcome it.

We had an opportunity to win that game and let it slip away. I think the confidence level across the province increase by monumental proportions but a loss is a loss and I won’t be happy until I see that increased confidence translate into wins. We have 2 games remaining and in both cases our opponent will not care about the outcome so we need to keep improving and be ready to play our best football come playoffs.

Other random thoughts:

- Greatest kiss cam ever! Also likely the last kiss cam ever. For those of you who weren’t at the game you really missed out. It was all going along like normal until the camera showed a young couple. The guy told his lady friend to stand up. She seemed a bit confused but obliged. He then shocked everyone by turning her around and giving her a her very enthusiastic dry humping.

Somewhere someone had to be yelling “Won’t someone think of the children!”

- By now if you are not convinced that Dressler had paid off the refs with paninis and blizzards you are obviously in on the conspiracy.  They just seem to look away when he is returning punts. I’m not complaining mind you… in fact I think he should expand his bribing ways to offensive plays as well.

- I am certainly not on the “Fire Cortez” train. I have longed for an OC this good for years and hope he sticks around long-term. That said, I have to question some pretty basic stuff that I’ve seem him call. One example: Short yardage play we run Ford up the middle. Next play we run Messam off-tackle. I’m no offensive genius but that seems really backwards to me.

- Bartel is every bit as inconsistent a punter as Milo. He really needs to get better if we are to continue justifying using a roster spot on him.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Riders vs. Eskimos: So You're Saying There's A Chance?

There are many reasons to doubt our ability to end our losing streak this Sunday when we host the Eskimos. There's the fact that we haven't beat a credible team since Durant got hurt; there's our general inability to score points (particularly in the first half); there's the fact that we haven't held an opponent under 24 points since August; there's the fact that the Esks embarrassed us last time; and of course there's that whole "lack of a credible QB" thing. I encourage you to pick your favourite reason. Either way I can't fathom a rationale argument for why we should be optimistic about our chances... unless the Esks' flight here is somehow routed through Africa and all their players get quarantined for Ebola testing. What? Do you have a better idea?

Under normal circumstances I would focus on how we need this win to keep our slim chances of a home playoff game alive. However, we are a team struggling to even play competitive football so addressing that is far more important otherwise what stadium we lose our playoff game in doesn't really matter. All signs point to us turning back the clock and hoping Kerry Joseph can channel his inner-2007 MOP form to revive our decrepit offense. Normally I would oppose the logic that starting a 41 year old QB who hasn't played meaningful football in a long time will actually improve things... but let's be honest... he can't possible be worse. Can he? This a desperation move plain and simple but I'm not sure how much more desperate we can be. It's not like Joseph will be more indecisive than Sunseri or more turnover-prone than Doege. Also given that our offense involves handing the ball off to Allen 90% of the time I wouldn't worry about his ability to absorb the playbook.

Ok, allow me to set aside my overt skepticism at this point and talk about what Joseph needs to do to give us a chance. First and foremost we need his legs. Our O-line has not been playing great and the Esks have a solid D-line. We need to move the pocket around to take off a bit of pressure and open things up for our receivers, We don't need him to rush for 100 yards but things like rollouts, buying extra time in the pocket and giving the defense something to think about other than Allen will go a long way. Tino made old man Danny McManus look mobile by comparison. Joseph is actually an old man but can still use his legs. The Esks are going to stack the box and dare us to throw. We need to accept that dare and actually throw if we want to win. Joseph was never particularly accurate on his long ball but we will need to attempt a few of those. Primarily we need crossers, quick hooks... anything to actually make our receivers be more than glorified sprinters. Not sure if Labatte plays this week or not but it would sure be nice to have both him and Best back at guard. It would have the added benefit of adding one of our more productive offensive weapons back into the mix in Dan Clark.

Defensively you can bet we will be taking this game personally. We got lit up for 300 yards rushing last time we met and they will be looking to avenge that performance. Both Reilly and White got big yards at will. That will need to stop. With Kilgore now on the 6 game IR with a acute case of sucking, provided someone actually fulfills the middle linebacker role then that will go a long way. I don't care if we have to spy Reilly all night with an LB, keep him in the damn pocket! He's a good QB but I like our odds better with him throwing then with him running. The amazing thing about last game was how close the defense kept it in spite of all the rushing yards and the non-existent Rider offense. If Joseph can do something offensively then I like our defense's chances. Front 7 will need to contain the run and DBs will need to step up and make plays like they did earlier in the year. One play I've noticed the Esks use a lot against us is the wide-side pass to Coehoorn. Not lots but a few times per game usually on second down. Whichever CB is lined up on him will need to play him tight to take away the easy first downs.

If we had a QB I'd actually like our chances in this game... and while there's always a chance Joseph could miraculously take us on some fairytale, nostalgia filled run that they someday make a movie about, I wouldn't count on it. My guess is Joseph will manage to keep the game remotely competitive (at least by recent standards) but the Esks are playing good football right now and would be a challenge even if we had a credible QB.

Esks by 14.

It's Sunday so I'll try and keep the cursing to a minimum.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Terrible Thanskgiving Edition

Riders 9 - Alouettes 40

Thanks-giving? More Like Beat-taking... Am I right? (It's the best I got today)

Life with Durant added another painful chapter on Monday as the Riders got thoroughly ass kicked by the Als. The performance was so painful that it made the obligatory Black/Forde carving the turkey segment seem not that bad by comparison. Rather than give by usual post-game analysis and breakdown the game, I will just save time and say the we sucked in all phases, some more than others admittedly, but the general level of performance for everyone was set on suck for that holiday Monday.

So rather than breakdown all the ways in which we sucked, here are some random thoughts on the game:
- I blame poor effort by #26. I mean come on, show some hustle.

- Lots of talk about George Cortez during this enduring string of QB garbage. Here's the deal.... he didn't just suddenly stop being one of the brightest offensive minds in the game. But what's concerning is that he knows offense and our QBs and has reasoned that our best chance of winning was by Sunseri not throwing a pass. To me that says he doesn't think much of Sunseri's abilities other than he's apparently better than our other 3 options. Again that's concerning.

- That said, we could do a bit more to help him out. The playbook we gave him for this game might as well has come with training wheels attached or padding on the corners. Sunseri may show all the decisiveness of a woman trying to get dressed for a night out but he can do more than handoff. For all his offensive ineptitude, Ryan freakin' Dinwiddie is getting decent production out of a mediocre QB like Crompton, can't tell me Cortez can do a little bit more.

- Roll Sunseri out, cut the field in half for him to make his reads. I'm not offensive guru but that seems like a reasonable approach to me. 

- Seth Doege, we want to like you. We really do. But you just keep throwing picks.

-Though I hopeful when Clark showed well in his one start replacing Picard at centre, the extended absence of Best and now Labatte have convinced me that he is not a starting caliber O-lineman. Great at TE, extra blocker, pass catcher, emergency fill in at OL  but clearly over matched as a starting guard.

- Milo could double his salary by betting drunks that he can hit the ball off the uprights from anywhere on the field on cue.

- Was it wrong that I was hoping that Calvillo would inadvertently wander onto the field during a play and cause the Als to take a too many men penalty?

- To be perfectly honest I see only 2 scenarios where we win again in the regular season. Joseph quickly rediscovers his '07 form or the Esks rests their starters in the final game of the regular season because their playoff position is already decided.

- To anyone thinking the crossover is the easy path we are now winless on the road against Toronto, Hamilton and Montreal and have been outscored 116-27 in the process.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Fifth Grey Cup

Now it hasn’t been the best of seasons for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Their nine wins in 14 games is okay and will merit a playoff berth, so it is by no means a disaster but it is hardly awe inspiring. So can the defending champions win their 5th Grey Cup or will it be playoff disappointment?
In the betting markets the Riders are one of the favourites. Bookmakers bet365 rightly have the Calgary Stampeders instilled as favourites, it’s hard not to - the Stampeders have been superb this season. However, from the odds, the Riders certainly have a succinct chance of winning.

Here’s why they will win a fifth Grey Cup
·         Darian Durant
o   The South Carolina native is one of the best quarterbacks outside of America. Last season he was impeccable, throwing 31 TDs in 18 games.
§  This season he has been blighted by injury but the franchise are optimistic that the former Baltimore Ravens man will be back sooner rather than later. The Edmonton Eskimos game has been pencilled in for his return.
§  Durant is a general on the pitch. He laughs in the face of adversity. If he is fully fit for the playoffs then the Riders are a completely different side.
·         Corey Chamblin
o   Just as important as the QB is the coach and in Corey Chamblin the Riders have an impeccable coach. He has taken the Riders to the playoffs every season and turned them into one of the most dominant forces in Canada.
§  His years as a defensive coordinator come in handy for the Riders. He has installed in his side a defensive acumen that makes them near impossible to break down.
·         If they do get beat it is never easily. To beat the Riders you’re going to have to bleed.
§  A side that is hard to beat certainly has a good chance of victory.

Here’s why they won’t win a fifth Grey Cup
·         Calgary Stampeders
o   The Stampeders have been absolutely sensational this season, winning 12 of their 14 games.
§  Form breeds confidence and right now the Stampeders are incredibly confident. Now this confidence does not border on cockiness, the Stampeders are better than that. However, they do believe that they are capable of winning every game and will enter the field in this manner.
§  What’s more, is their awesome offence this season. Their 392 points is the highest in the league. On average, they are scoring 28 points a game, which is a darn good total.
o   The Stampeders are most definitely the team to beat and sadly it is hard to imagine the Riders beating them.
§  That said, who saw the Riders beating them last year?
·         Darian Durant
o   The other side to the Durant coin. If he doesn’t fully recover from injury then the Riders are without a top-class QB, you cannot win the Grey Cup with a dud QB.
§  The Riders have had to bring Kerry Joseph out of retirement, that’s how depleted they are at QB. Nothing against the 41-year-old but surely he is too old to offer anything?

It is going to be a stretch for the Riders to make it two consecutive Grey Cups. If Durant is fit then they have a chance, and that is still requiring Chamblin to be at his managerial best. If Durant is not fit then we may as well go home now.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Riders vs. Alouettes: Action De Grace

Although you probably assume the title of this post is just full of the grammatical errors that I am prone to, its suprisingly not. For those of you who don't speak french a) you are missing out on drastiucally expanding your array of curse words b) the title translates to Thanksiginvg.

But you probably didn't come here to be lectured on bilingualism.

Monday the Riders travel to Montreal for a Thanksgiving showdown with the Alouettes. Last time these 2 teams met we were "treated" to one of the least exciting games I have witnessed in a while. We will have to see if Sunseri vs. Crompton leads to more fireworks than Durant vs. Brink.

Admittedly the Als have been better since "Straight Outta" Crompton took over. But then again he was replacing Troy Smith and Brink so a one armed blind hobo would likely have also looked good by comparison. Also keep in mind that 2 of their last 4 victories have come over Ottawa. Though they did beat the Stamps so let's not take them lightly. An unheralded key to the Als' resurgence has been the play of their O-line. They looked bad to start the year but have been doing a very good job of keeping Crompton upright lately. Our D-line will need to bring their best if they hope to make life difficult for Crompton. We also need to take away the run (just not sure if we will be trying to stop Whitaker, Sutton or Rutley). If we force Crompton to take the game on his shoulders I think our secondary will win that battle handily... Carter and Green are a formidable pair but only if Crompton can get them the ball. It will really help our cause if our D-line can get pressure without us having to resort to the blitz.The Als also like to involve their RBs in the passing game so our LBs will need be mindful of that.

Of course the biggest concern is the offense. We learned first hand last time how good that Alouette D can be and that was with Durant in the line-up. The big unknown is which Sunseri will show up. The timid one that does nothing or the good one that puts up points. We can win with the latter. The former just leads to drinking. In 2 road starts, Sunseri is averaging 70 yards passing and 45% completion. In the first half of all his starts, Sunseri is averaging 43 yards passing... 43!!!! The is no way we win if he can't do something, anything in the first half. We need to help keep the pressure off him with the run. Sounds like we will be getting both Hughes and Best back which is huge for our blocking. I would run some short crossers, or receivers screens, or TE leakouts early. Start with easy high percentage passes to get Sunseri's head in the game an increase the odds of good Sunseri appearing before its too late. I'm intentionally not discussing Doege or Joseph, its because I figure that if it comes to either of them playing we are likely going to lose.

I would be more confident if this wasn't an early game on the road. Sunseri has been awful in the first half and awful on the road. All things combined doesn't bode well for our odds. But I think our defense will keep it close and generate some turnovers. The addition of Best and Hughes (not to mention Fulton) should give an added boost to our run and pass blocking. Every time I express faith in Sunseri he seems to make me look like a fool so I may regret this next part but I think this is the game where he finally shows up in the first half. I don't expect style points but I do think we sneak out a win somehow.

Riders by a FG.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wednesday Quick Thoughts

It's been an eventful week already in Riderville and we are still daysd away from actually playing. I'll keep this brief but I wanted to post a few thoughts on the transactions and what's been going on.

Obviously the big news is the Kerry Joseph signing. While I don't see this move as greatly improving our odds of getting to the Grey Cup, I don't get people who are mad at the move. It cost us nothing to bring him in and you can't tell me he will decrease the production we have been getting at QB (unless he has discovered a way to score negative points). Joseph is here because Sunseri has yet to prove he can play a full game, Doege was terrible in his debut. We need some emergency plan if Sunseri struggles again next week. I've heard people call it a desperation move and that what it is. We are desperate at QB, there is no denying it. It doubt Joseph will be the miracle cure that solves our problems but I also doubt he can make things worse. I'm just glad we didn't sign Juan Joseph.

The signing I am more excited about it Diamond Ferri. The guy may be a douche bag but he played one hell of a role on our D last year. And he brings needed depth, versatility and nastiness to our D. Quite frankly with all our LB departures I was surprised we didn't keep him in the first place. (Somehow I see this paragraph getting misconstrued as "Prophet excited for arrival of Ferri"... not that there's anything wrong with that).

I'll be back on Friday to tee up the Thanksgiving clash with the Als.