Monday, April 20, 2015

Monday Evening Sentimonies: This and That

The brief excitement of mini-camp has given way to the reality that April is generally a slow and boring month football-wise.  Fortunately, NHL playoffs are nicely filling the sporting void and they should pretty much get me to the start of preseason football in June. This 4 months without professional football has been excruciating. I just thank god that the offeason isn’t measured in the same timespans as Hamilton stadium construction or Edmonton Oiler rebuilds. The only known event whose completion is measured in a larger time-frame than these is the construction of the Capital Point building at Vic and Albert. Though to be fair, by not actually doing anything one could argue that Capital Point is ahead of the Oilers who seem to get further behind every year.

Next week I will be beginning my comprehensive CFL Draft coverage. I will have draft primers, team draft needs analysis, mock drafts and other draft related tidbits. I’m hoping to be able to do my Annual Live Draft Day Blogging as well though I have some scheduling stuff to work out first. Seems my kids’ sports events don’t feel the need to schedule themselves around my needs… and Mrs. Prophet is not keen on my suggestion of me sending a cardboard cut-out of myself and recording me saying “Good job buddy” on a loop. Father of the Year right here.

For today, you will have to settle for the trusty Random Quasi-Coherent thoughts on the random scraps of CFL news I’ve uncovered.

-       Only one team was fined for exceeding the salary cap this year and in a shocking turn of events it was not the Riders. The Ti-Cats went $9000 over the “cap”. Had it been the Riders there would have been the usual chorus of “cheaters” being hurled our way. But since it’s the Ti-cats no one cares. Nor should they. I have repeatedly said that if exceeding the cap is what it takes to win every team should do it.

-       The Riders incurred an $18,000 fine on route the 2013 Grey Cup… that tells me the Ti-Cats should cheated a bit more. You’re telling me Eric Tillman couldn’t have expanded that injury list by 5-10 more names with a snap of his fingers?

-       Bombers are holding their minicamp and two former Riders are in attendance: Eddie Russ and Dan DePalma. Russ always struck me as a fast guy with no sense for the ball. He was thrust into the starting HB spot way too prematurely when he was here.

-    As for DePalma, I haven’t decided if he is a good receiver or just got really lucky twice.He caught 6 passes here and 2 of them accounted for pretty much all his yardage. In both cases he made one move and had wide open field in front of him. He apparently got some NFL looks so he must have something. He struck me as a reliable 3rd/4th receiver but not really a star.

-    One last tidbit is that apparently QB Rakeem Cato (Marshall) had an invite to Rider mini-camp but did not show up. He is an interesting guy to keep an eye on provided the NFL passes on him during the draft as some are expecting.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Florida Mini-Camp

The good news is that this weekend saw the first actual rider football of 2015. The bad news is that is happened thousands of miles away and meaningful details from the event are few and far between. But I guess we can't be picky when it comes to football news in April. I will do my best to relay the meaningful takeways from the weekend (of which there really aren't many).

There were 50 participants day 1 and an additional 20+ vets who came for day 2. All the QBs except for Glenn were there. Newly signed guys like Greg Hardin, Naaman Roosevelt, Phillip Steward, Eltoro Freeman, Jamel Richardson, Keenan MacDougall were mostly all there. Also a large majority of the offensive vets were there as they began installing the new Chapdelaine offense (had Cortez been retained that time would have been set aside purely for practicing handoffs and cursing Sunseri under his breath... kidding... mostly).

While the full list of participants was not disclosed, here is the list of unsigned/neg list guys who participated in the mini-camp.

RB: Jerodis Williams, Deji Karim, Ray Graham, Cierre Woods
WR: LaQuan Williams, Alex Carroll, Devin Wilson
OL: Anthony Dima, Randy Richards, Pierce Burton
DL: Lee Pegues
DB: Tyree Hollins, Antareis Bryan, Junior Mertile, Qua Cox (James Patrick brother)
K: Trey Barrow, Ray Early, Kyle Martens

Given that we didn't actually see the practices and the team is understandably not blabbing a ton of details, there won't be a ton of news coming out of the weekend (at least until some of the prospects start getting signed). Also, given the adjustment to the CFL game and the new defensive rules, the receivers all predictably looked good compared to the DBs in what was basically a gloried game of touch football.

- Chamblin raised some eyebrows when he stated that a couple guys at camp were better than Maze and Brack. I would say its a good thing if we are bringing in recruits that good. That said, Chamblin was clearly joking a bit and sending a bit of a message to his vets to come to main camp ready to fight for their job. Even if Chamblin wasn't joking, after his outrageous claim that Kilgore reminded him of Adam Bighill, no one would have believed Chamblin anyway. Fool me once...

- Best news is that Durant is 100% healthy and ready to go. The real test will come once the bullets start playing for real but all positive signs so far for the franchise player.

- Dan Clark and Corey Watman are competing for the vacant spot at centre. There will be some adjusting for everyone involved including the QBs as the newbies apparently fire the snaps back a lot faster than the lofting slowpitch snaps that Picard provided.

- Jamel Richardson saw very limited action as he continues to recover from knee injuries. He claims he will be ready to go come training camp but I honestly don't think we will ever see him get back into good enough form to get back in a starting rotation. Or if he does it won't be for more than a couple games.

- The Rider Prophet Endorsement claimed another victim as this year's chosen one, Eltoro Freeman hurt his hammy day one practice. One of these years I will learn to use the powers of my endorsement for good not evil.

- Highly hyped Greg Harin impressed. In light of the aforementioned complications with Freeman I would like to go on record as saying that I hate Hardin and hope he never makes this team just to be safe.

- There is talk of Jerome Messam being our starting RB. If he can stay healthy I like it. He's a good sized blocker and has great hands (an RB needs both in Chapdelaine's offense). Likely just experimentation at this point but I bet its one of the options on the table... though I expect him to be part of the mix but not the lead back. Guys like Allen and the Space Cowboy (who I also expressly do not endorse) will get their reps.

- Keenan MacDougall backed up by Matt Webster manned the safety position. Again, hard to say if this is the plan or just experimentation since a lot of defensive vets weren't there but this is definitely an option under consideration.

- Sadly, things surrounding the linebacking group were very tight lipped other than the Riders' brass liked the level of competition. I'm guessing Steward is the lead horse but that's just purely guessing because no other LB names leaked out. 

- Things were also quiet regarding the DL's where we have 2 rosters spots up for grabs. Though I guess there's only so much you can tell in a non-contact practice.

That's about it. We will start knowing which prospects did good in the coming weeks as signings are announced. For not just take solace in the fact that we have actual football to discuss and debate.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Projecting the Defense

Monday I took a stab at predicting our offensive depth chart based on our current roster. Today we move to defense and special team. Now, as you read this Florida mini-camp is getting underway and I think that will have big impacts on the eventual depth chart (particularly at LB) but we all need something to fill our Friday so let's get to it.

As a reminder my thoughts are based on the typical roster breakdown from last year which is 22 offensive, 21 defensive and 3 special teams.

As a general note, predicting our defense at this point is bloody hard. I can tell that guys like Brackenridge, Macho, Brown and MacDougall will be in the mix but at this point who knows what position they will call home

Defensive Line
Roster Spots: 7
Probable Players: Chick, Walker, George, Hall (starters) Ainsworth, White and Aghayere (back-ups)
Things to watch: Our front 4 are set. Ainsworth is good on teams and a Canadian so he's pretty safe. The other 2 sports are wide open. We need a back-up DT and DE (last year Guyton and Lee filled those spots). White and Aghayere make the list purely by default as we literally have no other DL's at this point. Hopefully mini-camp will uncover some competition for these spots. I don't remember much of White and Aghayere's brief playing time but they certainly didn't catch my eye as rising stars.

Roster Spots: 6
Probable Players: Emry will play MLB... after that, all bets are off. I assume Gesse and Regimbald make it as Cdn back-ups/teams guys. That leaves 3 wide open LB spots. Both outside starting spots and a back-up. Expect MacDougall and LeGree in there somewhere.
Things to watch: Lots of speculation that Brack moves back to his old LB spot which has a fair bit of logic but I'm not convinced Chamblin wants him out of the safety spot. MacDougall will be in the mix but I'm hard pressed to buy the hype that he can start day 1. Another guy to keep in mind is Mark LeGree. Like Brack he could play safety or OLB and I like him a lot based on what I saw last year.We also seem to be committed to someone brand new manning the other OLD spot. Selfishly I'm pulling for the Rider Prophet-endorsed Eltoro Freeman but honestly I'll take anyone who is better than Chad Kilgore... which literally could be anyone.

Defensive Back

Roster Spots: 8
Probable Players:  My best guess at the starters is Macho, Brown, Brack, Maze, Jackson. With Webster, Woldu and Green as the likely back-ups.
Things to watch: Coaches are high on Turenne so don't count him out. Could easily see some of Harris, Brown and Brack up in the LB group and MacDougall and LeGree in the DB mix. Really hard to say at this point. But if the secondary is as I predict that's pretty damn good. Brown and Maze at HB would be rock solid. I also could see a new DB coming out of nowhere like Mark LeGree did last year and steal a spot. As much talk as there is as running MacDougall at safety I still think they will opt to keep the steady presence of Brack there and move MacDougall around in a lot of spots in a lot of packages. Though that all assumes Cory Watson is our 7th Cdn starter... if that doesn't happen then MacDougall may play there out of necessity.

Special Teams
Roster Spots: 3
Probable Players: Milo (K), O'Neil (P) and Steinhauer (LS)
Things to watch: Not much really. Like it or not Milo will be our kicker. I expect a bounce back year from him... err maybe "bounce back" is a poor choice or words. Chamblin seems to prefer splitting the kicking duties so the bearded one makes it by default because we are unlikely to find anything better (at least for Canadians). It will be nice to have Steinhauer back and healthy.

I will be back Monday with thoughts on Florida mini-camp. Yeah actual football!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Projecting The Offense

Today I launch a two part series looking at projecting the Rider 46 man roster for 2015. I realize that important events such as the Florida mini-camp and CFL Draft have yet to occur and that they will undoubtedly have a significant impact on things but it's April and I'm desperate for some Rider talk. Also, until the NHL playoffs start there is a massive sporting hole in my life and if I don't find something to fill it with I may have to resort to yard work and all that other stuff Mrs. Prophet has been nagging me about.

Generally speaking the Riders' 46 man roster is made up of 22 offensive players, 21 defensive and 3 special teams so that is the breakdown I will be using for this analysis. This week we will start with the offensive players and next week move on to defensive and special teams.

Roster Spots: 3
Probable Players: Durant, Glenn and Sunseri
Things to Watch: Once again Durant is the starter, no questions asked. It continues a longstanding string of consistency at QB that we would have killed for over most of the 90s and early 2000s. To be fair Nealon Green was consistently the starter for a large period in there but he barely counts a as QB. Glenn will be the #2/most popular man in Saskatchewan. The only real battle will be between Sunseri, Doege and Brett Smith for #3. Doege will be in the toughest in my opinion as he's only on our team because he won a pretty weak QB competition last year.

Offensive Line
Roster Spots: 7
Probable Players: Fulton, LaBatte, Watman, Best, Adcock (starters) Clark and whichever OL we pick first in the upcoming draft (back-ups)
Things to watch: All eyes will be on the centre. Anyone thinking Picard will be easy to replace just remember that we suffered through Parenteau before he got here. I see this as Watman's position to lose. We drafted him 4th overall in 2013 to be our future centre. At the time Taman said he was "the most pro ready lineman in the draft". Well 3 years later let's hope our assessment has some truth to it. His opponent will be Dan Clark. I'm curious to see if Clark's lone start at centre (which was very good) was just dumb luck or if he's just better suited for C than G.

Running Back
Roster Spots: 5
Probable Players: Anthony Allen, Steve Miller (aka the Space Cowboy), Jerome Messam at RB. Scott McHenry and Spencer Moore at FB.
Things to watch:  Anyone concerned with Allen returning as our lead RB should remind themselves he had over 1100 yards and 8 TDs last year. I expect us to bring people to challenge him but if he ends up as the guy again it'll be ok. I'm assuming a couple bright prospects from the Florida camp will make this battle more interesting.

Wide Receiver
Roster Spots: 7
Probable Players: Taj Smith, Weston Dressler, Chris Getzlaf, Cory Watson, Rob Bagg (starters), Alex Pierzchalski, Greg Hardin (back-ups)
Things to watch: This battle be very interesting to watch because my projected players do not include Korey Williams (who I am a big fan of) or Jamel Richardson (who if healthy completely changes things). Smith will have to prove the gong-show that was 2014 is behind him and he can return to his productive '13 version. For as much talk as there has been about Keenan MacDougall being the new Cdn starter to replace Heenan, I think plan A is for that guy to be Watson (though back-up plans are needed because the guy is a bandaid). Last year we started the year with Eron Riley, Chaz Schillens and Brett Swain... things can only go up from there right?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Rules They Are A Changing

Punctuality has never been my strong point. Regular readers will have grown accustomed to the somewhat loose interpretation of "Monday" and "Morning" I keep with respect to my Sentimonies. So it should come as no surprise that while the rest of the journalistic world has moved on to the CFL Combine, I show up fashionably late to discuss the proposed rule changes. Well to be fair the word "fashionable" is not often used to describe me. Let's go with "disheveled and late".

On to the rules...

Let me preface my thoughts by saying that I am a fair bit of a traditionalist when it comes to rule changes. I see nothing wrong with the game of football and think this cycle we have gotten into where some rules have to change every year is ridiculous. I have nothing against minor tweaks here and there provided they don't fundamentally alter the game... with the exception of my ongoing campaign to have the referees ride ostriches.

1. Converts - Let's get to the big ones right away. As I mentioned, my preference is not changing rules but that said, I can live with what has been proposed (i.e. 1 pt converts from the 32 or 2 pt converts from the 3). It doesn't fundamentally change the scoring system and a 32 yard kick should be routine (unless you name is Milo and there is a goal post in the stadium). Gives the incentive to try more 2 pt converts (especially when the weather goes to hell). My major problem with this is that I used to used the extra point to give myself an extra bit of time for a bathroom/drink run so I don't miss anything. Don't they take my needs into consideration?

2. As for the "trial" of a 3 point convert in preseason, the whole idea is idiotic. You can't just magically invent a new scoring play. Any team that even attempts one in preseason should be booed off the field as should anyone involved with thinking it was a good idea even to try it.

3. Illegal contact - The theme of this year's proposals is "massive overreaction". Scoring was down but the rules had nothing to do with it so trying to fix a non-rule problem with rules is a head shaker to me but I digress. Provided they don't call every single tiny infraction, I don't hate the rule but mark my word: Illegal contact penalties will skyrocket early in the season. Remember how they tried to fix the return game by expanding illegal block penalties and all that resulted was a crap load of illegal block penalties? Same thing here. Defenders won't magically undo years of training just because the rules changed. I don't mind the theory behind this one but in the short term I see this causing issues.

4. Only refs be able to call for measurements - Here's one I actually like a lot. Most of the time of coach is calling for a measurement he doesn't give a crap about the actual measurement but just wants the extra time without having to call a timeout.

5. Coaches can now signal no substitutions and run a hurry up -  Again, I like it. Allows for the game to naturally speed up and allows for actual hurry up offenses, not the current "hurry to the line and then wait 15 seconds for the ref to signal in the play.

6. Eliminating the option to force a re-kick on a kick out of bounds leaving only the option to take the ball where it went out or 30 yards up from where it was kicked - I'm indifferent on this one. Sometime that second kick when defenders are a bit gassed is when you see bigger plays but I get the idea of wanting to reduce unneeded repetitious plays.

7.  Offensive pass interference now challengeable - A very logical move. Seemed dumb to me to allow defensive PI to be reviewed but not offensive. I still have issues with the challenge system, based mostly on the lack of consistency in review outcomes last year but if you are going to allow PI to be challenged, makes sense to me that it goes both ways.

8. Five yards no yards tacked on to the return as opposed to a spot foul - No a huge fan of this but don't hate it either. I see the logic in it but didn't see a burning need for change.

9. Inside 5 guys on punts can't cross the line until the ball is kicked. I like kick return TDs as much as the next guy (well minus those 8 dozen the Riders gave up last year) but I hope the CFL realizes that if they make them too common, the excitement will wear off. Not that I think this will drastically change things, just a little bit. I can live with this change I guess. The coach in me would immediately start watching film for any team that shows a tendency for not rushing the punter inside because they don't have to hold up the inside 5 guys. This may open up chance for fakes/runs up the middle. As I type this I have this sinking feeling that 4 months from now I will be cursing at Bob Dyce saying "I warned you that would happen!"

Overall though the changes are many, most are either good or something I can live with. Though I seriously think we should put a cap on the number of changes to the rules within a 5 year period. At this pace, 7 years from now I will watch a 15 point TD followed by an 4.7 point convert attempt where no defender can even look in the direction of the intended receiver. Avert your eyes!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Lousy Smarch Weather

Spring has officially started, Regional combines are getting underway this week, it should be happy time... or at least happier. But between the snow, the lack of real football and your failed attempts to gamble on a sport you know nothing about, its pretty depressing before considering that today has the added joy of being a Monday.

I'd like to say that I have come up with a post that will brighten your day... I'd like to say that but I would of course be lying. You'll have to settle for the standard, run of the mill Random Quasi-Coherent thoughts.

- Macho Harris has signed an extension. Macho has been a curious case to watch over his years here. When he showed up here in 2012 his talent just jumped right out at you. The only problem is that he was hurt... all the time. I was even wondering if they would bring him back for 2014. But they gave him one more shot and it paid off. He lasted a full season by some miracle... perhaps his power is derived from his hair? What was also curious about watching him develop was early this season. He was easily one of the best cover guys to there... but had a complete inability to do anything useful when the ball arrived. He shadow the receiver perfectly only to fall down or take a penalty when the ball arrived. He seemed to get past that thankfully. Macho is a very versatile. I would be comfortable starting him at HB, CB or LB.

- Speaking of DB's former Rider Chris McKenzie announced his retirement last week. If you want a stark reminder of how short a football career can be just look at McKenzie. He showed up here in training camp in 2009 after a bit of time in the NFL and Arena League. From day one of camp you could tell he was making this team. By 2010 he had firmly taken over a starting HB role and I considered him one of our better DBs. There was too much other awfulness to worry about in 2011 so I honestly can't remember if he had a good year or not. 2012 was not a great year for him and it ended with him blowing coverage on Romby Bryant in the WSF (yes he was the one who screwed up, not Maze) and that was his last pro football play. Four years and that's all she wrote.

- In non-football related musings, my Wichita St Shockers are still alive in March Madness. That won't make a difference in my bracket pool chances but I'm settling for moral victories here.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday Round-Up: Comissioner Orridge

Spring apparently arrives today and the only good news is that you can use the tattered remains of your busted March Madness bracket to make a small fire to keep you warm. The official team of the Rider Prophet, the Wichita St Shockers, have yet to join the ranks of teams that ruined my bracket but that's likely because they haven't played yet.

Let's get to the big CFL news this week...

In this day and age its almost impossible to keep things secret in the sporting so I find it amazing that the CFL managed to keep the name of the new Commissioner under wraps almost right up until the announcement. Part of the reason the secret was easier to keep is that the person they hired was off most radars.

Jeffrey Orridge was unveiled as the 13th Commissioner of the CFL. What he lacks in name recognition, he more than makes up for in terms of qualifications. Harvard law, Mattel, Reebok, USA Basketball, CBC Sports. In reading through his resume, its easy to see why the CFL was interested in him. All he is really lacking is the perfect hair of his predecessor Cohon... or any hair for that matter.

A big deal is being made about the fact that Orridge is the first non-white commissioner of any pro sports league in North America. On one hand I think this is a positive reflection on an attitude the CFL has had for a long time: the only thing that matters is if you can do the job. To be fair that attitude is likely rooted in a history where we couldn't afford to be picky about who the league employed because this wasn't exactly the most desirable place to work. But nonetheless, its a very Canadian thing not to concerned about things like skin colour.

On the other hand though, in this day and age, its kinda sad that the colour of Orridge's skin is even newsworthy. Like its some kind of surprise that a black man could run the a football league. Just how far do we take this? Will there be a news release about the the first asian sports exec who doesn't pronounce it Rions and Loughliders? I don't care if they're black, white, asian, female, paraplegic or tusken raider as long as he can do the job. Ok, check that, I would care if he was a tusken raider... that would be newsworthy.

Orridge looks like a solid hire for the CFL. It will be interesting to see if he can maintain the CFL as one of the few leagues where the Commissioner isn't universally reviled.