Monday, June 26, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Same Old Story

Riders 14 – Alouettes 16

You can tell by the return of curse words echoing through my house, that football season is upon us once again. It’s a good thing my neighbours know me otherwise on most game days they might surmise a domestic is going on at my house and call the cops. Alas, the only ones getting beaten we the Riders (well I mean technically that’s a very good thing that no one else was getting beaten but that doesn’t make for quite the same calibre of segue).

Since the season opening loss on Thursday I have heard many people focusing on the positive things from the game. Yes our O-line looked pretty good, yes Nic Demksi had himself a game (save for that one boneheaded decision), yes our special teams coverage looked good. God bless all you optimists but honestly, screw all that. We lost, again, and losing sucks. Not only did we lose but we lost a very winnable game against a bottom tier team that didn’t play particularly well. It’s not like our schedule is going to get any easier.
I think what bugs me the most about the loss is that the loss was due in large part to a lot of the same dumb coaching mistakes that plagued us last season. The big 4 for me: Coaching errors, a refusal to run; overuse of the 3 man rush and McDoo’s complete and utter idiocy when it comes to randomly inserting the back-up QB:
Errors   Kevin Glenn plunged for a first down with 28 seconds left in the game. We did not run another play until calling a timeout with 8 seconds left. I don’t want to go full Glen Suitor on you here but we should have ran a minimum of 1 play in that time (possibly 2). The abysmal clock management cost us a few precious yards closer to the endzone and an easier kick. I am not absolving Crapigna of wrongdoing. That was a very makeable kick and I bet 9 times out of 10 he makes it. But it was well within our power to make life easier for him and our coaches dropped the ball (I guess in a show of solidarity with Duron).
Refusal to run – Pop quiz, how many carries did Marshall get in the first half? 2… 2!!! It still amazes me how one dimensional McAdoo makes our offense… particularly when we have a good O-line and a power runner. Marshall had a 7 yard per carry average and we ran him just twice in the first quarter… against a defense fielding a rookie MLB to boot. Old man Glenn had more rushing attempts in the first quarter.
3 Man Rush – Here’s a wrestling analogy for the fans among you. Every time we run the 3 man rush it reminds me of Ric Flair climbing to the top rope. The only thing that ever happened when he climbed the rope was he got knocked off. The infamous words of JR ring in my head every time only 3 defenders rush “Oh that never works!”
Back-Up QB – So in the McAdoo school of offensive strategery, it makes sense to keep the big tall athletic back-up QB on the sideline while a borderline senior citizen runs the sneak but he absolutely must be inserted when your starter has driven the field is in scoring position. Rather than have the guy who is known for touch passes and who is in a rhythm throw a touch pass, let’s randomly bring a guy cold off the bench to do it. In what universe does that sound like a good idea?!? I am starting a petition that every time McAdoo randomly inserts a the back-up QB for a non-sneak play a season ticket holder gets to kick him in the nuts.
Look I know the players have some responsibility in this there were too many drops, way too many penalties and countless more mistakes. But if our coaches keep making such glaring and frequent errors then it won’t matter how few mistakes the players make. We simply do not have a talented enough roster to overcome our own coaches’ self inflicted wounds.
Did I mention I the losing?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Riders vs. Alouettes: Season Opener

In a curious schedule quirk, the CFL is opting to open the 2017 season with a match-up of 2 of the worst teams from last season (I assume the writers at TSN will come up with something more enticing for the promos). But what this match-up lacks in quality teams, it makes up for in intriguing story lines… mainly Durant vs. his old team. It’s also Kevin Glenn vs. his old team but you can literally say that about 95% of our schedule.

For comparison sake I went back and looked at our opening day roster from 2016 to see if I feel better or worse about where we 1 year later. Downgrade at QB. Certainly receivers are better. OL is improved. D-line is comparable (possibly stronger inside). Linebackers are far worse (outside of MLB). The secondary is actually way better… though that is more an indictment on the utter garbage we fielded last year than an endorsement of what we have now (the middle of our secondary was Buddy Jackson, Kevin Francis and Brandon McDonald, shudder). So overall, yes we are better than last year. Still I’m not entering this game with any shred of confidence.

Darian Durant looked really good in the preseason, our secondary did not. I know it’s only preseason but it can’t be completely discounted. Durant may say that this game isn’t about getting revenge on the Riders but that’s only because it’s really about giving a giant FU to Chris Jones (and possibly a few crotch chops for good meaure). Durant plays well with a chip on his shoulder so we have good reason for concern… especially when you look at who are manning some of our most important cover spots: Sam Williams, Chris Lyles Erick Dargan and Jeff Hecht. The only people that line-up strikes fear into is Rider fans.

Offensively I actually like how we stack up. Noel Thorpe always fields very strong defenses (and probably would have a lot more rings if they had found a offense for him post-Calvillo) but I don’t think he has near the talent on the roster he is used to. Certainly they are very strong up front with Bowman and Knapton. But the lack of Bear Woods in the middle of that D is a huge loss for that unit, one that they will look to fill with a rookie. The secondary doesn’t look much better than ours. With Ryan Phillips hurt, Jonathan Mincy and Tyree Hollins are the only notable names out there. The natural tendency would be to turn Duron loose on a questionable secondary but I would resist that somewhat. My first priority would be to pound Cameron Marshall at the heart of that D to test the new MLB (though I know that running is generally against the morals of McAdoo). That will open up some big holes for Carter and Roosevelt. I would also look often to Grant and Holley as you can bet the other 2 will be keyed on. Our offense should have a productive day.

That brings us to the defense. If you could assure me that all plays would go in the direction of Jefferson, Muamba, Rodgers or Gainey, I would feel great about the match-up. But since its highly likely the other 8 defenders will become involved at some point I feel not so great. The addition of Jovon Johnson is huge in my opinion. That will hopefully bring some stability to that side of the coverage. The offensive game plan against the Riders remains the same as it was last year: throw until they prove they can stop you (which usually we can’t). Durant will look to air it out and we need to counter somehow. The best way we can if by getting pressure on him. If he has time, he will pick us apart. We need that ball out quick and its on the D-line to make that happen. I would also bring the blitz more than usual. For all of his strengths, Durant was never the greatest at the hot route so let’s force him into some bad decisions.

This is certainly a winnable game (Montreal is a bottom tier team) but we historically play awful in Montreal. Its almost as if there were some kind of night time distractions that detracted the teams readiness (but Montreal wouldn’t have anything like that conveniently lined up in large quantity up on one street would they?). Our best chance at winning this game is an offensive shoot-out and in a battle of which defense is more likely to get a stop, I’m certainly not taking us until we prove we can defend the pass.

The game will be close but ultimately it will be a disappointing start to the season.

Als by 7

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Official Predictions 2017

Twas the day before the start of a new season
And Rider fans were nervous, and with good reason.
We’ve got a fancy new stadium to take in the game
But have reason to fear our performance will still be lame.
So tell us Prophet, give us words that are witty
Give us reason to believe we won’t be so… you know.
So listen up dear reader as I share my predictions through rhymes
On what to expect in 2017… other than more fines

Its year 2 of the rebuild, but you really wouldn’t know
Jones is back but with pretty much a whole new team in tow
Gone Foster, Gone Cox. It’s such a drag
Hell, gone pretty much everyone not named Rob Bagg
The biggest news by far is gone #4
Some will say that means gone any chance to score
But it’s not all been bad news, so let’s not all freak out
Just don’t look at the new beer prices. That might make you pout.

The offense all rests on Kevin Glenn’s arm.
Can the old man do? Third time is a charm.
His O-line has been beef up and he’s got weapons galore
Roosevelt, Grant and Carter… there’s no way we don’t score.
Roosevelt will lead in catches and Carter TDs
We just hope that Duron doesn’t also lead in penalties
KG will do fine but allow me to be curt
At some point mid-season, he will end up hurt
It will only be a couple games but those won’t be much fun
It will be made worse because McAdoo will still refuse to run
Overall our offense will not be top tier
But it will certainly be better than the hot mess last year

Defense has some big adds like Jefferson and Muamba
Those 2 alone make me want to dance a samba (sorry it was a really poor decision to try and rhyme Muamba)
Our interior DL is not flashy but will do
Newsome and Leonard won’t (I really hate those 2)
By midseason there will be a new starting D-end
And that’s when our sack total will go on the mend.
Muamba gives us some really run stopping ability
But our OLBs leave a huge pass coverage liability
We struggled last year with a stud like Otha Foster
And we no longer have anything close to him on our roster
In the secondary, we have good reason to fear
Early in the season they will look as bad as last year
By about week 6, we’ll have tried 8 different DBs
But will finally find a combo that won’t allow so many TDs
The D will struggle early but down the stretch will giv’er
At least that’s what I hope for the sake of my liver.

We will be more competitive but still start the season rocky
Let’s be honest, we have no reason to be cocky.
We will struggle out the gate. 2 and 4, oh the dread!
There will be deafening cries for Jones’ head
The wins may be ugly but they will start to come
A big labour day win will make us not so glum
There will be another skid while Glenn recovers
Williams will assume the #2 spot beating out all others
At the end of it all we will have 7 wins (most within our own walls)
But good enough to cross over because the East still sucks balls
But that my friends is where it will end
We’ll lose the east-semi (mainly because we can’t defend)

So there you have it my official prophecy
Some might call my thoughts heresy
But if you don’t like this version or my claims
Could be worse, I had an alternate view where it all goes down in flames (like really super bad... let's all hope the version I posted is closer to reality)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

CFL Pick Em

This isn't really a blog thing but in case any of my readers are interested, I'm running a CFL Pick Em confidence pool. It's $20 to enter and there are prizes for most points over the whole season as well in throughout the season.

If anyone is interested in taking part just let me know and I'll get you all the details.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Burn the tape and get to the cuts

Riders 10 - Lions 42

I don't want to dwell on that monstrosity of a game anymore than I to. Even the most die hard of fans found that hard to watch and even harder to find a silver lining in it, other than maybe that we are glad that football games don't have 5 quarters. Its only preseason so let's not completely overreact. But still there are concerns heading into the season. I think the Lions are one the teams to beat this season and at this point it looks like we are showing up the West Division gun fight with a banana. Still its only preseason so let's not completely panic just yet.

I was going to do a section entitled "The Good" on the game but honestly, the only good was Tull looking like a beast. Even Antigha did fairly well. It renews some of my lost hope in a our non Jefferson Defensive ends. But I mean that was it for good. Our defense was scary bad. Our offense what utterly useless and those few times they weren't, penalties negated the play. We had 250 yards of offense and 150 yards of penalties. At one point we had as many turnovers as first downs. It's the type of game where you burn the tape and take a good stiff drink (or multiple as I did) and forget it ever happened. The highlights for me are the plays where Elimimian absolutely destroyed Stroshak and the play where Brandon Bridge took a helmet to the groin while hurdling a defender in a selfless attempt to make a rare positive play... only to have it all for naught due to penalty. I don't like see our players get knocked around but in a game as awful as that, any play that entertains me is a positive.

Onto the easiest part of any coach's job... the cuts (and honestly, after Friday it wasn't a very difficult job).

Only 3 releases surprised me:  Jarriel King (because he was our primary import depth and potentially a starting guard), Dillon Grondin (because he was about the only true MLB type we had to back-up Muamba) and Mark Roberts (because he has a good camp and was a projected starter). There is a chance that Roberts and Butler may be brought back when healthy so have to wait and see there. The rest should come as no shock. Maybe Bryan Bennett but he made one good pass over 2 games so all the good practice in the world means diddly. I was very happy we kept Williams. I like what I have seen from him. I was sad to see Milhouse go... but that isn't really for football reasons.

There were some names I was surprised to see make the team. There was the Juniors Thebaud and Philogene, didn't see them cracking the roster. There was Mike Dubuisson... who I didn't see cracking any roster. I was also surprised that we kept all 4 of Newsome, Leonard, Tull and Antigha. At some point 1 or 2 of them will have to go (please be Leonard, please be Leonard). 

So roster-wise where does that leave us? Receivers look real strong (something we knew all along). I like Marshall at RB. Assuming LaBatte and St John heal up I like our starting 5 as well as the OL depth we've assembled behind them. D-line is a question mark outside of Jefferson. There is potential on the inside as well as the other edge with Tull/Antigha but I want to see proof not potential. LBs will be fine... with the exception of the cover LB spot, which scares me. Williams looked awful and I really don't see a name on the roster that instills confidence at this point. Secondary is a big concern. We are certainly in a better spot than last year but unfortunately given that last year was an utter embarrassment early on in the secondary, while "only somewhat terrible" is technically an improvement, it is still a concern. I will add on a more positive note that our Canadian depth is better than last year. With the exception of Muamba, I see a viable back-up at every starting Cdn spot. 

I won't lie and say am confident about the upcoming season but I do feel better than last season and we somehow salvaged 5 wins out of that mess (along with a couple games we really should have won). So let's see what this team can bring when the bullets start flying for real.


Friday, June 16, 2017

2017 Canadian Fantasy Football Guide

Just in time for the last minute drafters, here is my 3rd annual Canadian Fantasy Football Guide. 

Visit to get your copy and get the edge you need to win your draft.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Riders vs. BC Lions: Preseason Game 2

Friday to the undefeated Riders (yes I realize that’s a gross misrepresentation but I’m not sure I’ll get the chance to use that term again this season) travel to BC to conclude the preseason. For some it’s a last chance to shake of the rust and tune up for the season. For others it’s a last chance to prove to the coaches they should be kept around (even if it’s on the super-secret pre-practice squad… that totally doesn’t exist this year).

Teams will take different approaches to this game. Some will ensure the starters play at least a quarter to get them in sync. Some will sit any player of remote importance and opt for a last ditch evaluation of players on the bubble. The Riders seem to be opting for sending everyone that is healthy (though the list of injured is long). BC appears to be doing the same though they are a lot healthier so pretty much all of their big names will see at least some time.

 Here is what I will be watching for during the game:

QBs – It will be nice to see Glenn get a couple series but the real thing to watch is the battle for #2. It’s Bridge’s spot to lose at this point so he will need to screw up or Bennett will need to do something significant to change that. I hope Bennett doesn’t come in feeling he needs to be a human highlight reel though. Bridge earned his accolades last week by being patient and taking what the D was giving. We don’t need 70 yard bombs, just go out and execute the offense and move the chain. I hope we find a way to keep Williams around but he’s a long shot at this point to crack the top 3.

O-line – This will be a good test of our depth. LaBatte and St John won’t play so we will get to see what our ability is to endure injury (which will happen). Not worried about Dyakowski but Bladek needs to show that he’s progressed after a somewhat shaky debut. I also hope that at least one of our other Cdn OL (White, Meredith, Adusei, Philogene) can impress as well. You can never have too many Cdn OL at your disposal.

RB – LaFrance may get his shot at some point to start but on opening day it will be an import starting at RB. Marshall for me is the lead guy but Allen can’t be ruled out yet. The starter spot is wide open and someone will need to step up a seize it.

WRs – It would be nice if Carter doesn’t get in an altercation. Other than that I think the big thing to watch is the Canadians Stanford and Picton. With Bagg sitting out they will get more reps than normal and this is their big chance to prove they can provide solid depth behind Bagg and Demski. As for the imports…. Good luck. I think Carter, Roosevelt and Grant are locked in. Holley seems destined for the 4th spot that leaves Stoshak, Collins, Mayo, Reece and the other Grant fighting for 1 spot (and in theory Chad Owens, if he’s ever healthy). Reece is getting returner reps which boosts his stock somewhat. The others will need to show something special to avoid the axe. (Note: Fulwood is being converted to DB for this game because… of course he is. Though if he ends up as an HB that make him a Halfwood?).

DL – For the love of god show me something! With Leonard and Newsome both being rested this is the perfect chance for someone like Tull, Tavarres or Antigha to show what life could be like without them. I will also be watching the interior guys (Mrabure, Minter, Steele, Gaydosh, MIlhouse) closely. Their ability to generate an interior push is key to opening up room for Jefferson. Again, show me something!

LBs – We seem to be trending towards Dargan and Williams as the OLBs so I’ll be watching how they perform as a unit with Muamba. I will also be keenly watching Grondin, Love and Francis. Love may yet be pushing for a starter role but these 3 represent our depth at LB at least until Judge arrives and Eguavoen (hopefully) heals up.

DBs – With Bingman out a month-ish, looks like it will be Butler and Roberts as starters opposite of Gainey and Rodgers. Gatewood, Adams and Lyles have one last chance to unseat them. Edem and Hecht are still duking it out at safety though I expect both will make the 44 man roster and be used on a rotational basis. BC has a far more formidable offense than Winnipeg so this is a great test of where we are at with this unit. My expectations are deliberately set low so hopefully I won’t be disappointed.

Lastly, since the game is televised and I’m guessing booze at your house is somewhat more affordable than at Mosaic, this is a good chance to play the Official Rider Prophet Preseason Drinking game. Legally I can’t condone binge drinking or tell you how much more enjoyable it makes a preseason game but wink, wink, nudge, nudge. The rules are as follows:

1.     Every dropped pass of fumble you drink
2.     Every time the announcer screws up, drink (better hope Rod Black doesn’t get the call)
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 (note: Obviously the game is actually being televised but hey, this is a drinking game after all)
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 Josh Bartel scores a TD proceed immediately to the nearest liquor dispensary and purchase and pound one of those really big Fosters beer. (Traditionally this was the Jordan Sisico rule and I was prepared to make it the Vince Young rule but quite frankly even a currently unemployed Sisco has a better chance of scoring).