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.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Riders vs. BC: This Time With Less Suck

Let’s all pray that last week was the worst collectively performance we are going to witness (honestly short of losing their pants or doing interpretive dance during a play I’m not sure how it could get worse), burn the tape and move on with life.

Saturday the winless Lions come to town for a night game against the Riders. I love night games! There is just an added intensity in the crowd (likely correlated with added intoxication) The stadium should be loud as we try to ensure the Lions stay winless. Between preseason games and Mother Nature’s attempt to drown us, we haven’t unleashed the full fury of Mosaic yet and there’s no better time than Saturday night to do it.

Aside from the obvious (every player has to not play like a giant sack of crap again) here are what I see as the keys to the game…

The key weakness we need to attack relentlessly in order to win is that BC O-line. About the nicest thing I can say about them is that they suck less than Hamilton. They suck in run blocking (they are averaging a league low 3.9 yds per rush). They suck in pass blocking (have allowed 9 sacks and routinely allow opposing DL in the backfield with relatively little resistance). Word is Kirby Fabien will replace T-Dre Player (an awesome a ridiculously made up first name). The huge weakness is the tackle Ryan Cave who looked beyond lost last game (not surprising for an import in his first CFL game). Chick and Foley should have a big days against him. If our front four can get pressure on Glenn he will do stupid things… like throw picks to the ever athletic D-tackles (come on Tearrius keep the streak alive).  BC accounts for one third of all INTs thrown in the CFL in 2014 and consistent pressure on Glenn will help push that number higher.

Manny Arceneaux should make his season debut which is a huge boost to that receiving core. Without him they have a lot of decent receivers but no game breakers. Arceneaux needs to be blanketed because he can deliver big plays if left unchecked even for a moment. If we can limit the big play to him then I like our secondary’s chances of contain the rest of that group. Aside from Arceneaux the thing that scares me most is Andrew Harris. He is a good runner but outstanding when catching the ball out of the backfield. Our LBs need to give him no space to work with. If our D-line can occupy the OL it will free up the LBs to swarm to him. Word is Tristan Black will see a lot more playing time (not sure if that’s a good thing or not, but at least its not Shomari). I am not worried about Macho stepping in at HB. He’ll be fine… for a week or two until he’s injured.

Offensively, I don’t really know what to expect. We couldn’t handle Toronto’s D and they are nowhere near as talented as BC. Our OL will need to play at the level we’ve come to expect if we are to handle Smith, Taylor and Mitchell and give Duranr some time to work. I expect the OL to show up angry and play hard. The bigger concern when dealing with BC is the combo of Bighill and Elimimian. We know we will need a strong run game to be effective but Allen has fumbled on far lighter contact than those 2 bring and it’s not like Charles gives me much more confidence. I expect ball security will be priority #1 so maybe I shouldn’t be worried but I am a bit. For as good as that front 7 is they are so far dead last in run defense which is surprising. Montreal had success last week on the ground so we can’t be afraid to attack it.

The main weakness in that D is the same one it has always been, safety. For years BC has struggled to fill that with spot with someone who was evenly remotely as talented as the rest of that group. Their big plan was to finally address that with Craig Butler but he snubbed them and they were stuck with LaRose back there again. We need to run routes that force LaRose to make decisions, he will make mistakes and big plays will result. Beyond that I think that, much like the west-semifinal if Durant can use his legs (not lots but a few times here and there) it will force the D to respect that and open up things more for the receivers and whoever runs the ball.

One caution I will make is our blocking on punts... Hughes is a leader on teams and I'm hoping that the lack of his presence won't result in a missed assignment and a blocked kick. With a week to plan hopefully all special team assignments are crystal clear.

With Arceneaux and Fabien in the lineup I don’t expect the Lions to be the embarrassment that we saw last week, that said I think this game will be won in the trenches and I expect us to win that matchup on both sides of the ball. Add the home field advantage and raucous crowd and the end result should be a Rider win. If Getzlaf was in I'd predict a wider margin of victory but he's not so...

Riders by a late Brett Swain TD… (Ryan Phillips will still probably complain that we ran up the score)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Are You Smarter Than A Toddler - Week 3 Picks

Here are the Prophet family picks for week 3.

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

Be sure to have your picks in by kickoff on Friday

Monday, July 7, 2014

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Eastern Embarassment

Riders 15- Argos 48

They all sucked.

If I stopped my analysis right there it would pretty much be comprehensive. About the only good thing I can about that garbage was at least they are close enough as teammates to all decide to suck as one collective unit. Honestly, there's been stuff in Prophet Jr's diapers that didn't stink that much.

What it boiled down to (I mean other than everyone sucking) was that our best players were not our best players... well maybe they were technically our best but they were the best in same way someone is the "best" player on the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Our defense was so useless I'm not sure why they even bothered coming on the field. The secondary that was supposed to be our defensive strenght looked awful. Maze had a bad day. Anderson must have some condition in getting his charges dropped whereby he can't use his hands to initiate physical contact because he attempts at tackling were embarrassing. And for me that was the big frustration. Ray, Owens and Durie are elite level talent, they are going to make plays. But we helped them with every missed tackle (of which there were many). Hard enough to beat them without making their life easier. Last week against Hamilton, our blitzes paralyzed the O. This week, you could almost see Ray laughing as he knew exactly where to put the ball to make a play when we tried to blitz.

Offense decided to show up for exactly 2 minutes of that game during which Durant surgically tore that defense apart (like i expected heading into this game). But for the remaining 48 mins of that game the O was as useless as the D. To a man, our much vaunted OL got beat. Picard, Best, Labatte, you name it, I saw them lose one on one battles all day. That put even more pressure on Durant who wasn't having a good day to begin with. He just looked flustered. Forcing passes, ignoring clear running lanes in favour or passing. Inexperienced receivers likely didn't help but that wasn't the only problem. Then there was Allen... I won't get too much into him. He fumbled (again), he needs to get better, he will.The only part of that entire game I enjoyed was Neal Hughes showing how a running back is supposed to play. Run hard, block hard, play smart. Hughes is immensely underrated in my opinion. A shame to see him injured. Hopefully he's back soon.

So there it is. We played an awful game. Doesn't mean we are an awful team just that we sucked on that day. Remember Banjo Bowl last year? That was an embarrassment too but we recovered as I'm sure we will do here. This is the worst loss in the Chamblin era so I'm confident he and the coaches will get this team back on track.