Monday, June 5, 2023

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Bring on the Regular Season

Plan the parade!

While I, of course, am kidding, the 2-0 preseason will certainly have made some on the prairies seriously think that a Grey Cup is inevitable now. Look, the preseason went about as well as it could have. Penalties were down, sacks were almost non-existent, starting O looked great, defense looked ok, we actually won. I think we should all be happy with that preseason. For a team that has been mired in misery and hopelessness since last August, we at least have some hope now. And even if it was just preseason (and against a Bombers team not fielding many starters), it still felt great to actually enjoy watching a football game again.

I won’t dwell much more on that game. The first 2 quarters made it pretty obvious who should make the team. The second half made it almost equally as obvious who should not. The only surprise among the cuts was Stefan Banks. He was a highly touted free agent acquisition from Calgary viewed as the next starting DE. Swing and miss there. He was beaten by Cox (an unexpected reversal of what normally happens) and not even deemed worthy of a practice roster spot. Overall I really like our roster except I think our linebacker depth is downright concerning and we still keep signing OTs which means we aren’t super set their (not that that’s important).

But now its onto the real games, against real opponents, fielding their real starters. The West is shaping up to be a very tight race where I think legitimately each team has a shot at finishing first or second.  

Here are my 10 bold (or not so bold predictions) for the 2023 season

1.     We will finish 9-9 but will get there in a very streaky manner. Start hot, midseason slump, late season recovery. 3rd in a competitive West will be our finish.

2.     Harris will throw for 5000 yards. He will settle for more FGs than we like but he will be able to move the ball on offense.

3.     We won’t have a 1000 yard receiver. It will be a true team effort. We also won’t have a 1000 yard rusher… though Morrow and Hickson combined will be the equivalent of one.

4.     O-line will not be great… but good enough. We will be middle of pack for sacks allowed. We will try a bunch of different OL combinations before settling on a set group on Labour Day. Partial odds on Derek Dennis being part of the mix at some point.

5.     Kian-Schaefer Baker will make his triumphant return on Labour Day and score a TD in a winning effort.

6.     Lanier will get double digits sacks in 12 weeks. Defensive player of the year in the West.

7.     While Teitz should be a lock for top Canadian on the team, a young upstart named Jayden Dalke will steal the spotlight and be the best safety we’ve seen since Craig Butler.

8.     Dickenson and O’Day will last the season but after an early playoff exit, O’Day will save his job by sacrificing Dickenson as the scapegoat.

9.     Mario Alford will score at least 6 kick return TDs.

10.  Rider Nation will spend the whole season debating Dolegala vs. Fine and it won’t matter because Harris will play 18 games and Patterson will be the only other QB to touch the ball on 3rd down plunges.

Bonus Prediction: The Riders will continue to put zero effort into half time and the $5 menu (which can only really be found on the first level, not on the second level where the cheap seats are) will be much ado about nothing.

Bring on the season.

Friday, June 2, 2023

Riders vs. Bombers: Preseason Game 2

Friday night to Riders are in stink-town to wrap up the preseason against the Bombers. The veterans will be given one last chance to tune up before the regular season. The newcomers will get one last chance to make sure their plane ticket on Saturday says Regina on it and not their hometown.

Last week’s win has really thrown me for a loop. Normally I would bemoan the fact that we would get killed in this one, especially on the road. But now I don’t know what to think. Winnipeg is resting most of their starters… so logic dictates that we will indeed return to our preseason losing ways. I don’t make the rules, that’s just how it goes around here.

Offense is the primary thing to watch in this one. Not that I think defense is a slam dunk but the starters are almost all veterans and Shivers always has that unit playing top end ball except when the offense does so little that they literally run our of breath from being on the field all game.

Offensively we get our first look at Trevor Harris. It’ll likely be a brief one and on a limited playbook but its an important first step. Really just need to see him look comfortable, make good reads and move the ball for 2-3 drives. Curious what kind of chemistry he will have with the new look receiver group.

A big part of Harris having a strong debut will be the guys in front of him actually blocking. I’m a slight bit concerned at this point about the OL. I think Blake improves that line but our projected left tackle will play zero snaps in the preseason and has never played a live snap of Canadian ball. Our other tackle is far from settled and we seem to sign a new American tackle every other day. Hardly screams of confidence there. Hopefully guys like Lofton, Council and Shorts can show us something to give us hope. Also would like to get a good look at Zach Fry. The way O’Day was raving about him coming into the season he’s the second coming of Gene Makowsky.

I think it’s still an open competition for back-up and 3rd. Dolegala is likely the lead horse in that race but Fine ain’t giving up without a fight and Patterson is hanging around. Fine is probably up against the toughest odds. As a third year player he needs to show that we haven’t seen his ceiling yet. If the race is a dead heat then you likely give the edge to the newer guys in the hopes they have a higher ceiling. He will get time earlier in the game (i.e. with a higher quality supporting cast) so its do or die time for him.

As much as everyone wants to see us run a ton, I don’t expect it. You’ll see a little bit but we know what we have in Morrow and Hickson so we are saving the real running for the regular season. More important to evaluate QBs, receivers and pass blocking than running at this point.

Defensively there are 3 guys I’ll be focusing on. Stefan Banks, Miles Brown and Lloyd Christmas. We need one of those second year DTs to step up and give us a productive DT to spell off Lanier and Micah, or let Lanier bump out to end occasionally. As for Banks, he was the prized D-line free agent acquisition and I'd like to see him show why. Even without some starters, Winnipeg’s line should be a good measuring stick for what we have in that group.

At linebacker it’s the back-ups I want to see most. At some point we will need guys like Brunson, Harvell-Peel and Reavis to step in on D and this is the last chance to see if they are up to the challenge.

 Lastly, while punting won’t exactly drive ratings, an injury to Vedvik opens the door for Adam Korsak. Hard to say how long Vedvik may be out (could be a minor thing, could drag out) so suddenly seeing what this Global kicker can do is important. Good news is that by the second half I expect many punting opportunities.

While its always nice to beat Winnipeg (though sadly it’s been so long that we’ve almost forgot what that’s like) I expect us to lose and that’s ok. Main goal is to evaluate people and get the info need to attend to the easiest part of any coach’s job come Saturday… the cuts.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Monday Morning Sentimonies: We… Won?

Riders 30 – Lions 27

I can honestly say I had just resigned myself to the fact that we would never win a preseason game again. For the early part of Saturday’s game there was a distinct chance of it ending in a scoreless tie. Even when the final whistle blew I still really didn’t believe it. We won? I know it was a meaningless game for after last season we are desperate for anything resembling good news and a win counts.

Quick story… as regular readers will know rye is my drink of choice. I’ve put many a Wiser’s executive’s kid through college over the years. Last week a buddy of mine suggested that it might be time to chance things up to try and help shake the team out of their funk. He suggested tequila. Now I despise tequila (even the good stuff) and he was specifically talking about a bottle of gold Cuervo, which is like the Big Bear of tequilas, that was sitting in my liquor cabinet. Long story short he said I should try taking a shot of tequila instead of my normal rye and coke before the game. I’m nothing if not a team player, so I did…. And low and behold we break a 9 year losing streak. So needless to say I am now bound to keep drinking bad tequila as long as we keep wining. Depending on how the season goes I may be trading my beard and robe for a poncho and sombrero. So you’re welcome. I am suffering for the good of the team.

Here are my random observations from the game itself.

-        I sit on the second deck (presumably where all the recently reduced pricing seats are) and the $5 menu was almost non-existent.

-        Jake Dolegala looked good. Most importantly to me he looked calm in the pocket and was going threw multiple reads. I think the back-up role is his to lose at this point.

-        Patterson looked OK but nothing special which I think he needs to be if he wants to unseat the incumbents. Fine is a bit of roller coaster. Certainly not as polished as Dolegala but dammit if he doesn’t make things happen (albeit in the 4th quarter against 4th stringers).

-        Speaking of QBs, I still don’t understand how Dominique Davis keeps getting jobs. He is terrible has been terrible for all but that one game where he torched us. Continuing that trend he completed 40% of his passes and threw a pick… in a preseason game. He is a 7 year vet, not a rookie. Who does he have blackmail material on that he keeps getting signed?

-        Mitch Picton just quietly goes out there and does his job and does it well. He’ll never be a 1000 yard receiver but he’s the kind of guy you want on your team.

-        I liked what Kendall Watson showed in terms of the new receivers.

-        I also like what Javian Hawkins showed at RB. He may have the inside track on a practice roster spot.

-        O-line was an area of focus coming into the game and honestly I can’t say I noticed them either in a positive or negative way… and that’s a good thing. Our QBs didn’t get killed. Obviously it will get harder when actual starting caliber DL dress but I would say they passed the first test.

-        I have been very critical of Evan Johnson for a while now and honestly he seems to be doing his best to work himself out of a roster spot. He has already lost his starting role at this point and then he takes a 15 yard roughness penalty while playing with the second stringers… bold choice. He likely sticks on the roster just because you always need depth but his regression from priority free agent signing to now has been something to behold.

-        Another veteran player I noticed a couple times in a negative way was Lokomobo. He hasn’t yet found his stride at the pro level. To be fair this is only his second real season so I’m not ready to write him off yet.

-        Defensively I noticed Harvell-Peel, Williams and O’Neal Jr. in a positive way.

-        One guy who won without even dressing was Brett Lauther. There was one missed FG and a complete inability to hit a convert. Needless to say Lauther’s job is quite safe.  

-        Shoutout to the guy who failed to win a prize because he thought the picture of the giant moose came from the town of Moosomin. Even the announcer was in shock that he got the question wrong. Preseason for the fans too I guess.

-        It was also preseason for the in-stadium announcer who did not understand that we dressed two #35s and he kept crediting the defensive 35 (Kosi Oneyka) for a bunch of offensive plays that the offensive 35 (Rodney Smith) actually did.

 Here’s to more wins… even if that means enduring more tequila.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Riders vs. Lions: Pre-Season Opener

This time of year is always bitter sweet for me. Obviously I’m pumped for the return of CFL football but the downside is that actual games means I need to double my blogging effort. As a notoriously lazy Prophet its quite the conundrum.

As excited as I’m sure we all are for football (at least until the 2nd quarter when you stop recognizing the names) let me remind you that the Riders suck at preseason. Like, really suck. I’m not sure if it’s a record yet (honestly too lazy to look) but their preseason futility has to be approaching historic levels. We last won a preseason game on June 14, 2014. That is not typo. 2014. We won our first preseason game that year and since then have a record of 0-14-1. Yes, you may recall that in 2017 we managed to tie in the preseason… which is almost seems worse than losing. Now it really doesn’t matter since preseason wins have the same value as my person cryptocurrency Prophetdollaz but its still a notable streak of futility that would be impressive if it wasn’t so depressing.

As for what I’m watching for in the game…

1 – QBs

Trevor Harris is off tending to family affairs so the 3 guys vying for back-up will have full chance to shine. One will earn the back-up spot, one will hold a clipboard and one get to exchange his playbook for a plane ticket. It sounds like no one has really separated themselves from the pack yet. Whoever is able to step up when the lights are one will take a big step forward. The cynic in me says that Dolegala is the one to beat. Mainly because he doesn’t likely get the “boys will be boys” treatment on his DUI if the team didn’t plan on keeping him. (I can't be the only one thinking that). 

2 – RBs and LBs

Practice can only tell you so much about these 2 positions. We need to see who can actually play when the hitting his for real. Hawkins, Emmonds or Smtih would have to do something pretty spectacular to put either Morrow or Hickson at risk, but you never know. 

I’m honestly not worried about our starters at LB (other than making sure Teitz is back to his old self) but depth behind Teitz-Dean-Moncrief is concerning. I will really be watching Kolby Harvell-Peel. I think he’s a guy who makes this team in a back-up role.

3 – O-line

Obviously pretty much every eye in Rider Nation will be glued to the OL. If they perform well, that’s a good starting point. But you can’t read too much into preseason success when the playbooks are vanilla and the opponents are likely not starters. But if they struggle against the future bench-riders/unemployed then there is reason for real/continued concern. Just look mildly competent at one of the tackles… is that too much to ask? I will be interested to see the groupings. Assuming Philip Blake ends up playing guard, one of Ferland or Johnson are out of a starting role. Based on the last 2 seasons, unless he sees a big improvement, it should be Johnson who is in jeopardy. 

4 – Who plays themselves on/off the roster

There will be a couple players who make some eye catching plays and increase their odds of sticking around. Usually they aren’t the players with preseason hype. There will also be a couple who make plays that catch eyes for the wrong reason and make the statement “Now for the easiest part of any coach's job. The cuts.” a reality. I expect a couple too many men due to substitution errors, many offsides on both sides and illegal formations galore. 

Historically the home preseason game is when we play the Official Rider Prophet Preseason Drinking Game. Rising liquor prices have all but ended that but in the off chance the Riders actually come through with $5 menu that includes beer, I’m posting the rules for anyone who wants to partake. (I assume no responsibility for any personal, professional or medical issues that arise from your decision to participate in this activity).


1. Every dropped pass or fumble you drink

2. Every time the announcer screws up drink

3. Drink two if a flag bearer is out of formation during pre-game

4. Every time count, illegal formation, no yards, offside penalty you drink. Two if its on the Riders Four if its too many men.

5. Every TV Timeout you drink. (note: the game is not televised though I realize they have the timeouts anyway... 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 a fullback scores a TD, pound 2 drinks (This is the Jordan Sisco memorial rule)

Monday, May 22, 2023

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Random Quasi-Coherent Thoughts

The CFL preseason starts today and we can finally say that there is Rider football this week. I mean sure its meaningless football played largely by the soon to be unemployed but dammit I’ll take it.

Until I actually get to see the players for myself, I don’t have a ton in the way of thoughts/analysis on how things are going. Hence today you get a smattering of the random sentimonies that pop into my head on this holiday Monday.

-        The Riders announced this week that they had reduced the price of a number of tickets and would be rolling out a $5 concession menu. This is great news and I have been campaigning for both of those things for years. It’s almost as if the Riders are starting to feel it in the pocket book and have realized they may have to try to make the gobs of money they are used to. Nah.. can’t be that. I’m sure they are just doing it out of the kindness of their hearts.


-        The skeptic in me fully expects the $5 menu to consist of: a Halloween sized bag of Doritos, a bag of microwavable popcorn that you need to pay an extra $4 for the right to use their microwave to pop, super watered down iced tea made from like 5 good host iced tea powdered crystals and a beer that is entirely just foam taken off t of an actual full price paying customer's beer.


-        I am legitimately shocked that while pretty much every other team in the league is unveiling new jerseys, the Riders have not in years. It’s a guaranteed cash windfall on the prairies so I am legitimately curious as to why they have waited so long to unveil even a new alternate.

-        The team must really be high on OL Jordan Tucker. He practiced with the 1st team briefly until he suffered a pretty significant lower body injury that will keep him out some time. Usually new guys who get hurt in camp are cut and may be brought back later when healthy. Tucker still being part of the roster tells me they don’t want to risk losing him.

-        It appears the back-up QB spot is a wide open competition between Fine, Dolegala and Patterson. Be interesting to see which one steps up on Saturday when they actually have to play against another team.

-        There are a number of second year guys that showed flashes in their rookie year that I am interested to see if they continue progressing. Name like Christmas, Brown, Henderson and Hickson. Remember that last year was year 2 for guys like Robertson, Lanier, Milligan and Clark and they are now key starters.

-        Just for fun. Here is my projected 44 man roster for Week 1. Let’s see how close I can get to the actual thing (back-ups in italics):

QB: Harris, Fine

RB: Morrow, Hickson, LaFrance

FB: Awachie

WR: Wieneke, Walker, Lenius, Emilus, Bane, Picton, Alford

OL: Hawkins, Ferland, Godber, Blake, Lofton, Fry, Johnson


DL: Banks, Lanier, Micah, Robertson, Korte-Moore, Dabire, Christmas, Dheilly

LB: Teitz, Dean, Moncrief, Harvell-Peel, Herdman-Reed, Reavis

DB: Marshall, Milligan, Dalke, Henderson, Clark, Lokombo, Ford


ST: Hus, Lauther, Vedvik


Monday, May 15, 2023

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Training Camp

Football is back.

Training camps opened across the league yesterday. And while this started on a somber note as  the Rider Prophet curse led to the unfortunate release of La’Akea Kaho’Ohanohano-Davis following rookie camp, I am still pumped for the new season to arrive.

Last season was so depressing you couldn’t even drink it pretty. While I am under no illusions that the new look Riders are suddenly Grey Cup favourites, we at least have hope at this point that things may be better. The reality that history has shown that rises in hope in the Riders tend to be followed by it being taken away in crushingly tragic fashion… but that is future Rider Prophet’s problem. Hope springs eternal for now.

Let’s take a look at the key things I’ll be watching in training camp.

1 – Offensive Line

I yearn for the day where I don’t have to talk about the O-line. But until they prove even the slightest amount of competence they will remain the number 1 story in Saskatchewan. We have a new centre, we are looking to find two new tackles and even the spots at guard are not guaranteed to the incumbents, nor should they be. The Day 1 line up was Hawkins-Blake-Godber-Johnson-Lofton. That may change as things progress but its where we are starting. If we can even have just one offensive tackle who doesn't provide the protection level of an imaginary condom I think we can survive. Two would be ideal but expectations have hit pretty much rock bottom, so any good news is progress. I think Harris’ ability to read a defense and have an actual pocket presence will help the O-line but they need to block or we are in for another long season.

2 – Receiver

Training camp needs to establish who is the guy. Shaq, Duke and Moore are gone and Schaefer-Baker is a couple months away. So we enter the season without knowing who the #1 go to receiver will be for Trevor Harris. We have potential but no sure things. Wieneke has talent but has always played beside Geno Lewis. Can he step up now that he’s out of that shadow? Derel Walker is a big name but over 3 years removed from being a top end receiver. Was the tail end of last season the start of an upswing for him or was it just a temporary blip on his overall downward curve? With a full CFL training camp will we see Lenius get back to 2021 form? Is Bane the impact player we envisioned when we signed him? Does a new recruit outshine these presumed incumbents? A ton of questions surround this group.

3 - QB

I expected us to enter 2023 with questions at starting QB. Fortunately we had Harris fall into our lap and secure that. So we are back to looking at the competition for the fan favourite position in Riderville: Back-up QB. It’s a make or break year for Mason Fine. If he can show he continues to progress the spot should be his to lose. But if he has plateaued it opens it up for like Lewis, Patterson and Dolegala. Let’s just hope for his sake Dolegala doesn’t blow this opportunity again because he still doesn’t know what Uber is. 

4 - Secondary

Marshall will be manning his normal corner. Milligan will be a stud at halfback. Clark will be starting (likely at CB but he can play half as well). With longtime steady presence Mike Edem gone, Jayden Dalke steps in a safety. He will have Ford, Lokombo and Beaulieu pushing him to hold the spot. In addition to a new safety, one DB spot remains up for grabs. Early last year I would have penciled in Henderson but he saw his play slip and will need to earn that spot back. Be interesting to see who among the new recruits steps up.

 5 – Chemistry

This isn’t a position specific thing but the overall change in the roster has been massive. The previous veteran leaders (Fajardo, Clark, Evans, Moore, Edem, Leonard, Hughes, Sankey) are gone. The void will need to be filled by additions like Harris, Wieneke, Micah, Blake as well as previous “young guys” stepping into leadership roles like Lanier, Teitz, Lenius, Milligan, Morrow. With so many new pieces it will be interesting to see how they come together and whether the right kind of leadership from within the team will emerge.

Normally I would make predictions about veterans who may be in trouble or potential for surprise cuts. Things is, this year anyone who I normally would have pegged was jettisoned in the offseason. The vets who were retained were retained for a reason. I’d like to think that Evan Johnson is at risk of losing his job to a Blake or Fry because he has been underwhelming in his time here but I don’t see that happening. Maybe LaFrance? Outside shot at Marshall? But generally I don’t expect surprises in terms of veterans come cutdown day. 

One final piece of business, with La’Akea Kaho’Ohanohano-Davis gone, I need to select the Official Rider Prophet endorsement for 2023. It’s historically this kiss of death to any player I bestow the honour on so apologies to Bryan Cox (selected for obvious reasons). It seems you are doomed to join the ranks of Greg Milhouse, Eltoro Freeman, Boo Robinson, Gabe Nyenhuis, Ikenna Ike and Jose Valdez in Rider lore.

Monday, May 8, 2023

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Rookie Camp

It’s been long offseason. There’s been no CFL in 5 months and if we are being truthful, there really hasn’t been Rider football worth caring about in closer to 9 months. I’m pretty pumped for the new season to get here. Rookie camp opens this week and that is the first major milestone on the way to the 2023 season.

In honour of rookie camp I am going to highlight one rookie per position that I think is worth keeping an eye on.


With Harris locked in as the starter new QB recruits will at best be trying to unseat Mason Fine for the back-up role, or more likely looking to secure a practice roster spot. Levi Lewis is a former Ragin’ Cajun (great team name) who had pretty solid college career. He also had a cup of coffee with the Seahawks. His college success was not primarily based on his legs so in theory he has potential as a pure passer.


Tough year to be trying to crack the Riders as a RB. Morrow and Hickson are locks and we have a set returner in Alford. Literally the only way a new RB is making this team barring injury is the practice roster. Javian Hawkin is one to watch. He’s a smaller back but did break the Louisville single season rushing record in 2019.


This is actually a position where there may be a roster spot up for grabs. In theory the American depth chart goes Wieneke, Walker, Bane and Tevin Jones. But Jones has been wildly inconsistent in his time here and is hardly a lock. I was going to highlight Jake Herslow but only so I could comment that I’d prefer if his name was Jake Hefast. So let’s highlight Kalija Lipscomb. He did not have eye popping college stats but did manage to bounce around NFL practice rosters for the past 3 seasons. We all know hype doesn’t guarantee success so an under the radar type of guy like Lipscomb may flourish in the CFL.


If O’Day didn’t manage to find us a couple mildly competent offensive tackles then get ready for another season full of cursing, disappointment and numbing yourself to the pain with rye. Jerald Hawkins is a guy the Riders were very excited to get signed. He was a 4th round pick of the Pittsburg Steelers in 2016 and has been bouncing around NFL teams ever since. At 6’6, 305 he has the size. He’s still only 29 years old and has been receiving NFL coaching for the past 7 years. I dare not get my hopes up but if anyone has a chance slowing down the steady stream of opposing defenders off the edges, he would be the guy.


The most recent signing Charles Akanno is the one I’m watching. He had 20.5 sacks in his college career at Idaho, 11 came in his final year. He also has 17 tackles for a loss that season. In recent years O’Day has managed to recruit Woodard, Robertson, Lanier and Marino. Hoping Akanno can be the next name in that series (you know from a talent perspective).


Going to give two names here. As soon as we signed him La'Akea Kaho'ohanohano-Davis shot to the top of my favourite player list. I hope he becomes a tackling machine and forces play by play guys to say it over and over. The other name I will give is Kolby Harvell-Peel. For reasons other than his name I think he bears watching. He was a college safety but has the size to move up to LB in the CFL.


The secondary is probably the one place where there may be a starting spot up for grabs. Clark, Milligan and Marshall will be projected to start. If Amari Henderson can show progression he is in theory the 4th American but he’s hardly a lock. The player I’m keeping an eye on is Leon O’Neal Jr. A 4 year starting at Texas A & M. Spent last year as an undrafted free agent with San Francisco. The 49ers have solid D so if he was someone they had interest in there must be something there.

I apologize in advance for likely giving the Rider Prophet curse to each an everyone of the players I just mentioned.