Friday, April 18, 2014

Darian Durant Extends

It was pretty much a certainty but it was still nice to officially hear that Durant and the Riders had agreed to a multi-year extension. In an offseason where the Riders were handing out extensions to everyone (still waiting on mine of course) Durant was next up in the priority list.

Outside of the obvious fact that its nice to have your franchise QB locked up long term, there's a lot to like about this deal... even though the details of it appear to be a more closely guarded secret than the Colonel's secret recipe. Seriously, what kind of ridiculous clauses are in there that they couldn't at least tell us it runs through 2016 (as is widely assumed)? Hooker clauses? Animal sacrifice clauses? The biggest thing is the fact that Durant is not the highest paid player in the CFL. He's probably up there but we didn't have to hand him a blank cheque. This tells me that Durant is smart enough to know that its worth taking a bit less money to ensure the team can afford to surround him with quality players, particularly along the OL where Heenan, Fulton and Best are all headed into the final year of their deal. We were prepared to make the top paid player but both sides were able to come to a deal that will be better for everyone. Remember when Edmonton was paying Ricky Ray crazy money but couldn't afford to field a peewee quality team around him? From what I can deduce Durant is somewhere between $425-475K which is a price that both fairly compensates Durant as one of the best players in the game and doesn't handicap the team, allowing them to give him the tools he needs to remain successful.

No doubt the fact that Corey Chamblin just signed a long term extension was a big factor in Durant's desire to extend. For a guy that has been through 5 head coaches and 7 offensive coordinators in his time in green and white, you can bet the prospect of stability (especially with a coach he trusts and believes in) was enticing.

This extension led to lots of talk about how will Durant compare with the great QBs, particularly the Riders ones... all 2 of them. While I don't think he will ever be as legendary as Lancaster, he is only 1 more Grey Cup win away from being the most successful Rider QB ever. Lancaster went 1 for 5 in Grey Cup appearances and Durant is already 1 for 3. I truly believe Durant will deliver at least one more Cup in his tenure, the guy is just a winner and still has a strong coaching staff and team around him.

Consider this... Durant is 31 and has already enjoyed a ton of success. After the age of 31 Anthony Calvillo appeared in 5 more Grey Cups, won 2 of them (the rat bastard!), was a 5 time league all-star and 2 time MOP. I don't think Durant will challenge Calvillo's records but I do think Durant is in the prime of his career and has a ton of success yet to come in his future much like Calvillo did in his 30s. Just watch Durant's progression from 2011 to last season. He has matured a great deal as a QB and much like his head coach still has room to grow.

Honestly ask yourself, if you could pick any QB in the CFL right now to be your starter who would it be? Hard to argue that Durant doesn't top that list. And for a franchise that has had to endure a string of QBs so bad that even the stiffest alcohol couldn't make look good, its a great feeling knowing that we have one of the league's best players... and will for a long time.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Draft Thoughts

Well today seems like as good a day as any to kick off my 2014 CFL Draft coverage... mainly because there's not much else to talk about. I mean sure Alex Hall is headed to Carolina but the odds of him returning to the Riders were about on par with those of a hockey team not named the Habs playing relevant hockey in April. So let's talk draft.

First thing to discuss is the notion that this is a weak draft class. It is... and there are a few factors driving that. The first is changes to the draft eligibility rules. Since you'd need a post graduate degree and army of consultants to understand the eligibility rules for the draft, I'll simplify things. Basically they are making it so NCAA prospects who are what we call red-shirt juniors are not eligible until their final year of college, as opposed to their 2nd last year as in past years. So this years crop will feature no NCAA red-shirts, they will all be the 2015 draft. So that makes for less players to pick from.

Reason 2 is that there are now 9 teams taking players. So the pool of players is not as big as in past years and it is now being divided by 9 instead of 8 making for a weaker draft class for individual teams.

Reason 3 is that it is just a weak draft class, it happens. Go back and look at the class of 2005 or the class of 2007 and try and find a few good players period, let alone a few good ones per team. Some years just don't have an abundance of great players. This appears to be one of them. Based on the initial reports, teams better hope to nail their first pick and then hope for a few special team contributors in late rounds (ala Levi Steinhauer and Spencer Moore) or a shocking surprise (ala Getzlaf or Luc Brodeur-Jourdain).

Its a good draft for top end talent on both sides of the line of scrimmage which is good because there are a lot of teams with big needs on the line, OL in particular. Its nice not to be one of those teams. Ottawa was going to take an OL first overall even before Marwan Hage retired (that only further solidified things). Winnipeg and Edmonton both have embarrassingly bad OL (and Joe Mack is no longer there to make stupid draft choices). So the end result will be the first 3 picks being O-linemen. Montreal sits at #4 and they should really be looking to build depth at OL too but looking back at Jim Popp's recent top picks, rhyme or reason are not things he is big on. He's a wild card. BC would love to get in on the OL action as well but there may not be enough to go around and they still have a gaping hole at safety that they were praying Craig Butler would fill. Then comes Toronto, who based on recent track record are just looking for someone with NFL aspirations that they can sign and then release. Then Calgary who is in the enviable position of having solid depth across the board in terms of Canadians and have the freedom to do whatever they want.

Then finally comes us at #8. Plain and simple we are going defense. We need to build up our depth on that side and we need people who can contribute on teams from day 1. There is lots of talk about us trying to find a player who most closely matches Craig Butler in terms of size and skill. While it would be awesome to uncover a Butler 2.0, I don't think that is consciously our aim. Simply put we will draft the best defender available if it happens to be someone like Butler, great. If not, we will just find ways to utilize whatever skill sets are available to us.

I imagine that a trade or 2 will alter the draft order before all is said and done. For example, given the current flooded state of the stadium in Winnipeg they are probably now targeting people with backgrounds in swimming... or plumbing for that matter and willing to do what is takes to get them.

In the coming weeks coverage of the 2014 CFL Draft will include previews of each teams in terms of needs and targets, a mock draft (or 2 depending on how motivated I get) and full coverage of the draft itself.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday Round-Up: Taman Extends

Big news this week was the announcement that Brendan Taman's contract has been extended through the 2017. This really wasn't earth shattering news as it was pretty much a given that his deal would be extended to coincide with Corey Chamblin's deal. Coming off a Grey Cup season and experiencing big turnover on the player side, the team was anxious to ensure stability among its leadership.

Now a few of you have been asking me about my thoughts on Brendan Taman since he delivered a Grey Cup. Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know that I was among his biggest detractors while he was in Winnipeg and was a fairly big critic of his early in his tenure with the Riders. I'm not going to try and re-write history here, flat out I didn't like the guy. And I stand by all my criticisms. That said there is no denying that since 2012 his track record has dramatically changed. He made the right moves and delivered a championship like GMs are supposed. So while his past track record is about as impressive as my abs, I will give him full credit for the past 2 years. GMs are measured by success and he had that in spades.

What changed you might ask? How did this perennial punch line of a GM in Winnipeg end up as one of the more respected GMs in the league? I think it's a mixture of better circumstances around him and learning and growth on his part.

In Winnipeg he was famous for trading almost every first round pick he ever had, having Canadian talent that consisted of purely of Doug Brown, relying on other teams' castoff vets and keeping a neg list of names so ridiculous it read like a comedy sketch (Brock Lesnar, Donovan Bailey, Deion Sanders, Ontario Smith and the Wendy's Kick for a Million guy). To be fair to Taman, in Winnipeg he had a high level of interference from the Board and a budget/scouting resources that would make the average rec league team look rich by comparison. Here he has full control over the team and an extensive scouting network and quality staff. So clearly he is benefiting from better cirsumstances.

Also though, he clearly has learned from his earlier foivals. He showed them early here. Remember the likes of Dominique Dorsey, Ryan Dinwiddie, Efrem Hill, Dan Badslow (which is the name I gave Dan Goodspeed for those of you who are new). The trading of Chris Williams' rights for Prechae Rodriguez. The drafting of Jordan Sisco over Shawn Gore, Cory Watson, Spencer Watt and a pylon (all of who were better receiving prospects).

But his recent history is way more good than bad. He still likes his castoff vets but now they are used to fill specific needs rather than as the primary focus of recruiting. He still trades draft picks more than I'd like but overall shows a far greater commitment to building Cdn depth. His recruiting speaks for itself: Terrell Maze, Tyron Brackenridge, Taj Smith, Kory Sheets, Chris Milo, Craig Butler, Jay Alford, Hilee Taylor, Ricky Schmitt, all 4 games of Macho Harris. He stole Xavier Fulton for a 6th Round Pick (not sure if he bought Edmonton supper after having his way with them on that or not.) His free agent effort have netted Brendan Labatte, Dominic Picard, Weldon Brown, Ricky Foley, Jermaine McElveen, Tearrius George. Even a bona fide Taman hater like me can't argue with results like that.

So while I won't renounce all the previous bad things I've said, I will give credit where credit is due. I'm curious to see just how well he navigates this team through the massive offseason departures we've had. I'm skeptical about his ability to fill all those holes but for now he's earned the benefit of the doubt. I just hope he learned from the last Grey Cup winning Rider GM and stays away from the Robaxacet lest he risk screwing this all up prematurely.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Monday Morning Sentimonies:

As promised I’m back with your regularly scheduled Monday Morning Sentimonies. Well to be perfectly honest of the previous 5 words I’m only consistent at meeting the last one… but you are still reading this so the system works!

The Riders mini-camp went this weekend in Florida and even though we had to experience it via pictures, interviews and tweets it was way better than the previous months of nothing we’ve had to endure. I really can’t tell you much about who looked good and who didn’t. By now you’ve probably read the few reports that are out there and really that’s about it. By all accounts the Rider brass were impressed with the level of talent at the camp (which fits with what I’ve been hearing all offseason that they are confident in this year’s batch of recruits). What I can do is give the list of camp participants that I have been able to piece together from various sources. Now keep in mind that just because players were at this camp is no guarantee they will be a Rider some still have other options. Remember that last year, BJ Daniels attended minicamp but ended up becoming an award-winning, bestselling mystery romance novelist for Harlequin… check that wrong BJ Daniels. He actually ended up getting drafted by the 49ers and ultimately landed on the Seahawks. So just keep that in mind. Also keep in mind that this list is by no means complete, just the best I can do.

I’ll group participants into 3 groups.

Vets - Tino Sunseri, Cory Watman, Matt Vonk and Rod Williams.
I was honestly surprised that Watman was there. They must have needed an extra OL or 2 to run full drills

Guys already signed
QB: Seth Doege
WR: Brett Swain, Chaz Schilens, Duke Calhoun, Guillame Rioux
RB: Clifton Smith, Jermaine Thomas, Keith Toston
DB: Troy Stoudemire, Hugo Lopez, Mark LeGree, Greg McKoy
LB: Tyler Greensalde, Morty Ivy, Scott McKillop, Chad Kilgore
DL: Trent Allmang-Wilder, Trevor Guyton
P: Brett Cameron

Guys not currently signed
QB Jon Jansen
QB Jeff Godfrey
WR Ryan Smith
WR Martel Moore
WR Bert Reed
WR Jeremy Horne
DB Donnie Fletcher
DL Ernest Owusu
DL Justyn Eddins
RB Ryan Torain
WR Jeremy Horne
RB Adonis Thomas
DB Antonio Fenelus
LB Adrian Moten
OL Levi Adcock (now that Willy is gone, the least they could do is sign this guy)
DB Marshay Green
WR Devin Aromashodu
WR Roy Roundtree
WR Diondre Borel
DL Kendrick Payne (what a great name for a defender, also reminds me of the movie Major Payne)
WR Sammie Stroughter
DL Robert Eddins

What struck me about this list was the diversity of players. There were guys coming out of college, guys who have had a cup of coffee in the NFL, unheralded guys who have bounced around the NFL and a few bigger names like Ryan Torain and Devin Aromashodu (though maybe I only know Aromashodu because I’m a Vikes fan). Regardless, it seems the Riders are leaving no stone unturned which is a good thing given the number of starting spots up for grabs this year.

We likely won’t know much about any of these guys until main camp rolls around in June… except for the few that will be released in the next week or so. Safe to say they didn’t impress. If nothing else we had a small taste of football to help fill these very empty months until June.

One more thing before I go… the Riders would like to remind you that time is running out to secure your REDBLACKS preseason tickets. They are only going to remind you like 5 more time… this week. Seems to me they are only a few steps away from using this strategy:

Friday, April 4, 2014

I'm Still Alive

Don't let the fact that I haven't posted in almost 2 weeks fool you, I am very much alive and have intentions to resume writing posts again soon. Right now I am working on a final project for school and that is eating up a lot of my time and effort (unfortunately I was unable to do the project on smart assed football commentary, otherwise I could be killing two birds with one stone).

But I will be back Monday just in time to discuss the mini camp going on in Florida where hopefully we will find a crop of new talent to replace the mass exodus we recently endured. I tried getting the hobo down to Florida to cover the camp but given the mess that rail system is he would not have been able to hop boxcars quick enough to make it down there. I will also be back to comment on other pressing CFL matters like the CFLPA contract negotiations, stagnant ticket sales for the REDBLACKS preseason game and the short lived run of Big Joe Mufferaw.

See you Monday.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Odds and Ends

Well now that your brief forray into the world of college basketball has ended is cursing, disappointment and crumpled paper, you are probably eager to get on with football season. Once again the Rider Prophet endorsed Wichita St. Shockers failed to win a championship and me lot of money. Is it too much to ask for a sport I know nothing about to play out exactly according to my wild ass guesses?

A few Rider related news items to touch on...

If you had told me a few years back that Avon Cobourne would be on our coaching staff and Rey Williams would have a front office job I would have laughed, but that is our reality today after Cobourne became our RB coach and Williams retired and was named Director of Player development (which is a nade up position that essentially means glorified babysitter). This coaching thing will be new to Cobourne but he was good in all 3 phases (running, catching, blocking) when he played so that's a postive. Also the fact that we passed on the convinience hire of Kerry Joseph into that role tells me that Chamblin and Cortez see something of value in Cobourne. Only thing I'm curious about is why Cobourne wants to come up here to coach. I remember when the Ticats had to coax him back into the league a few years back he had a real world job and forced the Cats to pay him a ridiculous salary to return. I wonder what happened to that job? Maybe it never existed and he just sharked the Cats real good.

Its sad to see Williams' playing time come to an end. He was always a treat to watch. Whether it was when he burst into the spotlight in '08 or his steady play in the middle in '09 and this year (that incidentally both resulted in McCullough assuming the starter role) he was always fun to watch. I just hope that both Cobourne and Williams realize that somewhere in the planning for the season they are emergency plan D and might have a few more playing days left. I kid... mostly.

The Riders continued to bring in DL competition by adding Trent Allmang-Wilder and Lindsey Witten.Of the two Allmag-Wilder intrigues me the most. He's 6'6, 290 and only 22 years old. Guess we will see good he is come the Florida Camp. They also added DBs Greg McCoy, Mark LeGree and Canadian Hugo Lopez. Given that most of our secondary is set, I'm not ass interested in the DBs but you never know when someone might play themselves onto the team.

The Riders should try a bit harder to mask their desperation for selling REDBLACKS preseason tickets. I just got my second reminder in the past week. What's next a personal phone call from Jim Hopson begging me to buy my ticket? Singing telegrams rom Richie Hall. I'll likely end up going but plan on taking advantage of the deals they will be forced to offer in order to get a decent crowd to the park. Guessing I'll end up with better seats for less $ than the "special season ticket holder" price they are hoping I will blindly pay.

CFL Combine went this weekend. While it is still expected to be a weak draft overall, based on the combine results it looks like their is top end talent to be had in the early rounds. Looks like a strong year for lineman on both sides so I expect the Rider will be taregting a DL at #8 though a DB is also a possibility. Eithway it'll likely be a defender. I'll have far more draft coverage in he coming weeks.

Until then please return to tearing up your brackets and cursing schools and players you've never heard of before Thursday.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Random Quasi Coherent Thoughts

You are probably currently more concerned with pretending you know a damn thing about college basketball and putting "Thought" into your bracket. Don't kid yourself you haven't followed it since last year one bit so at best you making wild ass guesses. Nothing wrong with that as its my strategy too but let's at least be honest about it.

CFL news is pretty slim other than the scouting combines going on this week. These combines will actually be more important than past years. Its widely considered a weak draft class (for reasons I will get into closer to the draft) so odds are good that GMs are scouring all combines looking for a hidden Canadian gem. Either way a few more of these players will likely end up in training camp than in previous years. There are 3 regional combines and one main one. If you get invited to the Saskatchewan regional combine, don't go. Its a trick. A local farmer has his combine stuck in a field and is hoping a bunch of athletic young men can help him free it. I'm interested to see how these combines shake out.

Other notably CFL news is Chad Ochocinco openly courting the BC Lions on twitter. At first many assumed it was a joke but then they remembered just how desperate Ochocinco might be getting and decided to at least look into it. Simply put I don't see this happening. For 1 the Lions (or any team) don't want the circus Ocho would bring. For 2, Ocho had some legal issues so I'm not sure what his border clearance would be and 3, given Canadian official languages law Ochocinco would also need to include Eighty Five and Quatre-Vingt Cinq on his jersey and anytime an announcer said his name. Its just too much of a hassle.

As a side note given that Shawn Gore already owns BC Lions #85 Ocho would likely have to look into a name change anyway. Though Ochocino with #16 would be pretty funny to me.

That's all I go for today so I'll end by wishing the Rider Prophet endorsed Wichita State basketball team the best of luck in March Madness. Go Shockers!!!