Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Tuesday Evening Edition

First of all, sorry to everyone for the delayed update this week. I had a bit of an issue come up last night and as a result I didn’t get the chance to put this post together until tonight.

Speaking of issues though, how about those injuries? Obviously the win is once again the bottom line – the last time the Riders went the big 5-0 was when the guy on the $50 bill was in office – but I think Man In The Bush hit the nail on the head when he said to me after the game “I’ve never felt this bad after a win!” Once again the injury bug reared it’s ugly head on Sunday. Darian Durant suffered cracked ribs in the first quarter, Andy Fantuz broke his leg in the 4th, and somewhere along the line James Johnson suffered what is thought to be a concussion (what I want to know is why Johnson waited until now to get hurt rather than doing it last year when I still hated him!) Even Glenn January was down on the turf at one point – for the second week in a row. I mean, I know he wants to fit in on his new team, but somebody needs to tell the guy that there are better ways to do it than getting injured!

While Johnson’s status for Saturday in Calgary is still unknown, Durant and Fantuz will join an injury list that still features the likes of DJ Flick, John Chick, Leron Mitchell and possibly Weston Dressler. There is a decent chance that Marcus Crandell will return to action this week against his former team, but the extensive injury list means that he’ll be out there with a fairly depleted group of receivers. I mean really, two months ago did any of you ever think I would be able to refer to Matt Dominguez as “the healthy one”?

Despite the injuries though, Gang Green once again found a way to come together as a team and pull out a fourth quarter victory. At this point, they are unquestionably taking years out of my life with these comeback wins. They haven’t always been pretty, but at the end of the day they don’t ask how, they just ask how many.

I give full credit to Steven Jyles for bouncing back from some ugly appearances earlier this year with a very solid game, as well as the coaching staff for reining him in a little bit better than they did against BC. Aside from a telegraphed pass that was picked off by Kenny Wheaton, one pass that was almost caught by Arland Bruce on the Argos bench, and one ball that seemed to be intended for the guy selling beer in the 5th row of the west stands, Jyles was almost perfect. He got the ball to his playmakers so that they could do the work, and when all else failed was able to pick up some key first downs with his legs.

Wes Cates continues to pile up the stats, recording another 135 yards on the ground. He now leads the league in rushing yards and majors, with more touchdowns than tornados in a trailer park. He continues to be the one constant in our offence despite his supporting cast changing from week to week. It’s early, but it’s not a stretch to think that MOP honours could be on the horizon for Cates if his play continues at this level.

Another player that I was impressed with this week was newcomer Dek Bake. Leading up to the game I got the impression that he had been threatened within an inch of his life not to let Kerry Joseph break contain, and I thought that for the most part he did an admirable job of that as he had great angles all night. Try as he might, the normally elusive Joseph found that on this day there would be no Shakin’ Bake.

Full credit to the rest of the defence as well, they definitely stepped up when it mattered most. After somewhat shaky games against Hamilton and Montreal, the D stepped up against the Argos and only allowed 4 points in the second half. Once again we saw some unorthodox formations, some of which worked and some of which didn’t. We had some success with one look that I hadn’t noticed before, that the double safety formation, which featured both Scott Gordon and Tristan Clovis on the field at the same time. My working theory right now is that Richie Hall and Gary Etchevery run races at the start of the week, and then develop a defensive formation featuring the first twelve guys across the line. Either that or Etch is borderline crazy. But I’m okay with either of those.

Well Rider fans, enjoy the rest of the week as we prepare to head into Mosaic Stadium West, or “McMahon Stadium” as the locals call it. I’ll be back to set that game up on Friday!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Toronto vs. Saskatchewan: A Hero's Welcome?

This Sunday the Riders will take the field against the visiting Toronto Argonauts, who will be led into Mosaic Stadium by Kerry Joseph, who as we all know was named the 2007 Most Outstanding Player on his way to leading Saskatchewan to a Grey Cup victory. It seems as though the Rider Nation has mixed feelings over what kind of reception Joseph should receive upon his return. Let’s face it, Kerry did some pretty great things for our team and our community last season. But that doesn’t change the fact that I will treat him as if he tried to steal my grandma’s life savings when he takes the field. Kerry Joseph loved Regina and loved the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He just would have loved them a lot more for an extra $100,000 or so.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t fault Kerry at all for getting himself the best financial deal that he could. It’s a brutal game, and no player plays forever, so I fully realize the importance of making money while it’s there to be made. But let’s be honest about it and see things for what they are – Kerry thought he’s worth more than we were willing to pay him so he found a situation where he could get it. That makes this whole “I loved Regina and I felt betrayed when they traded me” about as believable as “Of course the Lions are under the salary cap.”

For me, the bottom line is that Kerry’s not with us, he’s against us. To borrow a line from Dave Chappelle, come this Sunday, “I hope all the bad things in life happen to you, and no one else but you!”

As for our own quarterbacking situation, we found out on Wednesday that Marcus Crandell is not yet ready to play, and as such Darian Durant will get his third consecutive start. The best part of that is that now all of the Rider fans as well as the Rider “fans” can support our offense – because I really get the feeling that there would have been some in attendance on Sunday that would have liked to see Joseph outperform Crandell this week. Sick.

But Saskatchewan isn’t the only place where quarterbacks are a big deal this week. In Winnipeg, Ryan “My Eyes Will Steal Your Soul” Dinwiddie took over for a struggling Kevin Glenn for week 5 against the Calgary Stampeders, and he managed the improbable by guiding the Bombers to their first win of the season. Not only did he win, but he looked extremely impressive doing it! Earlier this week the Calgary media was building up our game against the Stamps on August 2nd as a Battle of the Undefeated. That was a head scratcher when Calgary was 3-1, but it’s really going to be a tough sell for them now that the Stamps are hovering just over .500. “Well to be accurate, we meant undefeated… today.”

Elsewhere in the CFL, the Montreal Alouettes spent the first part of the week in Regina before flying off to Vancouver for their game against the Lions. Head coach Mark Trestman expressed a desire to have an extended road trip like this with his team in hopes that it would serve as some type of team building exercise. That’s actually a really good idea… in theory. In reality, their team building week consisted of a night of bowling (attended by roughly half the team), a barbeque at Scott Flory’s parents’ house (by invitation only – attended by 8), and the release of Jason Armstead and Rayshaun Kizer as a direct result of stupid mistakes in the last game. If that doesn’t bring the Als together, I don’t know what will.

That’s all for today, enjoy the game Sunday! I’ll have a complete summary next week of the showdown between the Durant-led Riders taking on What’s-his-Name’s Argos.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Substitute Blogging

So The Rider Prophet finally took a vacation, and in his absence he left his blog under the watch of the Media Consultant. Yeah… there’s a real good idea. I liken that to George Bush taking a few weeks off and asking Castro to handle the national addresses until he gets back.

For anyone that’s curious, Prophet has gone off to the Cypress Hills for a few days, following which he’ll be going on some sort of canoe trip. For anyone wondering why I’m not also on this canoe trip… not really my thing. I’m not really sure what goes on out there, but this is apparently a photo from Prophet’s last canoe trip.

Eww. Gross.

Anyway, very few of you (but possibly some) came to see lewd photos of the Rider Prophet, so let’s move on to some actual Rider discussion. Specifically, the tale of two quarterbacks.

The big issue on everyone’s mind in Riderville right now is who should be starting at quarterback this weekend. On one hand, you have Darian Durant – a young quarterback who has looked solid (but not without mistakes) in two and a half games so far this year. On the other hand, there’s Marcus Crandell, the opening day starter who is on the verge of returning from a hamstring injury.

The loudest arguments seem to be from the Durant supporters, who point out that he has carried us to the 4-0 record we are now enjoying, so how can you go away from the guy with the hot hand? What they fail to mention is that if Wes Cates doesn’t play an incredible half of football, Weston Dressler doesn’t make a miracle run, and Jason Armstead makes a smart football decision (okay, I realize that last one is a bit of a stretch), we could just as easily be 1-3. Good teams find ways to win, but it’s not like Durant is single-handedly carrying us to levels of success not seen around here since 1970. At times, Durant has been great. At times he has made poor decisions and mistakes. In fact, I think that these poor decisions and mistakes may have been weighing on his mind as he left the field on Saturday evening, and were possibly to blame for his inability to heal a leper while turning water into wine.

The fact is, Coach Miller has said from the very beginning that Crandell will start again when he’s healthy, and that is all the reason in the world to sit Durant back on the bench. It’s not like we were losing games with Crandell behind center, so what does that tell the rest of the players if Durant continues to play? To compare this to another situation, John Chick has played reasonably well so far this season, but what happens if Dek Bake goes in this weekend and shows signs of potential? Do we want Chick rushing himself back from injury, shuffling around on the field just to try to preserve his spot on the team? Doesn’t sound like a good plan to me. What it comes down to is that if Crandell doesn’t start the first game after he gets healthy, Ken Miller will have about as much credibility with his players as Keith Richards starring in an after school special. The more you know…

Well, I think that’s about enough for today. To be honest, I’ve been writing the jokes for these pieces for a little over a year now (the funny ones, at least), but I’m not used to having to come up with all of the filler to span the gaps between hilarity. But don’t worry though, by the end of next week I will be so good at this that no one will care about the alleged quarterback controversy, we’ll have ourselves a full-scale blogger controversy. Check back Friday when I set up this weekend’s game against the dastardly Kerry Joseph and the Toronto Argonauts.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Vacation Time

Starting tomorrow, I will be off on a well deserved vacation. Okay the “well deserved” part may be a bit of a stretch but I will be taking 2 weeks vacation regardless.

It’s really unfortunate that my vacation happens to coincide with one of the craziest news weeks so far in the CFL. Major injuries to Perry, Simpson and Eiben; Armstead and Kizer cut; Stanford Samuels re-signed; Dinwiddie to start; all that and I haven’t even gotten to the big Rider game. It’s like an all you can eat buffet of awesome stories and I have to pass.

But fear not, I will not leave you high and dry while I’m away. It would be a shame to let stories as good as these go without some biting commentary and politically incorrect humour.

In my absence, Media Consultant will be running the show… a move I already regret. I can only imagine the mess I have to deal with upon my return. With that in mind I have prepared the following disclaimer:

The Rider Prophet assumes no responsibility for anything written or done by Media Consultant in his absence. The views expressed by said Media Consultant do not necessarily represent those of the Rider Prophet and are likely nothing more than the senseless ranting of an employee who is disgruntled because he works for free.

There, now that that is handled I leave you in the hands of Media Consultant… May God have mercy on your souls.


PS - As part of my vacation, I will be heading to Calgary for the Rider game on August 2nd along with Media Consultant. If you are making the trip as well be sure to come up and say hi.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Still Undefeated

Riders 41 - Montreal 33

Wow! Another week, another exciting victory for the Riders. I'll admit things looked bleak for a minute there. We were down 33-25 with just over 3 minutes left and though I hadn't counted us out yet, I was beginning to get a sinking feeling in my stomach. But just when it seemed hope was fading, the Riders rattled off 16 unanswered points, in the most exciting 3 minutes of football I've seen in a long time.

While there were so many great individual efforts that led to the victory, there was one individual who deserves special mention. With time winding down and the Als leading, someone was going to have to step up if the Riders were going to win... and that man was Jason Armstead. More than any other player, his efforts fueled the Rider comeback. He started by kneeling on a kickoff despite being pinned deep in his own end. I haven't seen such a misguided decision since that time I glove slapped Colonel Sanders (granted Armstead had no coverage because Marc Trestman mysteriously sent out the onside kick recovery team but still Armstead could have gained 5 yards by simply falling forward). Upon returning to the bench, Trestman had some stern words for his mediocre return man. But Armstead wasn't finished, he proceeded to fumble the next kickoff, all but sealing Montreal's fate. After scraping himself off the turf and finding his way to the bench he was heard telling his coach "Taking the knee doesn't look so bad now, does it??" I find it ironic that Armstead managed to give the Riders better field position as an Aloutette then he did while he was still a Rider.

Darian Durant continued his strong play, passing for 3 TDs and rushing for another. Thank God, because after watching Hamilton embarrass themselves this week I was worried that he wasn't as good as Hamilton made him look. Fortunately, Durant looks to be the real deal and provides us with solid depth at QB. Special mention also goes out to Wes Cates and Neal Hughes who accounted for over half of our 475 offensive yards, the bulk of which was through the air. You know things are going good on offense when a receiving corp featuring Fantuz, Dominguez and Bowman has to compete with a RB and FB for receptions.

It wasn't all positives for the Riders though. We had some offensive struggles including 2 INTs to Reggie Hunt, a Wes Cates fumble that was overturned (though I think it was a fumble) and the worst offensive series I've ever seen. We managed to start on our own 5 and go penalty, penalty, incompletion, penalty, short pass, safety (or the Hamilton '03 special, as it's more widely known). Also, our 3rd quarter defense was about the worst I've seen in some time. I can forgive leaving receivers open because you are blitzing to get big pressure on the QB and I can also forgive getting minimal pressure because you are dropping into blanket coverage. It seemed for awhile though that Richie Hall subscribed to neither of those philosophies and instead opted for the lesser known "get no pressure and cover no one" defensive scheme. While the scheme managed to confuse me and those sitting around me, Anthony Calvillo and the Als offense seemed un-phased. Fortunately for the Riders, our D once again stepped up when it mattered most, forcing a couple big turnovers to swing momentum back in our direction.

Then end result was an exciting win and a CFL best 4-0 record. It's the first time we've started 4-0 since 1970. The victory came at a big cost though as defensive end John Chick went down early and it was later revealed that he sprained his MCL and will be out 4-6 weeks minimum. If you have any kind of memory, the phrase "out 4-6 with an MCL sprain" should concern you. The last time we heard it was regarding Dominguez. What they forgot to add to the end of that diagnosis was "Replace 4-6 with 8-10 and the word weeks with months". We wish Chick a speedy recovery. He is now the 5th Rider player to suffer a significant lower body injury this year, joining Marcus Crandell, Weston Dressler, DJ Flick and Leron Mitchell. If we keep up this pace, pretty soon the only place you'll find more people with bad legs than the Riders injured reserve will be on Brendan Taman's list of punting prospects.

I'm the Rider Prophet and those are my sentimonies.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Week 4: Riders vs. Alouettes

Before I get to this week’s game, I would like to start off today with the best news so far this year. No, they have not made liquor purchases tax deductible (that would be a close second to this news). Eric Tillman has signed an extension with the Roughriders!!!

Now I have heard a lot of misguided talk about the deal we signed Tillman to. With that in mind I would like to introduce a new feature to the blog called Addressing Uninformed Opinions where I set the record straight on some common misconceptions (I wanted to call this feature “Everyone Is Stupid But Me” but Media Consultant convinced me to go with something a bit less condescending). So without further adieu…

Addressing Uninformed Opinions: Eric Tillman’s Extension
Uninformed Opinion #1 – This provides the Riders with no long-term security
This is not just a 1 year extension, if ET keeps winning the contract keeps extending automatically. So this contract ensures that we have a GM who has to perform at a high level in order to stick around… sounds like security to me (as well as everything that all the fans were screaming for when our last GM was on the way out).

Uninformed Opinion #2 – We should have signed a long term deal as opposed to a 1 year extension.
So you’d rather that we guarantee Tillman boatloads of money for the next decade regardless of how the team performs as opposed to basing contract extensions on team performance?? I am a huge Tillman fan and have a ton of faith in him but I see nothing wrong with making him earn his paycheck. Personally, I blame the unions for the mass confusion regarding this subject - employment based on performance, what a concept! Besides, if Tillman is indeed as good as we all think he is, reaching his performance objectives will be easier than the time I beat Stevie Wonder at I Spy.

Uninformed Opinion #3 – This contract allows Tillman to weasel out whenever he wants.
There is a 6 figure penalty clause in this contract should Tillman decide to leave of his own accord. That can hardly be considered weaseling. In fact, such talk is insulting to weasels (those noble little creatures).

Hopefully that clears things up.

Now onto the game…

Tomorrow the 2-1 Alouettes roll into town to take on the 3-0 Roughriders in a battle of division leaders and the CFL’s two most potent offenses. For the 10th straight time at Mosaic Stadium, the game will be played in front of a sold-out crowd.

Darian Durant will once again get the start for the Riders as Marcus Crandell is still not 100%. This will be a big test for Durant. We will find out if he is indeed the bright young QB prospect we’ve been hoping for or if he’s just another Rocky Butler-type who only manages to look good when playing Hamilton. I’m thinking it’s the former but after watching Hamilton play last night, I’m taking a wait and see approach.

Injuries continue to be a big story. The Riders list of walking wounded seems to grow each week. We are currently without Crandell, Szarka, Flick, Dressler and Mitchell. I’m glad that we have so much depth on this team but I would be a lot happier if we weren’t testing the limits of that depth so early in the season. Can you imagine if we start 4-0 despite missing our starting QB, FB, kick returner and last year’s top receiver?

The Alouettes come into this game with some injuries of their own. OL Dave Mudge is sidelined with a knee injury. Despite a gruesome looking pinky dislocation last week, Anthony Calvillo will be playing. Calvillo must really be embracing life in Montreal because his pinky did its best impersonation of Quebec and tried unsuccessfully to separate from the rest of the hand.

What do Damien Anderson, Joe Smith and Jesse Lumsden have in common? All 3 are starting RBs who have played us and are no longer playing: Smith and Lumsden due to injury and Anderson due to being replaced. Warning to Avon Cobourne! I would not play on Saturday if I were you. We seem to be like the kiss of death for starting RBs.

Our defense has yet to allow a passing TD, though that is mainly because Hamilton has no passing game and Jarious Jackson sucks. They will be put to the test this week though. Calvillo has been paying well so far and has a dangerous group of receivers led by Kerry Watkins. They key to this game will be taking away the deep passes and forcing the Als to grind it out with us. The Als are such an old team that if we force them to fight for every inch and go toe to toe with them, by the start of the 4th quarter they will likely throw in the towel and head back to the locker room to apply bengay and watch Matlock.

Honestly the Riders have already outlasted the league’s best QB in Ricky Ray, the league’s best defense in BC and the league’s best RB in Jesse Lumsden, what more can you really throw at us?

Riders by 10.

That’s it for now. We'll see you in the stands. Don’t forget to bring a food donation to the game for Tackle Hunger Day and remember half eaten hot dogs from the practice field do not constitute a donation.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

On This Day In Roughrider History: What Happens In Vegas

Welcome back to our continuing series of notable moments in Roughrider history.

For today's installment we take you back to 1994. The CFL was in the midst of its US expansion. Four American teams competed that season including Sacramento, Shreveport, Baltimore and Las Vegas.

With the exception of Baltimore, successful was not a term often used to describe the American franchises. But the Las Vegas Posse were in a league all to their own when it came to failure. Losing record, poor attendance, poor facilities, you name it. To their credit, they do hold one CFL record to this day... the lowest recorded attendance in CFL history (to be fair, they were hosting the Blue Bombers that game so that may have been more to blame than anything the Posse did).

It was on this day back in 1994 though that one of the most infamous moments in the brief Posse history occurred. The Riders traveled to Las Vegas to play the Posse in their home opener. While the game itself was quite forgettable (mainly because we lost), what happened before the game was quite memorable. Given that it was the Posse's home opener, nerves ran high. Especially for a local lounge singer by the name of Dennis KC Parks, who was to sing the national anthems to open the game. Though he had never heard the Canadian anthem before, Parks remained confident, after all he was a seasoned lounge singer. What's the worst that could happen?

Honestly, I think the only way Parks could have embarrassed himself anymore is if he would have intermittently tossed in "Try the veal" and "I'll be here all week".

Being associated with embarrassing moments in football... a proud part of our Roughrider heritage.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Undefeated

Riders 33 - Hamilton 28

I've always said that being a Rider fan would be the death of me and this Saturday was further evidence to that theory. I love an exciting back and forth CFL game that goes down to the wire as much as the next guy but they are not easy on the old ticker. That's two in row now. If this keeps up I will be doing my posts from the cardiac unit by mid-season.

What a game though! While it was a lot closer than I was hoping, all's well that ends well. Hamilton is looking more and more like a respectable team. I won't go as far as to say they are there yet, mainly because I believe that to be classified as a respectable team you have to have at least one passing TD in 3 games, but they are getting there. Their improvement has been mainly due to the strong play of Jesse Lumsden... well okay let's be fair... it's entirely due to Jesse Lumsden (who looks like the greasiest piece of white trash I've seen in some time, although maybe it's the grease that makes him so hard to bring down). On Saturday, Lumsden made the best run D in the league look very mediocre... I'm hoping that is a reflection of Lumsden's talent more than a reflection of the strength of our run defense. But other than Lumsden, Hamilton didn't have a whole lot going for them... though if you ask Marcel Bellefeuille he will tell you it was due to the absence of Jason French.

So that Durant guys is kinda good. He hit a 31 yd pass to Corey Grant to open the game and never looked back. Watching him play, you wouldn't have thought it was his first pro start. He showed poise and executed the offense well. He was by no means perfect, but when a guy throws 2 TDs, over 300 yards, 0 INTs and isn't sacked once, I'd say he had a damn fine performance. Were it not for Andy Fantuz doing his best Steven Jyles impersonation we would have had 0 turnovers. It seems that Double D (as his teammates refer to him) has the ability to be more than just a career back-up. He's got the skills to make it as a starter. While I'm used to saying that I am a big fan of Double D's, this is the first time I used that phrase in a football context.

Speaking of breakout performances, how about Weston Dressler? He had a huge game. 6 catches for 122 yards and a TD. And that run in the 4th quarter was a thing of beauty. I had to chuckle when the Hamilton fans erupted upon hearing that it was no TD only to be devastated by the news that we still got the ball on the 1. Though it's hard to fault them for not knowing the rules when their head coach apparently doesn't either. Note to Charlie Taffe: You can't challenge with less than 3 minutes left, especially when the booth already reviewed it. As for Dressler, it looks like he's the real deal. That kid is faster than a greased Lumsden. Hopefully his hamstring doesn't keep him out too long because I think his performance against Hamilton was only the beginning for this young speedster.

Here's my big question from the game Saturday. How is a team supposed to cover our offense? I mean, we get down close to the goal line, and the Hamilton Defense is doing everything they can to make sure Wes Cates doesn't run the ball in, all while desperately trying to throw blanket coverage on any number of talented receivers. But even when they have that taken care of, they still forget about Neal Hughes (might want to watch him) and the offensive legends known as Mike McCullough and Luc Mullinder! They were wide open!

So where are all the so-called experts now? You know, the ones who predicted that the Riders would fall to the CFL's basement. The ones who assumed that Austin, Joseph, Perry and Hunt were irreplaceable. The ones who had no faith in the "no-names" we brought in this offseason. Those "experts" who were very vocal coming into the season have gone mysteriously silent. Maybe it's because for the past 3 weeks the "doomed to fail Riders" have been proving them wrong. Then again maybe they haven't gone silent at all it's just that it's too hard to hear them from all the way up here in first place.

Around the CFL...
The Toronto gong-show continues. Back-up Michael Bishop has now been reduced to playing only when Joseph's hand it hurt or when he needs to get something from the locker room. All the while he wears a look on his face that makes it seem like everyone forgot his birthday. Also, a message to all you misguided fools who think it would be a good idea for us to pick up Bishop: Crandell will be back in a week or 2 and Durant is obviously quite capable in his absence. Besides, if we wanted a mobile QB with a cannon for an arm who is prone to poor decisions and mistakes, we already have Steven Jyles who's younger, cheaper and his voice is far less irritating.

Lastly, I would like to make a brief comment on the Blue Bombers...I haven't seem a performance as embarrassing as Winnipeg's since Hulk Hogan starred as Mr. Nanny. That is all.

I'm the Rider Prophet and those are my sentimonies.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bring on the Ti-Cats

Good morrow Rider fans. Rider Prophet here covering what has certainly been an eventful week leading up to our weekend clash with Hamilton.

There was some roster shuffling going on this week and it started with a trade on Monday. The Riders traded Ron Flemons back to the Argos along with a 5th round pick in 2011 for receiver TJ Acree, a 3rd round pick in 2011 and the neg rights to DE Brian Smith. The loss of DJ Flick coupled with the fact that Flemons had so far failed to impress (or even crack the game day roster) led to this deal. Acree is an okay receiver, though maybe his recent performance was more a product of being stuck in an Eskimos offense (where no one looked good) than his skill level. I don't mind this trade as it gives us some added depth at receiver and moving up in the draft is always a good thing (even if the draft is 3 years away). You know Tillman has already scouted high school players for that draft and realized that the guy he has his eye on simply won't be available by the 5th round. The average GM has to predict how well a potential draft pick's skills will translate into professional success, but Eric Tillman's life is even more complicated since he also has to predict growth spurts.

It was also announced that CB Arabin Justin was released. I was disappointed to hear this. Justin was easily our best DB last year behind Eddie Davis and his blanket coverage was a thing of beauty. This year though, the return of Omarr Morgan reduced Justin to a back-up who still earned a starter's salary. With the emergence of newcomers Denatay Heard and James Patrick, who are both very capable and far cheaper, it became hard to justify keeping Justin around. I hate to see him go and wish him the best of luck (unless he catches on with another CFL team in which case I hope he plays like crap). But really, did you ever think you'd see the day where Omarr Morgan was a cheaper alternative at CB?

Now on to this week's game where the 2-0 Riders look to remain undefeated against the 1-1 Ti-cats...

Of course all the talk all week has been about our QB situation. With Crandell on the limp, questions have abounded about our QBs. Man, how quickly people's tunes change. Coming into the season all the talk was about how Crandell is old and we need to give our young guys a shot. Now, 2 weeks later, Crandell is hurt and the same people say our young guys aren't good enough and we need to trade for another veteran QB. My question is why? Crandell is only supposed to be out 1-2 more weeks and it would take a newly acquired QB at least that long to start learning our playbook. I'll admit Durant looked less then spectacular last week, but he did enough to win. I guarantee with a full week of practice under his belt, Durant will do just fine under centre.

Our possible need for a new QB has not gone unnoticed as out of work QBs from around the league have been making their availability known. The recently retired Damon Allen has said he would be interested if the Riders gave him a call (No thanks Damon. Please return to playing bingo and drinking prune juice or whatever it is you senior citizens do). Also sources say there was a message from former Rider Rocky Butler on Eric Tillman's answering machine that said "Hey Mr. Tillman, I hear you may be in need of a QB. Just wanted to let you know I'm ready to go if you need me this week in Hamilton. Believe me, if there's one thing I can do, it's beat the Ti-cats."

Even though we are starting a young QB I still like our chances against the Ti-cats. Granted, Hamilton actually looked like a legitimate team last week for the first time in ages but that performance must be taken with a grain of salt. The Argo offense is absolutely brutal and their defense seemed to be doing their best impression of a treadmill, letting Hamilton run all over them.

While Hamilton does have a pretty solid run game with Lumsden, Smith and Printers, I don't see them having anywhere near the success they had last week when matched up against the best run D in the league. That will force them to rely on their passing game which features such receiving threats as Pat Woodcock and Jason French (who's ears are probably still ringing form the hit he took last week). Given the recent play of our D and the offensive weapons we have I see no reason that the Riders won't move to 3-0.

Riders by 14.

Elsewhere in the CFL...
The BC Lions have released TJ Stancil due to a lingering knee injury. This news surprised me. Not the fact that Stancil has a lingering injury, he's been that way for years. The surprising thing was the fact that he was released. Usually players with perennial injuries in BC end up playing QB.

Lastly, the QB controversy in Toronto took an interesting turn last night when the Argos placed Michael Bishop on waivers. Odds are they are just trying to see if anyone else is interested in him in the hopes of working out a trade but one way or another this likely spells the end of Bishops' time in Toronto. The damage has already been done though. The Argos are a team divided. Rich Stubler and Arland Bruce are big Bishop supporters while Pinball and a few of the other receivers have sided with Joseph. The defense is somewhere in the middle and pretty much hates all of the offense because they suck so much.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Week 2

Riders 26 - Lions 16

Well, the good news is that we won. And what a win at that! If you would have told me before the game that we would lose our starting QB and suffer 2 broken legs all before half-time and only manage 196 total yards in the game, I would have skipped watching the game and gone straight to drowning my sorrows with rye. Turns out despite all that adversity, the Riders dug deep and pulled out a gutsy win against the favoured Lions, who are now 0-2 (man that's feels awesome to say, Lions 0-2).

Once again hats off to our defense who are proving that they are one of the best defensive groups in the league. They kept the game close in the first half and then completely shut down the Lions offense in the 2nd, allowing 0 points and barely any yards. Through 2 games, the defense has allowed the fewest yards and points in the league... I guess Tillman knew what he was doing when he let Perry and Hunt go. Go figure. The D came up with some big plays, like the stuff on 3rd and 1 and the Lance Frazier INT... though according to Carm Cateri it was James Johnson who got the pick. Not the first time that an announcer has called the wrong name after a big play, but it's not often that a player wins defensive player of the game honours due to a case of mistaken identity.

On that subject, it wasn't a great night for the announcers overall. In addition to the defensive player of the game faux pas, Carm also managed to misdiagnose DJ Flick's injury as a separated shoulder - despite the fact that the trainers were trying to stabilize his leg as he was carted off the field. Later in the night, TSN viewers got to listen to Rod Black and Duane Forde congratulate Wes Cates on being named the Friday Night Gladiator two weeks in a row, thus leading the league in Movado watches. Shortly thereafter it was brought to their attention that Cates did not win the Week 1 Friday Night Gladiator award, possibly due to the fact that he did not play on Friday night. But just imagine if he had!

It was a good thing the defense locked things down, because our offense struggled to do much of anything. Most of the problems stemmed from Marcus Crandell pulling his hamstring early in the first half. Back-up Steven Jyles then proceeded to attempt to make every QB mistake possible in the smallest amount of time: Errant passes, check. Throwing over the line, check. Failure to manage the clock, check. Interception, double check. He was a fumble away from hitting for the cycle. The underthrow that resulted in a broken leg for DJ Flick was particularly ugly, and if it was me in that situation it would probably also result in a crutch to the back of the face for Jyles at practice this week. Fortunately for the Riders, Ken Miller pulled Jyles in favour of Durant to start the second half. While Durant didn't do anything spectacular, he did manage the game well and more importantly he didn't turn the ball over. He also made a wise decision for a young QB to make... give the ball to your talented running back. Cates made some spectacular runs and ended up accounting for over 2/3 of our total offense.

Another high point from the game was the performance of returner Weston Dressler. This guy will run a few kicks back this year, mark my word. What I like most about Dressler is that even though he's always looking for holes and corners to make a break, he's always running forward, never backwards or side to side. Honestly, Dressler's biggest problem on returns is that he's way faster than his blockers. Did you see that play where he had to slow down and wait for his blockers to catch up? Shows just how fast this guy is.

Of course any talk of the game wouldn't be complete without mentioning injuries. On top of Crandell pulling his hamstring, Leron Mitchell broke his leg and DJ Flick broke his in 2 places in one of the most gruesome plays I've seen in a long time. I haven't seen a leg twist and bend like that since the Stretch Armstrong I had as a kid. Despite our depth at receiver, this will still be a big loss for the Riders. Remember that last year Flick was tied for the league lead in receiving TDs, not to mention that he plays with a ton of heart. As nasty as it looked, early reports are that it will not be career ending which is great news. There is even some speculation that he could be back in time for a playoff run but I won't hold me breath on that one.

Make no mistake - while it wasn't the prettiest win, it was no fluke. Our team overcame some early adversity and earned the win. Many teams would have packed it in when faced with that kind of adversity but the character of this team shone threw and we fought hard to remain undefeated. Honestly there are few things as satisfying as watching Wally Buono lose it on the sidelines. Though with his cholesterol problems I worry about the affect that kind of stress will have on his health.

Around the CFL...
As predicted the Toronto gong show continues to get better with each passing week. The QB controversy continues to intensify. While Stubler did manage to keep one QB on the field the entire game, you could still feel the tension. Bishop sat on the sidelines all game looking like Joseph had run over his dog. Toronto's glaring offensive problems were intensified when for once the defense wasn't able to bail them out. I know a 3-4 defense is susceptible to the run but that was downright embarrassing. Hamilton (who actually looked like a legitimate team for once) had their way with Toronto aside from that one hit Wheaton laid on Jason French. What a hit! Many will say that Wheaton's hit caused an incompletion but in reality the hit just interfered with French dropping the pass on his own. Word is after that dreadful performance Rich Stubler will take over all offensive meetings and will let Joseph start calling his own plays. This makes offensive coordinator Steve Buratto a lock for first coach to be fired this year. And here I thought it would be Maciocia.

I knew Calgary's defense hadn't improved a whole lot. On Thursday night against the Eskimos they looked they Calgary of old, surrendering 448 yards passing. And in keeping with the looking like the Calgary of old theme, Henry Burris certainly played the part. After a solid performance all game including a go ahead TD with just over a minute left, Burris choked under pressure and threw an INT in the dying seconds of the game. Now granted, had the defense not let Edmonton drive the field in under 30 seconds, Burris wouldn't have had to try and win the game for his team BUT all the Stamps needed was a FG to tie and a few short completions would have easily put them in DeAngeles' range. Instead, Burris tried to be the flashy hero like he always does and went for it all on a long TD attempt and ended up throwing an INT. I hope Hufnagel knows the Heimlich maneuver because Burris is so prone to choking the condition could be classified as chronic.

I'm the Rider Prophet and those are my sentimonies.

Friday, July 4, 2008

1 Year Anniversary

Ladies and Gentlemen, today marks the 1 Year Anniversary of The Rider Prophet’s blog. It was on this day in 2007 when the Rider Prophet burst onto the scene with a refreshing alternative to the boring, uninspired, mindless drivel that pollutes the information super highway.

In just 12 short months I’ve managed to amass an impressive array of accolades:
  • Runner up in the Mysask Rider Blog contest
  • Tim Switzer’s favourite Rider Blog
  • CBC Morning Edition’s Ultimate Rider Fan
  • Nominee for 4 Canadian Blog Awards
  • Rider Prophet Award winner for Best Rider Blog
And I’ve also faced zero legal action, which in and of itself is a miracle.

In honour of my amazing accomplishments, the Bank of Canada has decided to release a special edition $23 bill to commemorate the Prophet. Here’s a sneak peek.

There’s been so many great memories over the past. For Man in the Bush, Media Consultant and myself the highlight of the past year was our Thanksgiving road trip to Calgary: met some great people, shot some awesome interviews and got to celebrate a Rider win. All in all a great weekend.

What was your favourite Rider Prophet moment over the past year?

What does the future hold for me? Well it would take some sort of prophet to know the answer to that question.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Riders vs. Lions: West Coast Showdown

Good Day Rider fans. Rider Prophet here gearing up for the first road game of the year. This week we must travel out west to face the mighty Lions.

Both teams were the best in the west last year but come into this game with very different circumstances. The Riders are fresh off a big home win and looking to maintain momentum. The Lions are fresh of a pitiful performance and looking to avoid the misery of opening the season 0 and 2. How awesome would that be? The unanimous pick to run away with the west starting 0-2 while the Riders, who many assumed would be in the west basement, open 2-0. BC only lost 3 games last year and unless they start playing like the all-stars they can be, they could match and eclipse that mark less than a month into the season.

The big story for BC (as it always seems to be) is quarterbacking. Buck Pierce managed to hold onto the starter's role for less than half a game before succumbing to injury. Pierce, the trooper that he is, has been practicing hard and contends he's still able to play. Whenever I hear him talk, all I can picture is that scene from Simpsons where Homer is chasing the flying pig. "My shoulders just a little separated. It's still good, it's still good. My rib is just a little cracked. It's still good. It's still good." With Buck falling apart at the seams, the Lions will look to Jarious Jackson once again to lead the offense.

Unfortunately for Jarious, he will not be offered the level of protection he is used to in BC. Sherko Haji-Rasouli is injured and will not be playing. Also, 2 time defending Lineman of the Year Rob Murphy will not be dressing as he has flown back to Florida to be with his wife who just gave birth to triplets. This leaves some big holes on the O-line and should lead to increased pressure on Jarious. With Murphy and Haji-Rasouli out, Jimenez will also be under increased pressure as he will now be solely responsible for on-field violence and general dirty play (though if anyone is up to the challenge it would be Jimenez).

For the Riders, the story continues to be Crandell. Despite some struggles, Crandell had a solid game last week and showed he can lead our offense. The question is whether he can do that against a real defense not just the Eskimos. Crandell though will have a lot of help with Flick, Cates, Fantuz and Bowman at his side. He will also have another weapon at his disposal... Matt Dominguez! For the first time in 10 months, #88 will be suiting up this Friday. Dominguez, who was leading the league in receiving at the time of his injury, will provide a huge boost to an already dangerous offense. Seriously, we've got more weapons than Tank Johnson

One thing we will be missing is Wayne Smith, who hurt his shoulder and will sit out in favour of Belton Johnson. No disrespect to Belton but Smith is a big loss. This will be the big test to see if our re-jigged O-line is really the best. BC's front 4 is still the best in the league, even if their performance last week left as much to be desired as the Hamilton cheerleaders. But to be fair, maybe the Lions were just in awe of Rob Lazeo's side boob.

With Jarious at QB and the holes on the O-line there is potential for the Riders to run away with it. But given the level of talent BC has at every other position, I just don't see that happening. I think we match up well with them. Both teams have a great RB, talented receivers and a solid defense. So for me, it boils down to QB... where Crandell wins hands down. Riders by a touchdown.

One last bit of news from around the CFL...
Just when I thought Rich Stubler couldn't get any worse as a head coach, I stumbled across this gem of a story. Following last Thursday's game in which Mike Vanderjagt missed his first 3 FG attempts, Stubler said he believes the Argos have done Vanderjagt a disservice by not practicing on a field fitted with uprights, an oversight that will be addressed… I'm not making this up! It makes me wonder just what Vanderjagt was doing at practice... pretending to kick FGs? There's good coaching for you, let's take a guy who hasn't kicked in the CFL in over a decade and hasn't kicked at all since 2006 and not have him practice kicking through uprights. As smart as Stubler is when it comes to defense, it appears to be balanced off with a complete lack of knowledge for any other aspect of the game.


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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Week 1

Okay I realize that it’s neither Monday nor morning anymore but it’s the long weekend, cut me some slack.

Riders 34 - Eskimos 13

Well it appears both the Riders and Eskimos picked up right where they left off last season… the Riders playing like champions and the Eskimos … well being the Eskimos. While we didn’t have the best start, we did manage to keep it close in the first half and then make halftime adjustments and blow them out of the water and open the season with a win.

The defense had a great game not allowing the Esks to score a major. In fact, we have yet to give up a TD on defense this year when we dress our starters. Keeping Ricky Ray from scoring is no small feat, it’s like keeping a prostitute at a basketball players’ convention from scoring. The defense also threw some new looks at Ricky Ray, such as the “rush 2 up the middle and drop everyone else” play (no doubt the work of Gary Etcheverry). To be fair, James Johnson had a decent game (and if you know me, you know that I died a little inside just writing that).

The offense took awhile to get going, but once they did, it was a thing of beauty. Once he got those INTs out of his system, Crandell really seemed to get into a groove, nailing some nice passes to Cates, Flick and of course Adarius Bowman who once again made a nice catch in double coverage for a long TD play. I know it’s only Edmonton but the fact that 2 DBs consistently can’t cover the long ball to Bowman makes me very excited for the rest of his rookie season. Another guy who will have a big season is Wes Cates.

For those of you who still have doubts about the loss of Fred Perry look at his stats from Saturday… 1 tackle 0 sacks. This means his defensive output put him on par with current Rider defensive standouts such as Wayne Smith, Andy Fantuz and Wes Cates. Just saying is all.

I thought I knew all the football terms there was to know in the CFL but Saturday’s game introduced me to a new one… the “illegible receiver” which I can only assume means that the ref couldn’t read the name on his jersey. Thank you Andre Proulx.

Around the CFL…
This week’s action started in Hamilton where the Alouette’s showed that yes indeed, Hamilton is still as bad as last year. Who would have thought that uniting the worst defensive coordinator in the league with the worst offensive coordinator in the league would lead to such a terrible on-field performance? Evidently not Bob O’Billiovich.

After defeating the Bombers on Friday, Argo head coach Rich Stubler came to 2 realizations: 1) He shouldn’t have traded Noel Prefontaine and 2) He definitely shouldn’t have traded Glen January. Despite the win, the Argos are on the verge of a complete gong show one week into the season. Turns out the NFL’s most accurate kicker, is currently the CFL’s least accurate kicker; The first 2 doctors David Boston saw about his fractured foot were right about him needing surgery; letting 4 offensive tackles leave in the same season will come back to haunt you; and I don’t even know where to begin with the fiasco they have at QB.

Watching that game you almost had to feel bad for Joseph. It certainly wasn’t the debut he was hoping for. I mean few players can say they were pulled twice in their first game with a new team. But you see that’s the difference between Saskatchewan and Toronto. The Riders could only afford to pay Joseph $250K because we spent the rest of the money on things like an offensive line that can actually block and a coach who isn’t a complete idiot when it comes to dealing with starting QBs. Toronto on the other hand did not bother investing in these types of things so they were able to offer Joseph way more money. Joseph needs 2 things to be effective: protection from the O-line and the ability to use his legs through rolling out. Rich Stubler, the offensive genius that he is, decided it would be better to offer no O-line protection and not roll/run Joseph at all. Bravo Stubler. It will be entertaining to watch this gong show all season long as I think it’s only going to get better as weeks go by.

Who had “the first half of game 1” in the “How long before Buck Pierce gets hurt Pool”? Although replacing Dave Dickenson is not easy you’d at least think they could have found someone who was slightly less fragile. With Buck now nursing injured ribs and a throwing shoulder that according to him “can’t get anymore separated” I wouldn’t be surprised if Pierce is done. Not just for the season, I mean his career. He’s got talent but he’s a fragile as my Grandma’s hip.

That’s it for now, check back later as we cue up the first Rider road game of the season (and the return of Matt Dominguez!). I’m the Rider Prophet and those are my (belated) sentimonies.