Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Cuts, Curses and more Cuts

Thursday was cut down day across the CFL as teams had to finalize their rosters. While the Riders weren't able to cut everyone they wanted to they did cut a lot of people.

For the most part our cuts didn’t really surprise me. Here’s how I categorized them:

Not surprising: Nuvraj Bassi, Jeff Bolen, Bam Childress, Jason Geathers, Sasha Glavic, David Patterson, Brandon Perkins, Byron Ross, Brad Peters, Jerron Wishom and Seante Williams.

Surprising: Todd Blythe, Sam Olajubutu – Both were highly touted prospects but were injured throughout camp. As the saying goes, you can’t make the club in the tub. Still thought we might stash them on the injured list though.

We Liked Your Hustle, That’s Why It Was So Hard To Cut You: Juan Woah-seph. Poor Juan.

Fumbled His Way Off The Team: Casey McGahee

For me, who was cut was not really as surprising as who was not cut. I really thought that Gerran Walker and Adam Nicolson would be shown the door but they managed to stick on the injured list. Must be because of what they did last year because they sure didn’t do much in camp. Nick Hutchins was probably the biggest surprise in camp. Many people, myself included, assumed it was a foregone conclusion that he would go back to the Rams for his last year of eligibility. But Hutchins was very impressive all camp and definitely earned a spot. Dan Clark (who I will henceforth refer to as Nitro) was a pleasant surprise on the O-line too.

I still have no idea why Perri Scarcelli made our practice roster. Even if Boreham was more hurt than first suspected, Congi is more than capable of filling in. It’s not like Scarcelli is known for his leg strength.

Speaking of things I don’t understand… why do we have 2 long snappers on our active roster? You’d think going into our second full season with both we could make a decision! Unless we plan on introducing the revolutionary concept of situational long-snappers I see no need to waste an active roster spot on a back-up snapper... although I've found it never hurts to have one on speed dial.

Notable cuts from around the league:

BC – Kyle Mitchell (I said notable, not surprising)
Cal – Matt D’Orazio, Vince Marshall (So AFL’s top QB couldn’t cut it up here… I’m shocked)
Edm – Lester Ricard (I will miss announcers talking about Retard completing a pass)
Win – Joe Smith, JF Morin-Roberge, Matt O’Meara (League’s top rusher to a Bomber reject in 2 seasons... that’s quite the tumble)
Ham – Brandon Guillory (Guillory must really suck because it’s not like the D-line competition in Hamilton was all that tough)
Tor – Tyler Ebell, Jerome Mathis (So the highly touted NFL pro-bowler gets cut… again, I’m shocked)
Mtl – Reggie Hunt, Brad Banks (I feel bad for the Reaper for having to be in the same company as Brad Banks).

If you want evidence that the Riders are cursed, look no further than Neal Hughes. He was placed on the 9 game because of a lingering issue with his broken leg. But not the leg he broke last year, no the problems relate to the leg he broke 7 years ago as a Ram!! You’ve got to be freaking kidding me! We’ve got an injury list that’s already filling up with recent injuries and now we have to start worrying about injuries from 7 years ago?! This doesn’t happen to other teams. You don’t see the Stamps losing Henry Burris to a case of chicken pox that has lied dormant since elementary school. Seriously, what’s next?! Will we loose Scott Shultz to a rare recurring case of jaundice??

Other news from around the league…

Kenton Keith has been placed on the 9-game injured list. If you have been questioning the Riders’ personnel moves of late just remember that it could be worse, we could be the Ti-cats. They seem to be going out of their way to throw large amounts of money at big names players who end up not benefiting the team at all. I guess the positive here for Ti-cats fans (assuming any still exist) is that unlike Casey Printers, KK will at least not be able to negatively affect their on field performance.

Finally, Teyo Johnson has un-retired. His brief foray into retirement lasted only 4 weeks. Coincidentally those 4 weeks happened to coincide perfectly with training camp. I don’t know what’s more surprising, the fact that the Stamps are actually letting him get away with this or the fact that Teyo is the first person to think of this ingenious scam.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Family Reunion Themed Preview: Toronto

“Relatives from the big city that enjoy doing the majority of their shopping at the rich people's garage sales”

You know the types… always regaling you with tales of life in “the big city”, how great it is, how much they are a part of the “in” crowd. Thing is, most of it is a lie, while they do live in the big city, things aren’t that great and they are not part of the in crowd. In fact, their only connection to the “in” crowd is the items they manage to scavenge at rich people’s garage sales. Such as the half eaten bagel that Brad Pitt threw out because it was stale or Paul McCartney’s old car (sure its rusted, dinted up, has duct tape on the seats and needs to be started with a manual crank but it was McCartney’s nonetheless) and let’s not forget Bill Gates’ own personal computer… from 15 years ago (Windows 95 was good then, so it must still be good). Problem with these items (must like 90% of the Argos recruits) is that while they have famous names attached to them, they are virtually useless.

Biggest Acquisition: Rob Murphy
Biggest Loss: Byron Parker/Dominique Dorsey
Biggest Strength: Arland Bruce
Biggest Weakness: Defense
Question Mark: The all-Europe coaching staff.

If they did nothing else, solidifying the O-line that protects Kerry Joseph will make the Argos a much better team. Given how bad they were last year, they have a long way to go. They still have no run game to speak of and stop the runs about as well as a diet high in fibre and prunes. The addition of Moreno should help but, as he proved in Hamilton, Zeke can’t do it all on his own.

All eyes on Bart Andrus and the assistant coaches formerly known as NFL Europa. I guess to be fair, there’s no way he could be worse than the gong show that Rich Stubler ran last year.

Verdict: Assuming Andrus and Das coaching staff do a half decent job, the Argos should be a better team. They’ve improved at some key positions and would have to try really hard to be as bad as last year. That said they lost some of their top players and didn’t have that many good ones to begin with, so they are still a long ways away from the dominant Argos of days gone by.

2nd in the East despite a losing record at 8-10

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Family Reunion Themed Preview: Edmonton

“Your uncle’s new girlfriend who’s good from far but far from good”

You notice that your uncle has just arrived to the reunion with a new girl in tow. This strikes you as odd since his divorce left him with a pot belly and an orange penis due to over indulgence of Cheetos and 1-900 numbers. But now he seems to be all cleaned up and the girl he just walked in with actually looks pretty hot. He sees you and comes over with his hot girlfriend in tow. But as they get closer you realize that this girlfriend seems to get uglier and uglier the closer she gets until your pretty sure that your uncle shaved a gorilla and dolled it up in some makeup and a sundress. A clear case of good from far but far from good. Paper bags and dim lighting would be this girl’s best friends.

Biggest Acquisition: Mo Lloyd
Biggest Loss: Kelley Campbell
Biggest Strength: Ricky Ray
Biggest Weakness: Defense/running
Question Mark: Rebuilt Defense

On the surface it would seem that Edmonton has taken all the necessary steps to improve on the weaknesses of last year. They replaced their brutal head coach, brought in a marquee running back to help their non-existent ground game and rebuilt their porous defense. But if you dig deeper you realize that things aren’t as good as they appear.

While I have the utmost respect for Richie Hall, I have my doubts about is ability to be as effective a head coach as he was a D-Coordinator. Seems like a Danny Barrett type to me (to be fair though, that is a giant improvement over Maciocia). Jesse Lumsden is a band aid that will vastly improve their run game for 2.35 games before settling back onto the injury list. There are building a secondary around Scott Gordon and Kelly Malveaux and continuing to waste Kitwana’s talent at DE which I’m sure suits the other 7 teams just fine. Mo Lloyd is an impact player but given his fairly weak supporting cast he will have a lot on his shoulders. He may be good but he can’t do it all by himself. Most importantly, the Esks have very little depth. So while I expect them to start the season strong, when injuries start piling up we’re going to see them drop like Man In The Bush’s pants when he’s had a few too many.

Verdict: This is a mediocre team overall with very little depth. They will have to rely on Ray, Lumsden and Lloyd to carry them. While they are all among the tops at their position, there’s just no way I can see them being good enough to carry 39 other players in a very competitive division.
4th in the west at 8-10

Family Reunion Themed Preview: Winnipeg

“Psychotic Cousin No One Wants To Acknowledge”

He’s the guy that none of the family publicly admits to being related to. In fact, he wasn’t even invited to the reunion but he somehow found out and showed up (much to the chagrin of everyone else). Now everyone is trying desperately to avoid getting stuck in a conversation with him. He’s crazy, prone to nonsensical rambling, he has anger management issues, the list goes on and on. Everyone would be a lot happier if he just disappeared.

Biggest Acquisition: Sideeq Shabazz
Biggest Loss: Dan Goodspeed
Biggest Strength: Receivers
Biggest Weakness: Kicking
Question Mark: O-Line

Well no one can question the fact that Mike Kelly is a man of action. He has been a very busy man since taking office in December. In just 6 short months he has managed to publicly insult his predecessor, replace 3/4 of his roster, question longstanding league rules, get reprimanded by the league and necessitate a written apology from the team on his behalf. Not sure when he found time to sleep.

While Mike Kelly is clearly mad, the question is, will there turn out to be method to his madness? He replaced all-stars along the O-line with second string Riders. He let some very good assistant coaches go. He’s going to field essentially a new defense featuring the oldest front 4 in recent memory. And the competition for the leader of his new offense is between a south paw and a side arm thrower (it’s like the QB freak show minus giant Chad Freihauf). All that and we haven’t even mentioned that his solution to having the worst kicking game in the league is to bring back the kicker responsible for that dubious distinction.

Verdict: In the long term, there’s an outside chance Kelly’s crazy plan might end up working out… but in the short term it will be like most Manitoba residents… not pretty.
Dead last in the league at 4 -14

Friday, June 26, 2009

Family Reunion Themed Preview: BC

“Cousin Who Was Once A Famous Athlete”

It wasn’t that long ago that they were on top of the world. The best of the best. A champion that all others could only hope to emulate. But all good things must come to an end, and he’s no exception. Now he just sits around talking about how good he was back in the day and how it won’t be long before he’s back on top. The whole family listens and says “sure you will” sympathetically but behind his back they roll their eyes at the fact that he just can’t admit that he’s not as good as he used to be. Time has passed and some of those things that made him a champion have slipped away. He’s still got some skills but it will take a lot of training to get back in game shape (the kind you can only get by using a beef carcass as a punching bag). For now he just positions himself next to the bowl of Doritos and repeatedly points out his championship ring to any passersby that come too close.

Biggest Acquisition: Anton McKenzie
Biggest Loss: Cam Wake
Biggest Strength: Coaching
Biggest Weakness: QB
Question Mark: Player Turnover

Wally Buono may the best in the business when it comes to building winning teams but you’ve got to admit that he’s got his work cut out for him this season. After maintaining a relatively stable roster for the past few years, the Lions are faced with replacing Cam Wake, Jamall Johnson, Rob Murphy, Kelly Bates, Stephan Logan, Jason Clermont, Otis Floyd and Tyrone Williams all at once. Now you can argue that a couple of those guys aren’t huge losses but the fact remains they have some big shoes to fill.

Defensively, I’m guessing they will remain fairly solid. Wake is a big loss but with guys like Hunt, Johnson, Banks, Glatt, Anton and Miles they are still a formidable opponent. Offensively, I’m assuming they can find a descent RB (if you can’t manage that you have no business being in football). That leaves QB as their main concern. Pierce is good but he’s as durable as a Roughrider’s fibula. If he plays 10 games it will be a miracle. That leaves Jarious Jackson… and the best thing I can say about him is that I consider him to be a slightly more intelligent Michael Bishop.

Verdict: They couldn’t manage better than 3rd place last year with Wake and Logan on the roster so I seriously doubt they can all of the sudden make it back to 1st without them. They still have a lot of talent and top notch coaching though so they will remain competitive.
3rd in the West at 10-8.

Family Reunion Themed Preview: Montreal

“Snooty Rich Aunt With an Affinity For Antiques”

Like that rich aunt you have who is always subtly insulting you for being poor, Montreal has an air of arrogance around them. They are not overtly rude (well at least not by French standards) but you can always tell they think they are better than you. This rich aunt also loves antiques, they just don’t make things like they used to you know. And while all her antiques are very nice and valuable, all it takes is one person to bump into them the wrong way and they are going to break. Then she will be left with nothing and be forced to spend the next few years slowly rebuilding her collection.

Biggest Acquisition: Jerome Haywood
Biggest Loss: Jerome Haywood (well that worked out well)
Biggest Strength: Calvillo and the passing game
Biggest Weakness: Pass Defense
Question Mark: How long can their old folks hold on?

Calvillo, Chui, Cahoon and Sanchez… all arguably among the best in the league. All also the wrong side of 35. And it’s not like any of Montreal’s other star’s are young pups either (with the exception of Jamal Richardson and Keron Williams). At some point age will catch up to the team.

They are pretty much fielding the same offense as last year which should mean a very potent attack yet again. Their weakness is pass defense. Last year they were second only to Hamilton is most passing yards allowed. Jim Popp and Marc Trestman elected to make very little changes so it’s up to the players and coaches to improve if they don’t want to celebrate Calvillo’s 5th straight Grey Cup choke.

Verdict: Pretty sure the old guys have one more season left in them before they trade in their football cleats for orthopedic velcro shoes and their signing bonuses for old age security cheques. As long as the old guys hold up they should cruise through a weak set of eastern opponents en route to another first place finish…
1st in the East at 11-7

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Getting Closer…

Riders 19 – Stamps 27

Was it ever great to return to the hallowed football grounds that is Mosaic Stadium. A warm summer’s evening. The excitement of a hometown crowd. Reuniting with the people in your section. Getting overcharged for alcohol. Yes, it’s good to back. Of course the evening would have been better if we had actually won the game but you take the good with the bad.

I was a lot happier with our performance this week. We played the best team in the league very closely for most of the game and you gotta like that. There’s definitely things we need to work on before we open the season but we looked like a competitive team and in the preseason that’s all that really matters.

Here are some random observations from last night:

- How were there TV timeouts in a non-televised game?

- Loved the Eddie Davis pick to open the game! I never tire of seeing Burris choke in person.

- Okay I am now firmly on the bandwagon of Stevie Baggs, “The Pigeon Toed Wonder”. He’s got such tremendous hustle and seems to have a knack for popping the ball loose. I still have no idea how he manages to do it given his aforementioned pigeon toes but at this point I don’t really care.

- Hugh Charles is another guy who made a strong impression. He is a Charles Roberts-style RB and should be a very capable replacement until Cates gets healthy.

- Durant cemented himself as our starter. He made a couple bad throws but he made some nice ones too (like that TD to Fantuz). More importantly he never seems to panic when pressured. He's smart and poised in the pocket… I think he’ll do fine this season.

- Eric Morris seems to have leapfrogged both Childress and McGahee in the kick returner competition. His returns were decent and consistent plus he'd be a deadly 6th receiver too. I don't think he dropped a ball all pre-season.

- McGahee had fallen behind Morris even before he cost us the game by coughing up the ball on that kick return. Miller said in his post-game interview that he doesn't expect McGahee to make that mistake again; I hope the second half of that sentence was "because we'll never let him on the field again."

- Daniel Francis may have also earned himself a roster spot with his bone jarring hits.

- Why did we even bother dressing Jeff Bolen and Perri Scarcelli? Not sure pads and cleats are required to be Congi and Boreham’s cheerleaders.

- Speaking of Congi, where did he learn how to punt? I was starting to think that Boreham’s job might be in jeopardy… then Congi attempted a kickoff and we were reminded of why we keep the Juggernaut around.

- I’m going to go ahead and assume that we were playing a really basic defensive scheme in order to evaluate players, because the way we were given 10 yard cushions as the Stamps completed out after out on us made me wonder if Omarr Morgan was our D Coordinator not Etcheverry. I’m guessing we’ll see some more effective schemes on D when the games start actually mattering.

- Whichever Stampeder it was that made the ill-informed decision to run that one kick out of the endzone for a 2 yard gain, better start looking for other employment opportunities, I don’t think this Calgary thing will pan out for him.

And of course no post on the Riders over the past 2 years would be complete without talking about injuries. Gene Makowksy went down in the first half with what has been diagnosed as an MCL strain and Geno is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. So before the season has even started we are already down 2 starting OL, a star RB, as well a couple other players who were expected to be on the roster.

This is getting ridiculous. We started last season fairly healthy but by the end we were struggling to field 42 healthy bodies each week. This season we’re already starting off in the hole. At this rate, we may end up having to promote the Saskatoon Huskies to the CFL if injuries keep piling up.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Mosaic Here I Come

It’s been 7 months since I last occupied my usual seat at Mosaic Stadium. Unfortunately, that last game left me with an overwhelming urge to defenestrate our QB and forced me to spend the last 7 months trying to drown that violent urge with alcohol (at least that’s the official story in regards to my alcohol intake). But that’s’ all but a memory now… a bitter memory that fills with rage… but a memory nonetheless.

Tomorrow we get to start fresh, with the first game of the year at Mosaic Stadium. Even though it’s just a meaningless preseason game, I’m still more excited than Michael Jackson at a boy scout convention (well maybe not that excited but you get the idea). It’s been too long since the stadium was filled with fans clad in green and white. Too long since the crowd erupted with cheers to the sound of “Bring Em Out, Bring Em Out”. Too long since it was last socially acceptable for a grown man to go out in public dressed in a costume. Too long since I performed the official Rider Prophet jig along with Work Safe Bob to the sounds of Last Saskatchewan Pirate. And most importantly too long since we last got drunk on a weekday… well with a credible excuse anyways.

Tomorrow night the much hated Calgary Stampeders come to town in a final tune-up before the regular season. For some players it’s a chance to get game ready for others it’s a final chance to impress the coach’s lest they be cut on Wednesday morning.

I’m excited to actually see the 2009 Riders play. I’ll be paying particular attention to the battle between Durant and Jyles at QB (Jyles will get the start), the performance of our D-line and the battle to back up Wes Cates at RB. I’ll also be watching intently to see who replaces Kitwana as the first man out of the tunnel (come on Gabe Nyenhuis… fingers crossed, baring that come on Luca Congi).

Even though it’s only preseason you can bet that the Riders have their eyes set on winning this one for the hometown crowd. With our vets back in the line-up I expect a far better performace than last week (mainly because short of bringing back Nealon Greene, Michael Bishop, Jason French, James Johnson, Henri Childs and Ken Nkyensen I don’t see how it could get worse).

Riders by a touchdown.

Around the CFL…

The Stamps have released LB JoJuan Armour following an onfield incident that Coach Hufnagel said violated team policies. Long story short, Armour is a douche bag that isn’t a good enough player for a quality coach like Hufnagel to ignore his douche baggery… which shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone.

The Ti-cats released WRs Sam Mitchell and Johnnie Morant. I find this move odd because outside of Rodriquez and Bauman these 2 are probably the best receivers out of a pretty weak field that the Ti-cats brought to camp. Then again I guess given head coach Bellefeuille’s patented ball control offense, there is very little need for quality receivers anyway.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Family Reunion Themed Preview: Calgary

“Uncle Who’s Always Trying to Prove How Tough He Is”

No I don’t want to wrestle… Yes I can see how big you are… yes I have heard the story about when you choked out a full grown giraffe with a cross faced chicken wing… at least 100 times… wasn’t it a hippopotamus last time?

Like your tough uncle that always struts around wearing shirts that are 2 sizes too small, showing off his overly tanned skin, asking if anyone wants to arm wrestle, the Stampeders are as vain and conceited as they come. While you have to admit that they have reason to be cocky, you hate their guts and have an uncontrollable urge to kick them in the crotch. And you’re pretty sure despite the fact that your uncle’s bigger and stronger than you, if push came to shove you could probably take him… likely using the aforementioned “kick to the crotch” technique.

Biggest Acquisition: Nothing really but if I had to pick… I dunno… Matt D’Ozario
Biggest Loss: Charleston Hughes
Biggest Strength: Offense
Biggest Weakness: Egos
Question Mark: D- Line

As much as it pains me to admit it, Calgary is a solid team across the board. They got an excellent coach in John Hufnagel, a solid O-line, a productive RB, a dangerous set of receivers, one the league’s stingiest defenses and while Henry Burris has always been a dangerous QB, he seems to have now found a way to only be dangerous towards his opponents and not towards his team as in previous years.

The only weakness I see heading into the season is along the D-line. Mike Labinjo is the only returning DL from last season. Can’t imagine it will be easy for them Stamps to find a brand new line without experiencing some struggles. Could end up being the achilles heel of an otherwise solid roster.

Verdict: Stamps are the team to beat this year.
1st in the league at 13-5

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Season Preview: Prophet Style

Well the regular season is looming and given that I consider myself to be some sort of prognosticator, I suppose I should make some sort of attempt to preview all the CFL teams (I mean there are only 7 others).

But true to the Prophet-style that inspired a legion of fans numberings in the bakers dozens, I couldn’t just do the same old boring uninspired preview that you can find in numerous other places. I needed a whacky theme. More specifically I needed a theme that wouldn’t be considered copyright infringement, libel, hate crime or other legal faux-pas.

Then one day it hit me, like a …. What’s whackier than a family reunion? Getting together with dozens of your kin, only half of which you’ve ever heard off and only a fraction of which you actually talk to on a regular basis. There’s always a good chance that old rivalries and longstanding bitterness will flare up. Not to mention that it’s pretty much guaranteed that at least one family member will have way too many drinks and make a complete ass of themselves. And if it’s a Manitoba family reunion there’s always the chance of picking up an attractive cousin… well maybe not an attractive one… but a cousin nonetheless.

It got me thinking that the CFL is like a big family with each team having their own character. After a long offseason they are getting back together to.

So with that in mind I present to you the Family Reunion Themed Preview. I will preview each team based on what family member I see them as.

We start with Hamilton.

Family Reunion Themed Preview: Hamilton

“Slow Nephew That You Have To Cheer For The Slightest Accomplishment”

What’s that? You went in the big boy potty? Yay!! {enthusiastic clapping}
You managed to tie your shoes? Well they are Velcro but yay! {more enthusiastic clapping}
You picked your nose and didn’t eat it this time? Yay!! {enthusiastic clapping while subtly checking to make sure the little bugger didn’t rub it on you}

Yes like that “slow” nephew, Hamilton has been lagging behind their peers for a number of years and while you’re pretty sure their not mentally retarded, you have had your doubts. They’ve been so bad that you feel bad about making fun of them… I mean they try so hard. And because they are so slow you find yourself feeling happy when they accomplish even the smallest feat such as a first down or a passing TD (which only took them well into to last season to accomplish).

Biggest Acquisition: Dan Goodspeed
Biggest Loss: Jesse Lumsden
Biggest Strength: Ground Game
Biggest Weakness: Defense/Receivers
Question Mark: The Bellefeuille Era

As much as I have mocked Bellefeuille on this blog, I have to admit that the team really seemed to play better under his guidance at the end of the season. Question is, can he sustain it over an entire season and more importantly translate it into more than 3 wins. This season he’s managed to amass his dream offense: Kevin Glenn and Kenton Keith behind an improved O-line… and no quality receivers in sight. Ball control offense here we come. Thing is that should be an improvement over whatever it is they were running last year.

Defensively last year they were about as useful as a poopy flavoured lollypop. Adding a competent D Coordinator in Greg Marshall should greatly benefit the team.

Verdict: The Ti-Cats are a better team on paper than they were last year. Playing in the weak East Division will definitely help their cause…
3rd in the East at 7-11. Yay!! {enthusiastic clapping}

Friday, June 19, 2009

Humble Beginnings

Eskimos 45 – Riders 12

Well that certainly wasn’t the beginning that many were hoping for for the 2009 Riders. We were pretty much manhandled by Edmonton for 4 quarters and there wasn’t too much to cheer about save for one drive in the second quarter. The good news though is that this is only the preseason, where wins are about as valuable as an Akili Smith rookie card. As was pointed out during the broadcast, the Detroit Lions went 4-0 in the preseason last season and look how much that benefited them. That’s not saying I wouldn’t have been happier with a stronger performance by the Riders but at the end of the day preseason is just a chance to evaluate young players in a game situation… and that’s exactly what we did.

Here are some random observations I had on the game:

- Did anyone else get super pumped up when they played Bring ‘Em Out during pre-game?

- Highlight of the game for me was when Pedersen yelled out “Good Lord!” when McGahee get rocked by Jason Nugent.

- If they had enough cameras to make video replay possible, why is the league not making it possible either through TV or internet for fans to view the game? I’d pay to see it. You’re sitting on a goldmine here Cohon!

- Every time they said Lester Ricard it really sounded like Lester Retard.

- Speaking of names as if Jamacia Rector was the best one of the night.

- To all you Jyles haters out there, he seemed to be our best QB Wednesday. Me and Media Consultant still like him and would have no problems with him starting.

- Juan Woah-seph sure had a rough CFL debut… sack, slip while throwing, INT, pulled.

- What a train wreck Bell was. I’m sure he’ll get better but the man many had proclaimed the saviour of Riderville sure didn’t live up to the hype.

- Durant struggled but he was just starting to get into a grove before he was pulled. I bet if he had another quarter he would have looked a lot better.

- Guys who improved their stock: Eric Morris, Stevie Baggs, Joel Lipinski

- Guys who improved their odds of being cut: Bam Childress, Byron Ross

- Had to laugh that Richie saved Lumsden and his starting O-line for the 4th quarter when our soon to be cuts we on the field.

- Clearly it was preseason for the announcers too (though I doubt things will improve much). Some of my memorable quotes include…
- “He’s gonna run. To the 20… 25… 10 and tackled at the 7”
- Carm going on about the mats

- While I guarantee Jason Clermont will not lead the Riders in receiving yards I’m will to bet he will lead the team in receiving 1st downs and will extend many drives.

- I was as shocked as anyone that Aaron Wagner fumbled on his first carry

For a 1st preseason game I’m not sure what more you can expect. The real indicator is if we improve next game when our vets play more than a series or to.

First game day at Mosaic is only a few days away… I can’t wait.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Joe Misses His Mommy

Boy oh boy I’m started to get excited! Training camp has been in full force for over a week and we are but 2 days away from the first preseason game. While we’ll have to settle for getting our first taste of Rider football via the radio as opposed to actually being able to watch the game, I’m still pumped for some actual football. The one nice thing about the radio is that it allows you to imagine your own visual images. For example, I like to imagine that my dream of referees riding trained ostriches has come to fruition.

This will be the first chance to see how highly hyped players such as Dalton Bell, Joe Sykes, Donovan Alexander and Todd Blythe perform in a real game situation. It will also be the first test for the Etch-a-Sketch version 2.0 defense and the new Kavis Reed return game. It will also be our first chance to see Hall, Lloyd, Kitwana and Gordon in green and gold… well assuming Richie continues to blitz Scott Gordon you might not actually see him but he’ll be there in spirit.

Wins and losses aren’t very meaningful in the preseason but that doesn’t mean I won’t get cheer when we score and curse like a sailor when we screw up. I just hope our new guys step up, nobody gets hurt and most importantly I hope that this mysterious mid-week game doesn’t result in me getting fired on Thursday due to overindulgence on gameday.

The big news this past week was of course the Joe McGrath trade. To summarize, McGrath signed with the Riders in February and at the time indicated how excited he was to be coming back to Saskatchewan. A few days into camp he approached Ken Miller saying he had “buyer’s remorse” and for a variety of personal and professional reasons wanted to go back to Edmonton. This is of course a much more positive way to say that McGrath is a whiny baby who realized he wasn’t good enough to be a starter here (thanks in large part to the strong play of Marc Parenteau) and started to pout. He then took a look around the league and decided that the level of competition on the O-line was the weakest back in Edmonton so he asked to be sent back there. Actually Winnipeg is technically the weakest competition on the O-line but they weren’t an option based on the fact that the next first round pick they still have the rights to doesn’t occur for another decade or so.

In the end it was a great trade for the Riders. We offloaded a whiny back-up player who we were going to pay starters money to and got a first round pick and the neg rights to a player out of the deal. When commenting on the trade Coach Miller said that this could leave us with 3 first round picks in next year’s draft. This is further evidence that no one really understands the overly complex trade with Winnipeg involving Adarius Bowman… not even our coach. The deal allows us to swap 1st rounders with Winnipeg not just acquire theirs outright which would leave us with only 2 first rounders. In all likelihood the deal probably went down during Miller’s afternoon nap so it’s hard to fault him for not knowing the full details.

Eric Tillman’s trial has been set for Jan 4, 2010 and scheduled for 2 weeks. Here’s my question… long ago North American businessmen realized they could greatly improve productivity and lower costs by outsourcing things to Asia or Mexico. Why hasn’t anyone tried this same approach with lawyers and the legal process?

Around the CFL…

- In the Blue Bombers’ never ending quest to amass all rejected Rider O-linemen they have picked up Andrae Townsel shortly after we cut him last week. While the Bombers are doing their best to downplay concerns about their line this season, it should raise some pretty red flags when they are interested in a guy that we cut before we even got to see him in a game situation.

- After completely trashing the Brendan Taman style of GM-manship, Mike Kelly is continuing with his spot on impersonation of Taman. In addition to signing rejected players from other teams (as mentioned above) he is also on a mission to trade away any and all draft picks. Most recently he traded a 6th rounder in 2010 to Calgary for punter Mike Renaud.

- Montreal RB Dahrran Diedrick has been charged with sexually assaulting a woman at gun point. As per standard practice, I’m assuming Diedrick will be placed on administrative leave and will be allowed to fulfill his rushing duties from home.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Rider Prophet Salutes Bad Team Names: Best In Show

Well the offseason has come to a close so I guess it’s time for my offseason filler posts to end as well.

For the past 4 months I have been saluting bad team names from across the sporting world. From high school up to the pros, from reputable leagues to leagues you probably didn’t know existed and everything in between, we’ve covered it all.

It’s time for our final installment in the salute (pause for single tear). I’ll end this salute with a look at my personal favourites. Enjoy, and thanks for hanging in there through the long offseason and my corresponding absolute lack of material.

Top 10 – Best In Show

10. University of Tennessee Volunteers (NCAA) –

I still find it hard to believe that such a reputable sports program developed out of such a bad team name.

9. University of Akron Zips (NCAA) –

As you may have guessed, Zips is short for zippers… but you probably didn’t guess that in this case zippers doesn’t refer to what holds your coat together but rather rubber overshoes produced by BF Goodrich which were popular in the 20s called “zippers”. Nothing says quality like a shoe produced by a tire company and nothing says respectability like naming a team after said shoes. As for what a kangaroo has to do with all this… I have no idea.

8. Kansas City T-Bones (Minor Baseball) –

Little known fact: Kansas City was actually given the name T-Bones by the league commissioner. Another team wanted it, but the league wasn't willing to have two teams with the same nickname so they decided to call the other team the Kokos.

7. UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs (NAIA) –

So… they’re slow, ugly and often covered in a mysterious sticky goo? Sounds like the girls at JD’s… zing!

6. Campbell Fighting Camels (NCAA) –

If Michael Vick has taught us nothing (you know, other than Ron Mexico is an awesome alias if you have to go the STD clinic), it’s that organized animal fighting rings are probably illegal. But even if camel fighting were legal, would it not be the most boring thing in the world. I mean dogs and roosters are vicious so there’d at least be some action. What are camels going to do? Stand there for weeks on end to see who dies of thirst first?

5. Jacksonville State/ University of South Carolina Gamecocks (NCAA) –

While you are all used to regularly beating your cocks, this time around the Cocks will be beating you. Go Gamecocks!

4. University of Massachusetts Minutemen (NCAA) –
Evidently U Mass athletes are not known for their stamina. Odds are the All-American fantasy of the starting quarterback ending up with the head cheerleader rarely plays out there.

3. Macon Whoopee (defunct ECHL) –

Macon Whoopee… not only is it Georgia’s favourite team it’s also their favourite pastime. Note how the logo features a bird and a bee… outstanding!

2. Wichita Shockers (NCAA) –

Wichita is hands down my favourite college team based solely on their team name. Now if you don’t know why I’m such a big fan of their name… let’s just say you are a better person than I.

Winner: Liberal Beejays (Minor League Baseball) –

Good name for a brothel… bad name for a baseball team. Though I must say I’m considering a road trip to Liberal, talk about a game day experience! I mean it’s the only place where getting to 3rd base is a given and there’s always a happy ending. It also brings new meaning to the term “left handed middle relief” and “fan appreciation night”.

*Don’t ask me what I was Googling when I came across this team.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Rider Prophet Salutes Bad Team Names: Dishonour Roll

For the past several months I’ve been presenting the worst team names from across the sporting world. Tomorrow I’ll wrap up my salute with my personal favourites with the Best In Show category. For now, I will salute the also-rans.

Given the sheer volume of bad team names not all of them were able to fit into the previous categories but these were too good to pass up. In no particular order …

Milwaukee Bonecrushers (CIFL) – Finally a team name that would strike fear into opponents.

Greensboro Prowlers (defunct AF2) – Seriously why not just call them the Greensboro Rapists?

Omaha Beef (IFL) – Come to Omaha for the meatiest game day experience of your life. Cheer along with team mascot Sir Loin. Gaze in wonder at the Rumproasters, the professional sporting worlds’ first all male dance group. And if home games aren’t enough jump in the Meatwagon and hit the road for away games.

University of San Francisco Dons (NCAA) – This sounds like a team I wouldn’t want to mess with (either that or it’s a team where everyone’s name is Don).

Arkansas RimRockers (inactive NBA D-League) – Now I’m not an expert in the sex trade business but a RimRocker definitely sounds like something that a) I wouldn’t want to experience and b) is something you generally have to pay extra for. I believe it falls under the “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it” category.

Coquitlam Adanacs (WLA) – who would have guessed that a team that coined its name by spelling its home country backwards would make this salute. I can’t wait for their long awaited grudge match with the Kandahar Natsinahgfas.

Toledo Mud Hens (AAA Baseball) – A hen covered in mud is still a hen. In fact about the only thing that gets better when covered in mud is women’s wrestling.

Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL) – Means waterfall in French but sounds like an unfortunate eye affliction to Anglos.

University of Nebraska Cornhuskers (NCAA) – Is there anything in Nebraska but corn? That’s all they seem to talk about. Odd name but I guess it’s better to be a husker than a holer.

San Antonio Player Haters (former NIFL) –

Okay, it’s bad enough that they decided on Player Haters as a team name but the fact that they then decided that the best representation of a Player Hater was a horse in a T-shirt makes it ten times worse.

Quebec Kebs (PBL) –

Not only did they pick a stupid team name, they also went with a frog as a mascot. Way to perpetuate derogatory nicknames. You don’t see Mexico City using a bucket of water being poured on a guy’s back as their logo.

Minnesota Ripknees (ABA) –

This is one of the oddest team name and logo I’ve come across. I don’t envy the guys who have try and market a team based around a lower body injury.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Monday Morning Sentimonies: I’ve Got A Bad Feeling About This

What a great few days this has been! Rookie camp came and went, the veterans and now back on the field, football is in the air. Life is good. Yet I can help but notice this pervasive feeling of uneasiness I have (for once in my life this feeling is not alcohol related). While I’m as excited as anybody about the new Rider season, certain things have been causing me concern.

Main camp opened only yesterday and the Riders appear to be gearing up to attempt to break last year’s record for injuries. We haven’t even played a game yet and already Wayne Smith (our projected starting tackle) is done for the season, Brandon Lynch (projected to be a starting LB) was released after failing his physical due to lingering injuries from breaking his fibula last year, Leron Mitchell (a projected back-up/special team demon) is on the 9-game as he also is not fully healed from last year, Wes Cates (projected league leading rusher) is not fully healed from offseason shoulder surgery and is now doubtful for Game 1 and David McKoy (projected injury list occupant) is… still doing his best Nathan Hoffart impersonation.

If this is a sign of things to come, lord help us when we actually start playing full contact games!

I stopped by rookie camp last week and main camp yesterday and here are some random observations I had:

- Juan Woah-seph has improved by leaps and bounds since day 1 of rookie camp. By no means will he challenge for a starters role but it’s reassuring to see that he’s at least somewhat talented. He’s super skinny though.

- Learn these new names because I have a feeling you will be hearing them throughout the season: Joe Sykes, Chris Jones, Chris McKenzie and Todd Blythe.

- Never have I seen so many white receivers in a CFL camp.

- We should cut Johnny Quinn based solely on the fact that the way he does his hair makes me want to punch him in the face. Ponytails on your forehead are not cool!!

- Young Jonathan St-Pierre wears 2 knee braces, while old man O’Day who he will eventually be replacing wears none. That just doesn’t seem right.

- Seante “Big Te” Williams and Marc Parenteau looked really good yesterday

- My chosen one, Gabe Nyenhuis is still alive.

If early practices are any indication we should have a very solid team across the board this year… now all we have to do is keep them off the injury list.

The Blue Bombers released Ryan “Run out of town by a lefty” Dinwiddie over the weekend and I was preparing to write my final Dinwiddie joke… until I heard the horrible news that the Riders had apparently contacted the creepy eyed QB. While it appears that odds are slim of Dinwiddie being offered a contract, I’m still concerned that there is even a remote chance that I may have to cheer for the man who single handedly made James Johnson famous.

Congratulations to Corey Holmes who has been elected Mayor of Metcalfe, Mississippi. While most of the votes can be attributed to him being an upstanding member of the community and an all-round good guy, what really put him over the top was the popularity of the show Fresh Prince in Mississippi… many people thought they were voting for Carleton.

Lastly… The new host of Riders to the Max has been chosen and in a cruel twist of fate it’s the Rider Prophet’s old nemesis Devin Heroux. If you’ve been with this blog since the beginning you’ll remember Heroux as the guy I came in second to in the MySask blog contest. I bear no resentment to Mr. Heroux however, I mean if history is any indication, 3 months from now the Rider Prophet will have a better and more successful TV show anyway.

Around the CFL…

- Edmonton has placed Adam Braidwood on the 9-game (seems we aren’t the only ones with linger injuries). While this will be a blow to their defense it will be offset by the news that Anthony Malbrough didn’t report to camp (which dramatically improves their secondary).

- Mike Kelly was disciplined by the CFL for conducting a QB school prior to rookie camp. My money is on Kelly to lead the league in fines this year.

- The Toronto Argonauts have added former NFL Rookie of the Year, Vince Young to their negotiation list. While odds are extremely low that Young will end up in the CFL anytime soon, this move does allow the Argos to have first crack at Young 5-10 years down the road when he is completely washed up… which fits perfectly with their recruitment strategy.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Rider Prophet Salutes Bad Team Names: High School Edition

Since I’ve pretty much exhausted every sports league imaginable from college level to professional and everything in between, I had to find a new source of bad team names. Fortunately I came across a completely untapped source… high schools.

Now you might be saying, “Picking on pro teams and colleges is one thing but don’t you think picking on kids is going a bit far?”… to you I say, absolutely not. If it weren’t for the fact that most pre-schools don’t have team names, I would be mocking those little brats too.

Here’s a quick list of some of the weirdest ones I came across…

Hartford Hustlers (AR) – The magazine? Or the street thug? I did like their hustle though, which is why it was so hard to add them to this list.

Ozark Hillbillies (AR) – Way to play up stereotypes.

Avon Old Farms Winged Beavers (CT) – Far be it from me to correct our neighbours to the south but as a Canadian I feel compelled to question the existence of a beaver with wings.

Sun Valley Community School Cutthroat Trout (ID) – I never realized trout could be so vicious and competitive.

Centralia Orphans (IL) – Unless these kids are actually orphans this strikes me as a really odd choice for a team name.

Cobden Appleknockers (IL) – I can’t figure out if this means they have apple-shaped knockers or that they enjoy knocking apples. Not that either explanation really makes it any better.

Fulton Steamers (IL) – I wonder if that is anything like the Cleveland variety

Hoopeston Cornjerkers (IL) – Remind me never to visit Hoopeston. I’m not really in to corn in that way.

New Berlin Pretzels (IL) – woah woah woah… there’s a New Berlin? Better watch out New Warsaw.

Teutopolis Wooden Shoes (IL) – “Who are we?” The Wooden Shoes! “And what are we going to do?” Perform traditional Dutch folk dances!

Hobart Brickies (IN) – Anyone else see the irony in an educational institute promoting made up words?

Estherville Midgets (IA) – I believe the politically correct term now is “vertically retarded”

Lawrence High School Chesty Lions (KS) – While I’ve seen many a chesty cougar in my day, I can’t say I’ve ever seen a lion I would describe as chesty.

Mt Clemens Battling Bathers (MI) – I’m pretty sure people don’t do battle while bathing. I mean Man In The Bush once got into a wrestling match with a guy in the tub but let’s just say he quickly discovered his opponent wasn’t trying to fight him. Even after years of therapy, he still insists on showering with a bathing suit on.

Chinook Sugar Beaters (MT) – What has sugar ever done to you? You know other than make you a morbidly obese diabetic.

Fair Lawn Cutters (NJ) – Either they are big fans of lawnmowers or they are big into emo.

Doane Stuart School Thunder Chicken (NY) – Thunder Chicken was of course the lesser known cousin of the Thunder Cats. Unfortunately, his spin off cartoon series was not nearly as successful.

Columbus Mifflin Punchers (OH) – Gotta love a high school that promotes violence

North East Grape Pickers (PA) – Way to set your career aspirations high

Tillamook Cheese Makers (OR) – Not sure if this is better or worse than being a Grape Picker.

Brush Beetdiggers (CO) – Okay this one is definitely worse than being a grape picker. No one likes beets.

Rocky Ford Meloneers (CO) – First of all, as a Rider fan you gotta respect a school that devotes itself to the watermelon. Second as if this logo isn’t awesome… a jacked up melon with his shorts pulled up to his armpits

And your undisputed winner…

Butte Pirates (ID) –

Man would it ever suck to be the victim of bullying at that school. Actually it turns out that Man In The Bush’s bathtub opponent was a Butte Pirate.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Tuesday Afternoon Edition

After enduring 206 football-less days, a sexual harassment case, the loss of 2 all-star linebackers, a Saskatchewan-only recruitment strategy, the elation at getting rid of James Johnson, Michael Bishop and Henri Childs, the sadness at losing Kitwana Jones, the most complicated trade in history and endless stadium debate… training camp officially kicks off tomorrow when rookies report.

I can’t wait for the players to hit the field and to see what our new recruits can do. The window of opportunity for the new guys is narrow as between 4 and 7 of them won’t make it to main camp on the weekend. A few of the names I will be watching closely over the next few days include Todd Blythe, Bam Childress, Justin Beaver and of course the Rider Prophet endorsed Gabe Nyenhuis.

One familiar face who’ll be making an appearance at training camp this year is Marcus Crandell. He has been invited to be a guest coach. One familiar face we won’t be seeing at training camp is Matt Dominguez. He will not be invited to training camp due to lingering concerns over the durability of his knees. While the Riders haven’t completely shut the door on Dominguez, at this point, the only way I see Dominguez being back on the Riders this season, is if all our receivers fall victim to broken fibulas and we begin scouring the globe looking for any receiver we can get our hands on. But I mean really… what are the odds of that?

One last bit of Rider news for you. Andrew Greene has decided to retire as a Roughrider. This is a fitting end for the 4 time all-star and former Outstanding Lineman.

Elsewhere in the league, just days prior to the opening of training camp, Mike Vanderjerk has asked to be released by the Argos. While losing the league’s 6th most accurate kicker last season is hardly a debilitating loss for the Argos, it is pretty prickish to wait this long to make a decision. In the end though I think it serves Toronto right. They had a very good kicker in Noel Prefontaine but decided to ship him off the second an NFL reject became available. I could maybe understand this fascination with rejected NFLers if there was a documented case of this strategy actually paying off for the Argos. It’s kinda like watching a moron repeatedly burn himself on a stove. “Ouch that hurt! Better try again to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. Ouch! No not a fluke. But what if I try touching it this way. Ouch! Well what if I try my other hand … (and so on and so forth).

CFL Ins and Outs

In: WR Jeremy Gilchrist (free agent signing)
Gilchrist’s signing is a strong indication that we plan on fielding a kick return specialist this season, which is a good idea… provided someone decides to actually block for them.

In: DB Doug Goldsby, WR Javid James, WR Kevin Marion, LB Billy Parker, DB Tim Sims, DB Jamaine Winborne (free agent signing)
These people will all likely be cut by then end of the week so I won’t bother putting any effort in here.

In: DL Rodney Allen, DL Melik Brown, RB Martell Mallett, RB Charles Pierre, DB Darren Toney, LS David Mills (free agent signing)
*see explanation for Montreal

In: QB Kinsmon Lancaster, WR William Judson Jr, K Eddie Johnson (free agent signing)
Out: DB Jermaine Mays (cut)
For those wondering if Kinsmon is of any relation to the infamous Ron Lancaster, let’s just say unless Ron secretly suffered from the same skin condition as Michael Jackson, probably not.

In: DL Demonte' Bolden, DL Justin Hickman, DL Dexter Manley II, DB Chris Davis, DB Olukayode Oredugba, RB DeAndre' Cobb, WR Aaron Fairooz, WR Drisan James, WR Marquay McDaniel, QB Chase Clement (free agent signing)
Wow I do not envy the broadcaster who has to pronounce Olukayode Oredugba’s name should he make the team. Then again maybe it’s not a huge concern given that there are only 5 people left in Hamilton who care enough to listen to a Ti-Cats broadcast.

Out: DL Marcus Parker (cut)
Mike Labinjo will be the only returning DL from last season… a big question mark on an otherwise solid team.

In: DB Brandent Englemon, DB Tyler Everett, DB Therrian Fontenont, OL Adam Rogers, DL Xzavie Jackson, LB Tumbo Abanikanda (free agent signing)
Xzavie and Tumbo?! Why are all the good names on other teams?

In: Siddeeq Shabazz, Adarius Bowman, Fred Perry (contract extension), DB Jasper Johnson, QB Darrell Hackney, DB Jonathan Hefney, DL Chase Ortiz (free agent signing)
James Johnson is now in tough in Winnipeg. Not only will he have trouble proving that he is good enough to remain with the Bombers. Now with the presence of Jasper and Jovon he will have trouble even establishing himself as the 2nd best J Johnson on their roster. It will be a test to evaluate the DBs in Winnipeg this year, but something tells me it’s not going to be the first time that Mike Kelly has handled 3 Johnsons.