Okay before I get to the upcoming Rider game there’s a matter I need to address… the return of Michael Bishop.
Yes, last year’s Most Insulted Sports Figure has resurfaced in Winnipeg. Of course the last time we saw Bishop he was hurling INTs faster than I could hurl profanity in his direction (which was no small feat). You’d think that disastrous performance last year would have been the final nail in the coffin of Bishop’s tenuous career, but amazingly it wasn’t. He’s showing the resiliency of a cockroach (personally I’d take cockroaches over Bishop given the choice but I digress).
When Damon Allen struggled in Toronto, the Argos decided they needed Michael Bishop. But all that got them was some atrocious QBing and an early exit from the playoffs. Then when Marcus Crandell struggled, the Riders decided they too needed Michael Bishop. That also resulted in some atrocious QBing and an early exit from the playoffs (seeing the pattern here). Then when the Corpus Christie Hammerheads of the obscure IFL were struggling, they too made the ill advised conclusion that they needed Bishop. The Hammerheads were the smartest of the bunch as it only took them 3 games to realize they had made a mistake and bench Bishop in favour of the back-up (if a crappy IFL team could figure that out so quickly, why the hell couldn’t we?!). Now, Winnipeg’s offense is next to non-existent so who do they call? Bishop. No doubt based on the string of success I’ve chronicled above.
The sad thing is that as bad as Michael Bishop is, he dramatically improves the Winnipeg offense. Not because he is good but because they are just that bad. As much as I loathe Michael Bishop, I’m willing to bet he can put up more than 66 yards passing in a game (probably even in one throw). But when Bishop is a legitimate upgrade to your offense, you know your team is in bad shape. The man is as sharp as mashed potatoes. So Winnipeg fans, while you can expect a dramatic increase in offensive production, you can also expect a dramatic increase in turnovers (mainly INTs to the safety) as well as a dramatic increase in profanity emanating from the stands.
Man first James Johnson and now Michael Bishop… it will be nice to take pleasure in their unending string of failures without it negatively affecting my team. The only thing that would make this better is if they bring in Henri Childs.
Now onto the Rider game…
Media Consultant and myself will be hitting the road this weekend to go see the Riders take on the Stamps in a battle for 1st place at Taylor Field West (which I believe the locals call McMahon stadium).
This is a match-up of teams going in opposite directions. After a strong start the Riders are reeling from 2 straight embarrassing home loses and seem to be regressing. By contrast, after an embarrassing start, the Stamps are coming off 2 very impressive wins and seem to get better with each passing game.
Calgary features the most potent offensive attack in the West led by Henry Burris, Joffrey Reynolds and a pretty solid cast of receivers even despite the absence of last year’s top receiver Ken-yon Rambo. They also have a defense that despite a brutal start, is starting to regain the form that won them the cup last year. If I had to pick a weakness on this team it would be the inexperience of their defense. They have rookies at both halfbacks, middle linebacker and 3 D-linemen. Those are the most important spots on D so it’s definitely an area you would want to exploit.
You may also want to exploit the fact that none of the players seem to be able to stand each other. In addition to Tate and Anderson getting into a shoving match during their last game, there is more conflict popping up on this team. Brandon Browner and Rob Cote got into a heated confrontation in practice and worst of all Sandro DeAngeles and Burke Dales got into a scrap that resulted in some bruises on the face and blood on the jerseys. That must have been quite a sight as kicker fights ranks slight above a nice relaxing day at the spa and slightly behind listening to Madonna on the manliness scale.
Right now the Riders are a lot like opening a present from your great aunt… you’re not really sure what to expect but you’re pretty sure you won’t like it. We’ve got the potential to be a very good team but if potential won football games Tee Martin and David McKoy would be a perennial all-stars.
It all starts in the trenches, we simply have to win the battle there if we hope to stand a chance. Our O-line should get a boost from the return of Gene Makowsky. Hopefully his veteran presence can help solidify that unit, in particular Bobby Harris. With Joel Bell playing well, Harris is by far the weak link on the line. They need to step up if we have any chance of establishing the run game. That and Cates either needs to start running with some semblance of authority or sit his ass down and put Charles in charge... of our days and our nights… sorry I just couldn’t resist.
Speaking of stepping up, Durant needs to as well. His problem is consistency. Last week he had 2 long drives that were things of beauty. Problem being they were spattered between under throws and 2 and outs galore. He’s got a QBs dream this week… rookie HBs covering your best receivers. Time for him to play like a veteran and attack them. Of course that assumes that LaPolice starts calling plays that are longer than 5 yards. If we can’t stretch the defense then we can expect a rehash of last game's second half.
Defensively its really pretty simple… tackle. If you thought Calvin McCarty made our no tackling defense look bad, wait until you see what an all-star RB can do. Also the only way to beat Henry Burris is to pressure him and hit him. If he is left untouched he will carve you apart but land one solid hit on him and you can see him start to unravel and with Burris it’s a very slippery slope. With John Chick injured for the umpteenth time, Joe Sykes gets his first shot on the D-line. He and the rest of the D-line will have their hands full as the Calgary line (side boobs and all) is among the best in the league.
As I said before this game will be won and lost in the trenches. Both our lines need to get a strong push if we hope to have any chance. Also whichever team establishes the strongest running attack will win this game, plain and simple.
While I would love nothing more than to see the Riders steal one from the Stamps in front of half a stadium of green and think the game will be closer than many are expecting… I gotta say I don’t like our chances against the defending champs.
Stamps by 10
At least there’s a liquor store on every corner in Alberta, so it will be relatively easy to drown my sorrows. If you’ll be at the game as well feel free to join me in a pre or post game beverage.