Thursday, July 30, 2009

Riders vs. Stamps – Hell Bent and Alberta Bound

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 1
st 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.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Disgraceful

Riders 33 – Eskimos 38

Saturday started out so perfectly. It was a balmy Saturday afternoon, nostalgia was in the air as Rider greats from ’89 were present, we roared out to a 22 – 0 lead fueled by a great special teams play, some great defense and an impressive 102 yard offensive drive. Yes, the stars were aligning for a story book day for the Riders.

But apparently the Riders were reading a Choose Your Own Adventure book and when they got to the part that said “turn to page 30 for continue dominating or turn to page 45 for utterly implode in all 3 phases of the game” they unfortunately chose page 45. And that led to the embarrassing collapse we were all subjected to watching.

About the only positive thing I can say is that the whole team sucked equally so we can’t single anyone out. They all contributed their fair share to making the very mediocre Eskimos look like all-stars.

On offense I could blame our O-line for losing the battle in the trenches, I could blame the complete lack of a run game, or I could blame Durant for another poor showing, but for me the blame lies squarely on 2 individuals… Ken Miller and Paul LaPolice. I said last week that I have never been sold on LaPo as our OC and this week only reaffirmed that. That may have been one of the worst displays on play calling I’ve seen in a long time. 5 yard slant on 2
nd and 20? Short dumps to the RB on 2nd and long? This is the best you can come up with? With all due respect to Rob Bagg, when the short out to Bagg is the focal point of your offense, you’re not going to put up many points. Defenses have clued into the fact that we never call plays longer than 15 yards so they are cheating up and taking away all our short routes thus neutralizing our attack.

Now you may make the argument that Durant’s play is limiting what LaPo can do but that’s a bogus excuse. If your QB can’t run the plays you are calling you either change your calls or change your QB. Our coaches opted to do neither and that led to an offensive attack that was about as useful as my Betamax VCR.

As for the defense… well when you let the worst rushing attack in the league run all over you, you should feel utterly embarrassed. Maybe Etch should spend less time coming up with crazy formations and more time teaching the defenders how to tackle. It was like they were going out of their way to let the Esks run by them… check that… they
were going out of their way. James Patrick has evidently never learned to tackle. So far he has been a big disappointment at safety. He’s not ball hawking like he was supposed to and he certainly can’t tackle. I wouldn’t mind benching him for a game to see what Daniel Francis can do. Much like how opponents have figured out and neutralized our offense, they have also figured out and neutralized our defense (adjustments are evidently not our strong point). We also got zero pressure on Ricky Ray and guess what? When you give Ray time he will pick you apart.

Yet again I’m forced to comment on the officiating. While I’m not about to pin the loss on bad reffing, Proulx and his crew certainly weren’t doing us any favours. First off on that punt return TD how was there not a holding or clipping call… or 3?? Second, what an absolutely brutal spot on that 3
rd and inches! There’s no way you can tell me that Jyles didn’t get the mere inches we needed. When you toss in the holding that Montreal got away with last week it really makes me wonder if someone from the Rider organization slept with one of the refs’ wives. They all seem to have it out for us.

Other random thoughts:

Joel Bell looked decent for his first game
Hopefully Armour’s injury is not a sign that the broken fibula pandemic is reappearing
It was great to see the ’89 team with the cup. I swear Jurasin looked like he could still suit up and play... and I bet he would have done better than our current guys too.

We let an easy win over a mediocre team slip away and if we don’t improve in every aspect of the game quickly, this will only be the first of many losses.

Around the league…

Montreal is so good they are almost robotic.

It’s only a matter of time before Kevin Glenn is named Hamilton’s starter

The Winnipeg/Toronto game was one of the worst displays of football I have ever seen. It was a team with receivers but no QB versus one with a QB but no receivers. Despite playing all 3 of their QBs the Bombers failed to eclipse 70 yards passing.

To Mike Kelly’s credit he seems to have finally realized that his golden boy LeFors sucks and went out and found himself a new QB to jumpstart the Bomber offense … none other than Michael Bishop. HAHAHA!!! I’ll have more on this hilarious turn of events on Thursday (maybe I’ll have stopped laughing by then… but not likely HAHA!!).

As bad as Winnipeg’s QBs were, at least they can blame inexperience… what is Wally Buono’s excuse for the terrible play of both of his QBs? I would go with the fact that they both suck, but that’s just me.

How funny was it to watch Calgary’s DBs fight each other?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Riders vs. Eskimos: Homecomings

This weekend marks 2 different homecomings in Saskatchewan.  First, we are welcoming members of the ’89 Grey Cup Champions in honour of the 20th anniversary of that legendary game. While it will be awesome to see this cast of Rider greats, for me it won’t be quite complete without Kent Austin or a patented Narco dance. Oh well.

The second one will be a very different type of homecoming.  For the first time this season Richie Hall, Mo Lloyd and Kitwana Jones will return to Mosaic Stadium.  Though I doubt they’ll receive the same warm welcome as the ’89 Riders (can’t say I ever thought I’d see the day when Bryan Illebrun got a bigger cheer than Richie or Kitwana).  They, along with the rest of the 1-2 Eskimos, will square off against the 2-1 Riders. Both teams are looking to avenge embarrassing defeats last week.

The Eskimos come into this game with not a lot going their way.  For me the main reason Eskimo fans should be concerned is defense. Richie Hall was among the top D-Coordinators for years, yet under his guidance this season the Eskimo D been atrocious.  They have 0 INTs, are 2nd last in the league in sacks, have given up more yards than any other team and, worst of all, have allowed the most points (including 90 over the last 2 games). Heading into this season, the question was whether Hall would be able to handle the offensive side of things but now he can’t even get a handle on his area of expertise.  Now you could blame it on Richie, you could blame it on the ill-advised hiring of Jim Daley, or you could blame it on them assuming Mo Lloyd could carry the other 11 talentless players that make up their defense, but the fact remains that their defense is holding up about as well as my defense of “I thought the cop was a prostitute”

Offensively things aren’t much better for the Esks.  They are dead last in rushing (shocking as that may be) and are dead last in scoring. Much as he did with Mo Lloyd on defense, Danny Maccioccia assumed that Ricky Ray could carry the offense.  While he may be among the best QBs in recent memory, it’s kinda hard for him to succeed when he has no line protecting him, no running back to take the pressure off him, and no quality receivers to throw to.  Though somehow people are still blaming Ray for their struggles.  

To be fair, offense is also a question mark for the Riders.  They were completely ineffective last game and have been next to non-existent in the second half all season.  We actually have the least offensive yards of any team in the CFL.  This game is a chance for the offense to make a statement.  As I mentioned above, the Eskimo defense is brutal so this is the perfect chance for the offense to impress in front of the home crowd.  

Durant needs to step up and have a solid game or his time at starter may start to dwindle.  I hope to hell he does because our next best option isn’t smart enough to execute a 1 yard plunge.  The O-line also needs to rebound and help Durant out.  It looks like behemoth Joel Bell will replace O’Meara at tackle this week.  Normally the thought of starting 2 rookie tackles would cause me to lose sleep, but it’s Edmonton so I can breathe a little easier.  Someone not named Fantuz or Dressler needs to step up this game and make some plays. While those 2 are playing very well, if we don’t establish a credible 3rd option our offense will continue to flounder.  In an attempt to shake things up a bit Gerran Walker will get his first start of the year over the overly invisible Chris Jones.

If our defense gets any support at all from the offense they should easily shut down the Esks.  Ricky Ray may be among the league's elite at QB but as I said above he has no supporting cast. If we can hold our own against Montreal’s league leading offense then we should be fine against the feeble Esk attack.  Normally I would add in here a comment about us needing to learn how to tackle the RB (since that’s our main weakness on defense) but since the Esks don’t believe in running the ball, it will be non issue this week.

Last year when the Eskimos came to town we outscored them by a combined 89 to 22.  While I don’t expect a blowout of those proportions, I expect a strong performance from the team fueled by our standard outstanding defensive play and adequate offensive play.

Riders by 14

Monday, July 20, 2009

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Ugly

Riders 10 – Als 43

Off the field the Riders were honouring the Riders of the 1960's. Apparently though the players and coaches didn’t get that memo and chose instead to emulate the Riders of the 1990’s.

Since I am a person who likes to focus on the positives I will provide my thoughts on the game using a technique called the compliment sandwich. That is where I open with a positive then move onto a negative and then I end with a positive.  Okay let’s see, positive… Stevie Baggs and the defense as a whole turned in another good performance. Negative… with the exception of the defense our team turned in a performance that wouldn’t cut it in junior football. And another positive… umm… umm… ah... the dreadful performance made leaving the stadium a very quick and efficient process since most people had left by the 4th quarter stretch.  

Our offense might as well have just stayed in the dressing room because they didn’t accomplish anything on the field.  Our O-line had no answer for the fierce Als’ pass rush, and Durant... well, his play made me long for the return of Nealon Greene (yeah it was that bad).  Seems fitting that his nickname is double D because he looked like a useless boob out there.  We amassed just over 200 yards offense, the bulk of which were in garbage time.  The only time they were able to accomplish anything was when the defense handed them the ball at the 4 yard line. When I saw the ever reliable Jason Clermont fumble, I said we might as well pack it in because if he can’t hold onto the ball, we’re just not meant to win.

While Durant’s performance was next to non-existent, I feel the need to comment on our other QB. Durant’s playbook contains pages and pages of plays.  Stephen Jyles’ consists of a sticky note saying 2 things: “Take Snap. Fall Forward” yet somehow he managed to screw it up.  At least he didn't get lost on the way to the huddle.

Another addition to the “I screwed up the simplest of tasks” list was Johnny Quinn.  Apparently, “run forward instead of sideways” is a concept far beyond his comprehension.

While our players on O did little to nothing, I also have my concerns about our play calling.  I have never been sold on LaPolice as an O-coordinator. He’s a great positional coach but I have never really been impressed with our offense since he took over. Yeah the players struggle but at some point this has to fall on the coach for either not having them ready or not adjusting his play calls appropriately.

While I give our defense credit for doing as good as they did despite playing the entire game, they still had issues.  Our pass rush was completely neutralized by a strong Montreal O-Line, and even more concerning was that we are completely unable to tackle the running back.  

Is there something in the constitution that gives teams from Quebec an exemption from taking penalties? Honestly! I’m not blaming the refs for the loss but you can’t tell me that Montreal didn’t hold 1 or 2 times. Not to mention that having 13 men on the field makes it pretty easy to block a punt.

I’m all for fair play but when Anthony Calvillo is still in the game late in the 4th quarter with a sizeable lead trying to embarrass us even more, someone should have taken a penalty and run his ass over. I was actually happy to see Cobourne get hurt while running in a TD on a 3rd down gamble.  That’s karma man.    

Montreal is by far the best team in the league so losing to them is not cause for major concern but getting utterly embarrassed is.  Hopefully the team can rebound next week… they have some busy practices ahead of them because they have a lot to work on.

Joining the Riders in practice this week will be recently acquired standout college QB Graham Harrell.  While his college career is extremely impressive I will reserve my excitement until he actually accomplishes something up here. He may be touted as the QB of the future but then again so were Drew Tate and Dalton Bell and that hasn’t exactly panned out as planned.  

Around the CFL…

- I’m shocked that Buck Pierce found a new way to injure himself.  He is now officially cemented as the second coming of Dave Dickenson.

- Are people ready to admit that I was right and that Edmonton is not a good football team? They put all their money into 2 players and assumed that they could carry the other 40 players to victory. While I don’t think Richie is a great Head Coach, you can’t put this mess all on him. Not even the great Vince Lombardi could have success with the little talent on this roster.

- Did anyone else catch Glen Suitor call the Stampeders first 1st down of the game “Calgary’s biggest first down of 2008”?

- Toronto is perfecting the art of the implosion and are even finding new and creative ways to do it.  This week it was the old failed-wildcat-for-6-the-other-way play.  Wonder what they will do next week to top it?

- Hamilton is perfecting the art of vengeance.  First Otis Floyd helps the Ti-cats beat BC, then Kevin Glenn does the same to Winnipeg. Will Dave Stala be able to do the same to Montreal?  … well clearly no, but for now the Ti-cats are enjoying their first winning record since 2004.

- Evidently Winnipeg should have spent less time spying on Hamilton and more time actually practicing. Though I’m sure Mike Kelly considers this loss to be a non-issue that will be handled internally.

Lastly this week, I would like to acknowledge the work of an unheralded member of the Rider Prophet team.  When it comes to shameless promotion of the blog there are few who do it as frequently (or as shamelessly) as my PR Guy.  If you have recently been approached by what you thought was a talking bear telling to visit this blog… it was in fact not a bear but PR Guy. (I tried training an actual bear to promote the blog while riding a unicycle but that led to some unpleasantness, a few scars and a cease and desist order from the Humane Society). Anywho, kudos to PG Guy for attempting to grow my fan base beyond the current 7.5 readers.  To show my gratitude for his effort I will be rewarding him with a lofty 15% pay raise.  As an added bonus this increase is entirely tax exempt given that his base salary is 0.

Note to other members of the Rider Prophet staff: Given the limited budget we are dealing with, the pay increase given to PR Guy will necessitate a few changes to this year’s company picnic. This year it will be at the office, no food will be served, the only activity will be work, and the picnic is cancelled. 

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Riders vs. Alouettes: Battle of the Team Who Don’t Suck

Dust off your 45s of the Supremes and put on your go-go boots… this week we’re celebrating the 60s. Retro week in the CFL features a Saturday afternoon showdown between the 2 top teams in the league in a battle of the undefeated. One team will have to fall and unfortunately for us the Alouettes haven’t adopted the French tendency to surrender when faced with opposition.

The Als will definitely be the toughest challenge the Riders have faced to date. In fact, with the West Division suddenly sucking like a (insert inappropriate reference here) the argument could be made that the Als are the best team in CFL.

The Als have the most potent offense in the league led by Anthony Calvillo, a cast of talented receivers and pretty good back in Avon Cobourne… I’m glad I don’t have to watch this on TV so I can avoid hearing for the 4 millionth time how he almost got 1000 yds rushing and receiving, give it up it never happened! With the departure of Cam Wake, the Als also now have the best D-line in the league and are very effective at stuffing the run and pressuring the QB. Their only real weakness is their pass defense, well that and the fact that half the team is nearing senior citizenship. In fact I hear that Saturday’s game was moved to 1pm to accommodate the many players’ need to watch Matlock reruns and nap in the late afternoon.

Side note… I was just looking over the Montreal roster and realized that in addition to perennial punch line Chip Cox, the Als defense features D’Audre Dix. Yup that’s right the Als secondary is full of Cox and Dix. I just hope they don’t inadvertently bump into each other, that could be pretty awkward.

The Riders counter with a defense with more sacks, fumble recoveries and INTs than any other team. So far we’ve been treated to more loose balls than Man in the Bush saw when he went to that nudist colony. This will be a big test for our defense but if their performance so far is any indication, they are up to the challenge. Thank god Lance Frazier will be healthy though because the thought of Kornegay having to play HB against Calvillo was pretty scary.

Offensively, the Riders will be getting a huge boost with the return of last year’s team MOP Wes Cates. While Hugh Charles has filled in admirably in Cates’ absence, I consider Cates to be the best all-round RB in the league. This can only mean good things for our offense. Durant looks to be settling in nicely to his starter’s role and is controlling the ball a lot better. If he can keep it up our receivers will have a big day against a weak Montreal secondary. My main concern is our O-line. They held their own last week but as I said the Als front 4 is the best in the league so our patch work line will be put to the test. Hopefully the return of Cates can help alleviate some pressure.

Another side note… I just found out that our own Aaron Wagner is a Mormon. How fitting that this week he will be squaring off against fellow Mormon Ben Cahoon. Nothing like mormon on mormon violence to kick the weekend off.

Defensively the key will be getting pressure on Calvillo. If he is given time he will pick our secondary apart. Also if Omarr Morgan could look more like his game 1 self than his game 2 self it would help a lot. I know that’s asking a lot but you can always hope.

Offensively, while Cates will be relied upon to keep the chains moving, the passing game is where we will need to beat the Als defense. If Durant can make smart decisions and use his legs from time to time we should be okay.

If this game was in Montreal I wouldn’t like our chances but since we’re on our home turf I think the Riders will once again want it more than their opponent.

Riders by 3.

Don’t forget that its Tackle Hunger Day so be sure to bring a food donation to the game. Let’s show the rest of the league that we have the best fans in every sense of the word.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Belated Tuesday Edition

Riders 46 – Argos 36

I think the word to describe the 2009 Riders so far would definitely have to be exciting. After struggling in the first quarter, the Riders exploded for the 2nd best single quarter performance in franchise history, putting up 30 points. It was a true team effort as all 3 phases of the game (offense, defense and special teams) contributed points.

Despite dealing with a bruised throwing hand, Durant looked greatly improved over last week. Other than a late INT, he controlled the ball extremely well. He spread the ball around to all his receivers including 2 absolutely beautiful TD passes to Fantuz and Dressler. He still has room to improve his game but he looked a lot more comfortable out there.

Another solid performance was turned in by Hugh Charles (who apparently missed his calling in life as an acrobat). He’s no Wes Cates but he is providing us with a viable ground game in his absence, not to mention I doubt Cates could perform a flip… let alone 2. I’m curious to see how many TDs in one game it will take before Charles gets too dizzy to complete all his flips. Something just tells me that a 4 TD performance probably won’t end well. Credit also has to go out to the O-line. Despite missing 3 starters and being forced to resurrect ghosts of failed drafts past, they really held their own out there, surrendering only 1 sack.

Any concerns that our defense would be a 1 game flash in the pan were put to rest Saturday. It took them a while to get going but once they did they amassed 2 sacks, an INT, 3 forced fumbles and safety. At this rate they are on pace to out produce last year’s defense by the midway point of game 4. Stevie Baggs continues to lead the defense. His output and unbelievable hustle make me wonder if the rest of our defenders would benefit from having their shins adjusted inwards. We still need to do a far better job of tackling on running plays but so far you’ve got to be impressed with Gary Etcheverry’s ability to deliver on his promise of an aggressive D that causes turnovers.

On special teams credit goes to the hustle displayed by Jerrell Freeman on his blocked punt and Luc Mullinder on his debut at kick returner (though I don’t think he’ll be challenging Eric Morris for full time return duties anytime soon).

While you’ve got to give credit to our team for being aggressive and capitalizing on opportunities, you’ve also got to shake your head at the Argos’ ability to self destruct. After a strong 1st quarter, the players decided that taking a crazy amount of stupid penalties (14 1st half penalties for 131 yards) and fumbling the ball (3 times) was a good idea. It’s like they were going out of their way to give the win to the Riders. Bart Andrus has his work cut out for him because it’s not a lack of talent that is holding his team back, it’s a lack of discipline.

Overall it was another impressive effort by the Riders. It never seems to be pretty but you can always tell that the Riders simply want it more than their opponents and effort like that will always be rewarded. We’ll see how they do this week when they face their toughest challenge yet in the mighty Alouettes.

Around the league…
- Edmonton may have placed Jesse Lumsden on the 9 game injured list a bit prematurely. You’ve got to think that even with only one arm, he couldn’t have been worse than the guy they found to replace him.

- Speaking of premature… does anyone think Nik Lewis would like to amend his “best team ever” claim?…or at least temporarily retract it until the Stamps can find a credible defense, a non-turnover prone QB and a couple wins?

- BC is in a trouble. I mean playing Hamilton at home is as close as you can get to the CFL schedule makers offering you 2 free points. This can't be good for Wally's cholesterol.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Monday Morning Sentimonies

Monday Morning Sentimonies will not appear in its regular timeslot this week.... having almost nothing to do with Prophet’s weekend visit to Craven.

Check back tomorrow for an actual post.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Riders vs. Argos

The first road game of the year finds the Riders in Toronto for a matinee match-up against the Toronto Argonauts. The Riders are fresh off a nail biting win over the Lions and the Argos are fresh off their first win since last Labour Day.

While the Argos, led by Kerry Joseph, looked really good last week you have to put it in perspective… it was against Hamilton. That’s like saying the Canadian hockey team looked really good against Uzbekistan. The Argos were running a very simplified offense and still dismantled the Ti-Cats’ D. I expect to see some struggles when they face a decent opponent, especially given how Toronto’s offense really stalled in the 2nd half. I wasn’t overly impressed with Toronto’s D either - even the lowly Hamilton offense seemed to move the ball pretty well on them.

For the Riders, the big question has to be O-line. We are now down 3 starters and had to fly in Matt O’Meara to man the tackle position that became vacant when Belton went down. For the record, with both Best and O’Meara starting this week we are but a miracle Nathan Hoffart return away from the 2005 Draft finally paying off for us. With the O-line a question mark, Durant will have to step up big time and fix his game 1 mistakes. We can’t expect to keep winning games if our QB can’t control the ball. In football as in life, failure to control your balls can lead to negative consequences (so I hear anyway). More emphasis on the run and working those short to medium passes (hopefully a few in Clermont’s direction) should take the pressure off of Durant.

Defensively, now that teams have some game film on our defense I don’t expect to see the massacre we saw last week. However, you know Etcheverry has more crazy stunts up his sleeve so I’m expecting consistent pressure once again. The key will be controlled rushes. The not-very-mobile Buck Pierce burnt us many times when our defenders came in uncontrolled so unless we can correct that Kerry Joseph will have a field day.

I really don’t think the Argos are as good as they looked against Hamilton. If we can contain Joseph, limit their ground game and force them to throw we will have success. Other than Arland Bruce it’s not like their passing game scares me (and he has hemorrhoids). Offense will likely once again do just enough to secure the win. So provided we figured out how to block when we are punting …

Riders by 10

Aside from the aforementioned return of Matt O’Meara, there are 2 new faces in practice this week: QB Cole Bergquist and OL Joel Bell. Bell is hard to miss at 6’7, 315 lbs. Can you imagine that mountain of a man blocking for Hugh Charles? Defenders wouldn’t be able to even see him.

We have also added a couple new faces off the field. Marcus Crandell has been permanently added to our coaching staff as an offensive assistant and Brendan Taman has been hired to replace Tony Playtor as the Director of Football Administration. While I’m glad to see Crandell stay a part of this team, I’m not so enthusiastic on the Taman move. In his current role I’m fine with Taman, we need someone to replace Playtor and handle the admin side of things during the season. However, what does scare me is the possibility of Taman eventually becoming our GM. We don’t have near enough draft picks or napkins to support his recruiting efforts.

Around the CFL…

Derick Armstrong may be on his way out of Winnipeg. He refused to play the last game after being informed he would be relegated to back-up duty. This didn’t sit well with Coach Kelly who has asked him not to attend practice while they try and trade the former all-star. Aside from his recent attitude problem there are concerns over the durability of his injured knee. In the interim, Kelly took the logical step of making an offer to Matt Dominguez whose knees are of course far more durable. Is there anyone left out there who still thinks that Kelly is sane? Dominguez turned down the offer and my sources indicate that Kelly’s other ideas include tracking down Nathan Hoffart and trading the Riders for David McKoy.

Hamilton actually made a decent personel move last week, signing former BC Lions LB Jamall Johnson. While Johnson (who garnered NFL interest over the offseason) should have a positive impact on Hamilton’s pourous defense, Hamilton doesn’t exactly have the best luck when it comes to bringing in high profile names. Given the resounding successes that Casey Printers and Kenton Keith have been for the franchise, it’s hard to get excited about Johnson’s chances.

Lastly… Former CFL QB Timmy Chang was arrested last week. Allegedly he was caught beating someone up on camera by some girl and he got mad, wrestled the camera away from her and threw it onto a nearby roof. Man, if he had displayed that kinda strength and accuracy with his throws when he was in the CFL maybe he wouldn’t be unemployed right now.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Turnovers Aplenty

Riders 28 – BC 24

Wow I haven’t seen that many loose balls since… I’m just gonna go ahead and not finish that sentence.

Talk about an exciting way to open the season. Admittedly it was way more exciting than it should have been but in the end we pulled out a win and that’s the most important thing.

I have to start off by giving full credit to Omarr Morgan. I’ve been harping on him for his soft coverage for a while now but man o man did he look good on Friday. That’s the Omarr we all remember from his early years with the Riders… a game changer. While I’m not quite ready to remove him from my hatred list and declare my full support (mainly because history has shown that one amazing performance by a Rider cornerback doesn’t necessarily lead to more of the same) I will say that is by far the best I’ve seen Omarr play in 2 years, so hopefully this is a sign of things to come.

Speaking of defense… wow!! We knew Etcheverry would run an aggressive defense but that was unbelievable. 9 sacks, 3 INTs and 4 forced fumbles. And if our front 7 could learn how to wrap up the number could have been even higher as they were loose in the backfield all night. Poor Buck Pierce looked like a rag doll the way he was tossed around. My favourite is when we were treated to a re-enactment of Rider history with Pierce playing the role of Dave Dickenson and Sean Lucas playing the part of Jackie Mitchell knocking him senseless… what a hit! It was almost confusing for me to see consistent pressure from our D-line, it’s been so long since I’ve seen it I almost forgot what it looked like. Stevie Baggs is money, plain and simple.

The problem is that for some odd reason our offense and punt blockers seemed to think they were in a contest with the defense for most turnovers, and it was a battle that they unfortunately won with 3 fumbles, 3 INTs, 2 blocked punts and a turnover on downs. If we could have controlled the ball even a little bit our defense would have led us to a blowout victory.

Durant was pretty much what I expected. Flashes of greatness followed by flashes of Nealon Greene. He’s inexperienced, he’ll get better. I’m glad Miller finally learned some patience with his QB but Durant has to get better at protecting the ball. The whole reason he is our starter is because he’s better at controlling the ball than Jyles. If we have to settle for a turnover prone QB I’d rather have Jyles in there because he has more big play potential. That said, I’m not writing Durant off and do believe he will turn things around.

Fortunately for Durant, he’s blessed with receivers like Weston Dressler who is picking up right where he left off last year and Andy Fantuz who’s his old reliable self. Hugh Charles needs some stickum but looked good overall. Jason Clermont was the recipient of the most cheered for 9 yard pass in recent memory. I imagine he will be featured more and more in the coming weeks (mainly because it’s not really possible to feature him any less).

Overall a great defensive performance and adequate offensive performance led to an exciting win. We’ve got a lot to improve on but it’s a far better starting point than many were predicting.

As per Rider tradition this victory came at the price of an injured starter. Belton Johnson hurt his quad and will likely miss a few weeks. This means that Jeremy O’Day is our only starter from last year who’s left. This is where new O-Line coach Bob Wylie will have to earn his pay because we’re going to have to start a lot of inexperienced guys until our vets start to heal up. Hopefully what’s left of our O-line stays healthy because we are only 1 or 2 injuries away from a world where Charles Thomas becomes a viable option.

Around the league…

- Arland Bruce was fined for his homage to Michael Jackson. While the TD celebration was stupid, it does provide us with the line of the week. When asked why he didn’t just moonwalk to honour Jackson, Bruce responded “Michael don’t do that no more.” Bruce should have just gone with plan B and dangled a baby from the goal posts.

- Jarrett Payton may have set a professional foortball record for worst miss on a convert attempt. Don’t quit your day job Jarrett.

- Montreal is going the same direction as us and BC and lining up a converted DB at linebacker. While Chip Cox is somewhat undersized for an LB his fumble return for a TD goes to show that it’s not the size of your Cox that matters, it’s how you use him.

- Winnipeg’s offense was atrocious!

- Is anyone besides Danny Maccioccia surprised that Jesse Lumsden got hurt? He’s the RB equivalent of Matt Dominguez, all the talent in the world but unable to stay healthy for an entire season. I still find it hilarious that Edmonton seriously thought that the answer to their woeful running attack was to bring in the most injury prone RB in the league. That’s like trying fix a leaky boat with an old piece of chewing gum.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

259th Post Extravaganza

Due to the lack of ornate gift baskets and email greeting cards I have received I’m going to go ahead and assume that you forgot what today is. That’s okay, other than the crippling emotional damage this will cause me, I’ll be fine.

Curious about why today is so important? It’s more than just Independence Day. More than the birthday of Geraldo Riviera. More than just the 27th Saturday of the year…

It’s the 2nd Anniversary of the Rider Prophet!!

This means we’ve outlasted most blogs, marriages, sitcoms and minority governments.

It’s been another good year for The Rider Prophet, here are some of the highlights:
- Riderfans Gainer Award for Most Memorable Post,
- Nominated for 4 Canadian Blog Awards
- Twice Featured on the main page

The 2nd anniversary is of course the cotton anniversary. Truth be told I’m holding out for the 6th which is the iron anniversary or the 16th which is the obsidian one (you can never have enough iron or obsidian). We may just skip next year’s anniversary as it is the leather anniversary and there’s concern amongst me and Media Consultant as to just how Man In The Bush will take that.

Anywho, in the spirit of celebrating our cotton anniversary, I’m proud to launch the first series of official Rider Prophet Merchandise. Three ways to proudly display your love of the Rider Prophet… if by chance you don’t love the Prophet they also make good rags, handkerchiefs or reusable diapers.

Click the link below out the new Rider Prophet Store for yourselves.


As we head into our 3rd full year, I’d just like to thank all 7.5 of our readers for sticking with us even though I know it hasn’t always been easy. I would also like to thank the people I’ve insulted and minority groups I’ve offended over the past 2 years for not pursuing legal action.

For those of you curious about what the future holds in store…

They’ll never stop the Rider Prophet. Have no fear I’ve got stories for years. Like, Man In the Bush becomes a robot, maybe Media Consultant gets a cell phone, has Prophet ever owned a bear? Or how about a crazy wedding where something happens and doo-doo doo-dooo

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Official 2009 Prophecies

‘Twas but days before kickoff and all through the air
All that could be heard was sounds of despair.
The Riders just had their two best seasons in years
But that did little to allay the fans' fears.
The coaches were working with vets and unknowns
While the trainers pushed calcium to prevent more broken bones.
When at the last minute, who should stagger by?
A bearded prognosticator reeking of rye!

Many big names are gone from last year’s team
Change is the only constant under this regime.
Gone Mo, Gone Kitwana - It makes me so sad.
Gone Johnson, gone Bishop… guess the news ain’t all bad.
But Eric’s hands have been busy signing new faces
Though allegedly those hands have been other places.
And for that he found himself on a leave with pay
Did he touch her from behind, who am I to say?

This season will be Durant's big chance to shine
While many are worried, I think we’ll be fine.
It won’t always be pretty but he’s got weapons galore
Dressler, Clermont, Fantuz, there’s no way we don’t score.
With Geno and Smith out the O-line will be new
But Parenteau will be awesome and Belton will too.
Hugh Charles will do fine until Wes Cates get’s back
Get ready for a very potent offensive attack.

Defense is a question mark but it sure won’t be plain
Mainly because Etch is quasi-insane.
Success won’t come quickly, it will take some time
But by midseason the D will be in their prime.
Our schemes will be unorthodox but that’s how it goes
Watch Baggs wreak havoc despite his pigeon toes.
Patrick at safety will pick off more than a few
And Sean Lucas will get recognition that's long overdue.
Kavis Reed controls Special Teams and he ain’t no schmuk
I have a feeling for once our kick returns won’t suck.

Our start won’t be pretty and fans will distress
“We want Printers and Dinwiddie!” they will obsess.
But we’ll climb back to 500 by our Labour Day feud
Unless we keep getting injured… in which case we’re screwed.
A late season hot streak will turn the tide
On a wave of momentum the team will ride.
In terms of our record, I must confess
For the past 2 years I’ve had the same guess.
Same prediction again? what could be the harm?
11 – 7! (3rd time's the charm).

With a 2nd place finish we’ll be playoff bound
To play BC at Mosaic’s hallowed ground.
Without Bishop to stop us, this time we’ll succeed
A last minute TD will give us the lead.
Rider Nation will once again be jolly
Clermont will be the hero and give the finger to Wally.
Then on to Calgary to take on the champs
This kills me to say, but we’ll lose to the Stamps.
We’ll exceed expectations but fall short on that day
We're not quite ready to go all the way.

So there’s my predictions for the upcoming season
But if you’re skeptical it is with good reason.
For as history will show there’s no reason to dismay
A third of what’s written will be wrong anyway.