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