Thursday, June 30, 2011

Prophet in the National Post

For the second year in a row, the National Post asked Matt Brown (one of the founders of Fantas-Eh football) and myself to be part of their panel a look at the upcoming CFL season.

Also included on the panel are Mark Masters from the National Post, the recently retired Adriano Belli and TSN’s Chris Schultz.

Check it out

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Made My Day!!!!

I was possibly one of the happiest people in the country yesterday when I found out that Michael Bishop would be returning to the CFL. The news gets even better as it is a division rival he will be suiting up for. It’s like Christmas in June!!!!!

A shoulder injury to Drew Tate left the Stampeders scrambling to find a back-up QB before their season starts on Friday. For reasons that I will never understand (though I assume hallucinogenic drugs played a role) John Hufnagel determined that Bishop was the best option available to them. So now the Stamps go from great depth a QB to being one injury away from being forced into starting a partially retarded signal caller backed up by a CIS QB.

I honestly can’t believe that Bishop keeps finding employment. The Argos gave him a shot and it ended badly for them. The Riders gave him a shot and he single-handedly ruined a team that could have contended for a cup. The Corpus Christie Hammerheads gave him a shot and cut him after 3 games. Winnipeg tired him in 2009 and low and behold it led to disastrous results. Hell even the Texas Hurricanes of the Southern Indoor Football League gave him a shot and went 0-3 with him as QB and 0-4 with him on the roster. Doesn't anyone see the pattern?!?!?

I’m not sure who runs the Stamps’ HR Department but that is not a resume that should generate further interest. He must have one hell of an agent. Oh well the Stamps’ loss in my gain and comedy will no doubt ensue.

With that in mind I present…

Top 5 Things Likely to Happen Once Bishop Arrives in Calgary

5. Stamps will be forced to purchase whiteboards to have on the sidelines.
4. Increased profanity in the stands at McMahon
3. Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers...they always come in 3
2. Bishop will knock himself out on his own blocker
1. Dave Dickenson’s problems with concussion resurface has he will suffer a severe one after banging his head against the wall in frustration at having to try and coach Bishop.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Fallout

Across the league, Saturday was one of the toughest days of the season for players. Conversely, Saturday was the deadline for the easiest part of any coach’s… the cuts.

***I figured I would resurrect a classic bit in honour of cut down day. I used a few years back but it’s too good not to use again… plus I’m too lazy to keep coming up with new stuff***

Now while we weren’t able to cut everyone we wanted to, we did cut a lot of people.

Smith you’re cut. Jones, Bolden and Solomon you’re cut. Exume, Tyler, Glover, you’re gone. Newman, we liked you’re hustle… that’s why it was so hard to cut you. Congratulations to the rest of you, you made the team. Except Wright, Fance, Weatherspoon,Thiel, Kashindi, Bullock and Silva. You guys are cut.

Now everyone give me 5 laps and hit the showers. Of Frenette, you don’t have to… you’re cut.

Really no major surprises.  Bullock caught a few people off guard but I called it on Friday. He showed a lot of promise last year but didn’t have an impressive preseason. Also, while a coverage LB such as Bullock is highly valued in Etch’s system, under the Hall/Marshall system

Frenette was the closest thing to a surprise given that he was a proven vet. While Frenette was arguably one of the best long snapper in the league, he’s currently unemployed because his resume didn’t contain anymore skills. He was a one dimensional player. While there may be a minor drop-off between the snapping of Frenette and Huclack/Krausnick-Groh, that will more than be made up with the other skills they bring to the table such as actually being able to cover a punt and being a viable back-up for other positions (not too mention he fact that they are young and likely even a bit cheaper). There’s just no room for one dimensional players anymore… if there were I would have a thriving career as a QB Kneel specialist. 

As an aside, since Alexander Krausnick –Groh looks to be sticking around Riderville for the foreseeable future, the man needs a damn nickname. His current name is too long to say and more importantly type. Since no one else seems to be stepping up to the plate on this one, I guess I will have to handle it myself (again). AKG would be the easy solution but that’s not nearly entertaining enough. My vote is for … If any of you readers have a better suggestion I’m open to it.

Outside of the cuts, the big news was that Brent Hawkins has been placed on the 9 game IR, meaning that his should problems are worse than originally anticipated. It’s too bad because with Shologan and Romero chewing up the inside, he was in store for a big year. Unfortunately, until at least the Banjo Bowl, our hopes lie with Montez Murphy, who despite a very impressive training camp, I’m still not sold on. I’d like to believe he’s as good as he’s looked this year but I can’t shake the memory of his 3 really mediocre seasons on 4 different teams. Hopefully I’m wrong about him though because he’s the best we’ve got for now.

Speaking of best we’ve got… Milo and Johnson survived the preseason despite going a combined 1 for 6 on FG attempts. This is like the epitome of the phrase “We did 17 takes and that was the best one.” Johnson will be fine on punting (unless of course he suffers from the same second year collapse as Louie Sakoda). I’d like to believe in Milo but it’s really hard to do so when he hasn’t actually kicked a FG in a game yet. I’m mean sure he’s done fine in practice but the world is also full of people who are really good at Call of Duty but if our national security relied on them actually shooting guns, I think we’d all be a bit concerned. Oh well, not much we can do now but hope and pray… or just either punt or gamble on every 3rd down beyond the 25 and effectively write the FG attempt out of the playbook.

A new Rider season kicks off in just 6 days so hang on for another rollercoaster season.  

Friday, June 24, 2011

Well That Was Craptastic

After years of wishing I could see the road preseason game on TV, I finally got my wish. Though it was a case of be careful what you wish for as we were treated to a game that was better suited for radio.

It was a preseason game and 8 of our starters didn’t dress so the results are about as important as the member of parliament from Nunavut (I assume they only have one but am too lazy to check… and yes I’m fully aware that in less time than it took me to type this line I could have googled it but I stand by my statement).

Here are my thoughts on the game

- Durant had a rocky start with a pick 6 and another one that should have been a pick 6 had Davis Sanchez not displayed the catching abilities of a Rider receiver. After that he seemed to shake off the rust and improve as the game went on. Unfortunately I don’t think Durant will be breaking his tendency for turnovers anytime soon but that’s just the kind of player he is. As long as he keeps finding ways to win I guess we can live with it.

- Durant received zero help from his receivers. Balls were bouncing off the ground like it was a basketball game (Matt O’Donelll would have been in heaven). Getzlaf is Getzlaf, if you’re looking for a playmaker he’s your guy. If you’re looking for reliability, you’re looking for a different numbered jersey. Nunn had an ugly drop but overall looked good enough to earn a spot. They clearly like Wheelright’s height which is lucky for him since his brains are obviously lacking. When they throw you a pass on the sidelines with time winding down in the game you should probably try to get out of bounds rather than make a futile effort to fight for 1 more yard as the clock expires.

- All 3 RBs look good. Cates and Charles aren’t going anywhere but West makes a strong case for a spot somewhere.

- Offense struggled but when you consider that it was Durant’s first live action and we were without our best 2 receivers, there’s no reason to worry.   That given the catching abilities shown thusfar by our receivers, Durant’s only chance at another 5000 yard season is for Dressler and Koch to each get 2500 yards receiving... Relax, I’m kidding… mostly.

- Defense wasn’t actually that bad when you consider that 7 of our 12 starters didn’t even dress. I was particularly impressed with Graig Newman who got the start at safety by virtue of being our only healthy safety. For a guy who’s never played anything but junior ball, he didn’t look out of place with the starting unit.  He’s got some room to grow but I certainly like his potential given his level of play with zero experience.
- Nick Graham will be good. Not just good compared to the useless player he is replacing but actually good.

- Seriously Mullinder?!? Another offside?!? Even if you got away with going offside, it’s not like you would make it to the QB anyway so why even bother?

- I am by no means a Montez Murphy fan but even I have to admit he has been pretty impressive so far this season. At the start of the year I assumed it was a forgone conclusion he wouldn’t make the team but now I’m thinking we’ll have to find room for him

- Etch may be gone but I still saw Mike McCullough line up at DE on at least one play.

- The only benefit of watching the game on TV was seeing the amazing hits in the game. Unfortunately they were all against the Riders. Eddie learned the hard way what happens when kickers try to pretend they are athletes. Stu Foord… well I’m not sure he knew his name by the end of the night, let alone what province he was in. The first hit from Hyland was a solid pop… the second one was epic!!! Foord’s helmet flew farther than a Luca Congi kickoff. I haven’t seen a helmet fly that far since AJ Gass hurled one across the field in 2007.

- Our kicking game scares the crap out of me! Our offense struggled a bit but we didn’t have Dressler and Koch. Our defense was so-so but 7 of our starters weren’t playing. Kicking… we have no one else to come in and save us (barring a miraculous recovery by Congi). We are stuck with that pile of garbage we saw Wednesday. Johnson’s FGs attempts will always scare me but his punts (which he usually excels at) were not good either which certainly reduces his job security. Fortunately for him (and unfortunately for us), his competition was also busy damaging their job security. Silva just doesn’t look ready for the pros and Milo is hitting FGs at the same rate that Gene Makowsky is. If this is the best we can hope for Berry better start working on an entire playbook of 3rd down gambles.

- If Milo does end up being our kicker, I envision myself exclaiming “Another miss for Milo!” in throughout the season. (Bonus points if you get that reference).

- Media Consultant is predicting Sandro DeAngelis will end up being our place kicker.

Outside of our kicking concerns, you can’t read too much into our performance on Wednesday. It was preseason, once our full starting unit is in there we will be ready to kick some ass in the 2011 season.

The easiest part of Greg Marshall new job is up next… the cuts. While some cuts will be fairly evident (e.g. Mark Jones) others may turn some heads. Players I personally think are on the bubble include Tamon George, Chris Leak and probably most surprising (at least to me) Byron Bullock.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Riders vs. BC: Preseason Game 2

Thanks to some odd scheduling the Riders will be headed right back into action just 4 days removed from their last action. I don’t recall ever having such a quick turnaround during the preseason (then again my memory is far from photographic so who knows). I can bet the players aren’t too excited about it… though I guess the only positive is that they will get a longer rest before the real games start.

Wednesday’s game will serve 2 purposes. 1 – It will be the final tune-up for our starters (including Durant’s first live snaps of 2011) and 2 – it will be the absolute last chance for the guys vying for back-up and practice roster spots to show their stuff in the hopes of not showing up on Saturday’s list of final cuts.

Normally preseason game #2 is my least favourite Rider game of the year since it’s always been the one game I don’t get to witness with my own eyes. But thanks to TSN’s expanded coverage I finally get to watch the game … though I’m sure there will be moments in the 4th quarter when I’d probably be happier not seeing the follies of a bunch of guys that will soon be looking for work. Also if Rob Black ends up calling the game, it might outweigh any positives of being able to see things. I guess that’s why the mute button was invented.

Here are a few things I will be watching closely…

-       The battle at centre. Whoever gets to snap to Durant should be pretty telling as to where the coaches are leaning on this one.

-       Chris Graham. I just like seeing someone that big hit people.

-       Luc Mullinder and Shomari Williams. Did little to instil confidence in our apparent decision to stay Canadian at DE. Looking for a bounce back performance from both.

-       Which receiver hopefuls see the most time with the starters. 

-       How are kick return and cover teams play when the ball his not traveling backwards in the air due to wind

As with all preseason games, I’m excepting absolutely nothing, hoping we emerge from the game healthy. I also hope the conditions are a bit better so we can get a better assessment on our QBs, receiver hopefuls and kickers.

In other Rider news, wayward draft pick Matt O’Donnell is continuing his trek to avoid coming to the CFL. Since the Celtics tryout apparently didn’t materialize (I’m shocked) and his attempts to catch on with the NFL have yet to materialize, he is starting to get desperate. Just how desperate you ask? Well he has resorted to trying out for the Toronto Raptors. That’s like the universal sign that your basketball career is not looking so promising. Though I guess he managed to find a team where talent is not a requisite for making the team.

Since O’Donnell seems to be desperate to try any professional sport that’s not the CFL I have some other suggestions for tryouts he might want to pursue when this Raptors thing is done that would seem to be up his alley: outfielder for the Montreal Expos; professional wrestler for WWE; and potential defenseman for the Maple Leafs (where his lack of any tangible hockey skills will be a perfect fit with the rest of the team).

Monday, June 20, 2011

Monday Morning Sentimonies: So Far So Good

Weather aside, it was good to be back in the stands from some Friday night football. And all things considered, the weather could have been far worse. Given the torrential downpour that occurred all afternoon, I'm not sure where that sunshine came from but it was a welcome sight.

First and foremost the Riders won the game, and winning at home is always a good thing. That said, a small part of me is somewhat concerned by the victory. You see, the Riders are traditionally not very good in the preseason. We lost both preseason games last year and made it to the Cup. We lost both in 2009 and did the same. In fact, the last time we actually won a preseason game was 2008. And if you'll recall that season ended with Micheal Bishop single-handedly ruining our season. So I'm not sure if I should be excited about the victory or not.

In no particular order (other than the random one they pop into my head) here are my observations on the game:
- Hats off the the guy selling booze tokens on the 2nd deck. While paying for tokens, I commented to a friend that getting  married doubles your expenses (as I was buying tokens for Mrs. Prophet). Without missing a beat the token guy responded "Yeah but you spend less on hookers so it balances out" Gold!

- I can't believe the wind didn't send some of the people trying to hold down the giant Canada flag flying,

- As much as it pains me to say it, Dinwiddie did good out there given the conditions. That said I may having been secretly praying for an Edmonton defender to level him when he took off on that one run. Yes I am an awful person, I readily admit it

- My boy Bergquist had a mostly good showing, highlighted by a nice TD pass to Patrick Brown. That was slightly offset by 1 - his ill-advised decision to run that one time that he got rocked on and 2 - the even more ill-advised decision to shovel a botched FG snap to Eddie Johnson. Seriously at what point did that seem like a good decision.

- Unless Chris Leak is willing to work for practice roster money, he is so cut.

- The battle at running back is a tough one to call. All 3 backs have some great plays on Friday. While I can't see Cates losing his spot (especially after his nice runs and even nicer catch), both Charles and West showed enough to keep them in contention.

- Cary Koch is ridiculous, that is all.

- Wheelright looked good too. That said I'm still concerned that our primary use for big tall receivers seems to be short routes. It seems like a waste at unless we find a receiver who is tall enough to just fall forwards for 10 yards every time.

- How weird was it to actually see us repeatedly stuff the run? It had been so long that I'd almost forgotten that's what's supposed to happen on defense.

- As weird as that was, it doesn't even come close to us actually witnessing a kick returned for a TD by a Riders!!!!! I thought such things only existed in myths and fairy tales but Hugh Charles showed us that they can actually happen (he even topped it off with a flip). I just hope we didn't waste our only good return of the year on a meaningless game.

- Pull up your socks Mullinder! You're only a starter because of your birth certificate and if you keep that up, even that might be enough to save you.

- Even without Patrick, Hawkins and McKenzie, i like the look of our defense! I think good things are in store for that unit this year.

- I don't mind the look of Ludovic Kashindi. I think he's worth developing.

- Craig Butler didn't look out of place with the starters. I realize he's got a long way to go but given how well the last DB we took with our first draft pick has been coming along its reassuring to see.

- I know he's not a Rider but Wopamo Osaisai is a freaking awesome name!

- I sure called the Marc Mueller token appearance. Kudos to him though for using his knowledge of Rams football to pick on Tamon George.

- Chris Graham's first sack made it worth the price of admission (I've been wanting to see that truck hit someone all training camp). He's second sack/german suplex was icing on the cake. We are deep at LB but Graham is fighting hard to stick around.

- What and absolute gong show that fourth quarter stretch was. First they all run out onto the field only to be reminded by the refs that a quarter can't end on a penalty so they all run off. Once they get to the sidelines a TV timeout is called and they are sent back on. Then once they are done the last play of the 3rd quarter occurs and they are forced to kind of gloss over the 4th quarter break,

- Who the hell was that giant headed mascot and what did he do with Worksafe Bob?!?! All he did was hold his head the whole time. That is not stretching you impostor! We want the real Worksafe Bob back! You know the faceless black thing that frightens children.

All in all I was happy with how the Riders fared. They will have a quick turnaround as the final preseason tuneup is Wednesday in BC.