After a flurry of activity last week, we are likely headed for a lull in terms of CFL news. There may be few signings here there but overall things will be pretty quiet until E-Camp in March and the Draft in May. When you combine that with the fact that NFL is over, NHL playoff haven’t started and March Madness is still a ways away, this is one of the worst stretches for sports fans. I like curling as much as the next guy but it’s kinda sad when the most exciting highlights on Sports Centre are essentially glorified housework.
So unfortunately for the next little while you will be stuck with my random commentary which will likely become less and less based in actual football matters with each passing day. Don’t be surprised when 3 weeks from now you are reading about what I ate for supper or the ridiculous things that people actually purchase such as pet strollers or curtains that don’t actually block any light (consider yourself warned).
For today though, we will stick to a couple football matters.
The first is the 2012 CFL Schedule. It came out last week and almost instantly people began complaining about it. Now I agree that the schedule is far from ideal from a fan’s perspective in terms of the Riders but we really have no one to blame but ourselves for this. You see, Rider fans have developed a reputation over the past few years. Any game, any time, if the Riders are playing we will be there. Hell we could probably sell out at 4am game in a rare and secluded Caribbean island on a Tuesday. The CFL has wisely caught onto this trend and decided that they don’t need to worry about giving the premium timeslots on the calendar to the Riders. Attendance and ratings will be solid regardless of when we play so it’s just plain smart business to give us the less desirable times and give the premium times to games and teams where it might actually boost attendance/ratings. Yes it’s like being punished for being too devoted to our team but that’s the way it goes.
Second thing I’d like to touch on is what the Riders still need to accomplish before the season starts. This was inspired by some reader comments. There has been much hype and excitement surrounding the Riders based on the coaching staff we assembled and the additions of Labatte and Picard to boost our O-line.
Don’t get me wrong I’m excited about our upcoming season and so far happy with the moves we have made but we still have a long long way to go. Looking at this objectively, we are a team with a completely unproven head coach and aside from the upgrades at OL have either new/unproven guys or status quo at every position. Given that our starting point was worst team in the CFL, we are still a far cry from being able to be cocky or start praising the virtues of Brendan Taman.
O-line and coaching improvements are great but there are a number of things we still need to address:
D-Line – Essentially we still have the same craptastic D-line as last year. And yet again we are crossing our fingers on Hawkins’ being able to play. Unless you assume that David Veikune or Boooooooooooo Robinson are the second coming of Cam Wake, we still need a lot of work here.
Receivers – Again we are in the exact same point as last year: No Fantuz, crossing our fingers on Rob Bagg being able to play, and no established #2 receiver to take pressure of Dressler and keep Getzlaf where he can actually be useful. The definition of insanity is doing the same things and expecting different results so I would hope some changes are coming here.
Linebackers – We need a new starting 3. Granted that 2 of our 3 last year were awful so the bar for improvement is set low but still. As of right now I see us assuming that Kye Stewart and Chris Graham are the answer and doing lord knows what with Sean Lucas’ spot (which is essentially what we did even when Lucas was still manning the spot). I’m a big Stewart fan and like Graham’s potential but just handing them the roles without making them fend off some solid competitions in camp is foolish.
Canadians – This one is purely a numbers thing. So far we have lost Fantuz, Makowsky, Gauthier, Parenteau, Foord, Congi, Hudson, and Tamon George and not re-signed Bell and Mitchell. All we have added is Labatte, Picard, Woldu Newman, Bodnar and Solomon which equals a net loss of 4 Canadians from the roster (probably more when you consider that odds are 1 or 2 of the last 3 won’t make the team). Regardless of who they are or what position they play, we need more Canadian as we are seriously low on Canadian depth.
CFL Ins and Outs
In: QB Levi Brown (free agent signing)
Quick clarification, we signed the white QB who spent time with the Buffalo Bills not the black 325 pound offensive tackle that was drafted 5th overall in 2005 by the Arizona Cardinals. Regardless of his talent level he’s currently penciled in at #3 on the depth chart purely by default. The fact that he wasn’t good enough for the lowly Bills is somewhat concerning.
In: DL Aaron Hunt, LB Mark Restilli (free agent signing)
In: P Burke Dales (free agent signing)