Monday, January 28, 2013

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Time To Get Defensive

The past couple weeks have been packed with huge announcements by the Riders (and no I’m not talking about the re-signing of Scott McHenry). We made a surprising but awesome move in adding George Cortez as OC. We also made a less surprising (at least if you know Taman) yet incredibly risky move in adding Geroy Simon to the receiving core.

Regardless of where you stand on the moves, the bottom line is we now should be set on offense. We have a franchise QB, an electric RB, an OC who might actually attempt a pass over 7 yards, the same OL as last year (which in my opinion is only four fifths a good thing) and now another receiving threat other than Dressler (despite not liking how much we are paying him, I do assume Simon can at least catch). We should be set on that side of the ball.

But for all the focus we have been putting on offensive, we should probably think about doing something on defense. I mean at this point we are only slightly ahead of the yet to be terribly named Ottawa team. We are solid at DT with Shologan, Alford and Mitch Williams. A healthy Kromah should once again lock down his outside LB spot. We are committed to Butler at safety. We have a lot of options at CB (Maze, Turenne, Collins, Harris, Jackson)… the spots are wide open but I’m assuming we can find 2 guys from that group. Hell I’d just be happy if it wasn’t a different set of guys each week like last year.  

Problem is that is about all we have figured out. For those of you keeping track at home a) I’m curious what scoring system you’ve invented and b) that leaves the Riders’ D only the small task of addressing Defensive End, Middle Linebacker, Cover Linebacker and both half backs… sadly that pretty much is a list of the toughest defensive positions to address in the CFL. Let’s look at each group a bit closer

Defensive End – I love Tearrius George but we still need to find 2 more guys to platoon in our DE rotation. Willis is off blindly chasing NFL ambitions that won’t materialize. Will we sign him back? Maybe, but no guarantees. We finally got a full year out of Hawkins (well 14 games, but by his standards we’ll count it) but it was very underwhelming. Even if Willis does re-sign we still need to bring in some guys to help here because last year proved that a Willis/Hawkins/George combo just isn’t good enough (certainly an improvement over the previous season but more is needed)

MLB – I honestly have no clue what we are doing here. I’m assuming the Shomari experiment has been stricken from the record but do we just hand Lobendahn the job? He played well but not well enough to be the uncontested started. Is Hurl ready? I doubt it but we may try. And that right there is our entire list of options. Lord I hope there is more on the way. Maybe we should call Mo Lloyd again J… not that he’d trust a contract from us anymore.

Cover LB – Brackenridge remains unsigned. I imagine he wants to wait until free agency to see what his value is before committing to us. He is too damn talented to let slip away. It’s even scarier considering we do not have a backup plan at all if he goes… unless you consider Graig Newman a back-up plan.

Half Backs – Continuing the theme of “things that concern me given that we have no back-up plan”, we currently have no half backs… none. McKenzie and Russ are unsigned and we don’t really have any reliable options on the roster. Maze can play inside in a pinch but I don’t consider him as a starter at the spot. For the love of god do not let Collins play inside!!! I think it’s pretty much a guarantee one of Russ/McKenzie re-sign but unless we get both back we have a tough spot to fill. It’s a sad world when you have 7 DB Coaches but no HBs.

There’s still plenty of time before training camp in June to address these issue so here’s hoping after blowing his load on offense in January, Taman still has enough left in the tank to piece together a competent defense. George Cortez may be an offensive mastermind but we saw firsthand the limits of that offensive when no paired with a remotely capable defensive unit.

NFL Watch
Jason “Savio” Vega – signed with New England
Odell Willis – worked out for Tampa Bay

CFL Ins and Outs
In: Greg Marshall, Doug Sams (hired as DC and OC)
Marshall and Kavis Reed will make a perfect pair. Reed never stops screaming like a madman and Marshal doesn’t believe it’s his job to motivate people.

In: DB James Patrick (free agent signing)

In: WR Darvin Adams, DL Mohammed Marah (free agent signing)
Out: DL Ron Flemons (released)

Out: DL Jason Vega (signed with New England)

In: DL Junior Turner (contract extension)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Riders Trade For Geroy Simon

As soon as I heard rumblings yesterday morning that the Riders were in discussions with BC, I knew it was only a matter of time before we traded for Geroy Simon. Let’s face it, this is Brendan Taman we are talking about. Once he sets his mind on making a bad move there is no stopping him. Then by mid day it became official and we shipped Justin Harper and a 3rd round pick in 2014 to BC for the CFL’s all-time leading receiver.

As you can tell I do not like this move. The price does not bother me. Justin Harper proved useless (just the latest in the long, long line of failed Taman WR recruits) and while I do not like trading picks away for imports, a 3rd rounder for a starter is not unreasonable. Personally I wouldn’t give up anything for a guy you know is about to be cut but the price itself is negligible so it does not bother me.

What bothers me is what we are going to be paying Simon. It was a given that Simon would have to take a pay cut from his $200,000 salary this year. But despite the fact that he’ll soon be 38, is coming off an injury plagued season that was statistically his worst in over a decade, and the fact that odds are slim many other teams would be lining up to throw money at a guy deemed expendable by the most successful coach in the CFL’s history and all we managed to negotiate him down to was $170,000. That is pure idiocy unless Simon is among the best 3 receivers in the league next season. Dressler has achieved demi-go status here and all we pay him is $120K.

So now we have a ridiculously expensive receiving group: Simon (170), Dressler (120), Getzlaf (120) and Carr (120). And of that expensive quartet only one of them is a sure thing.  We know we have big money invested in our OL from last offseason so that logically means we will be skimping on the defense. Considering that our best LB, 2 starting halfbacks and starting DE remain unsigned, you can see where the effects of this will start to be felt in a salary cap environment.

This is a massive gamble by Taman. There is a chance that Simon could return to his all-star form and help create an explosive passing attack. There is also a chance that last season was just the start of the downward slope and Simon will perform like 38 year old Milt Stegall who sauntered around like a wounded giraffe and failed to put up 500 yards. While I can understand how you might be swayed by the first possibility, it’s ridiculous to invest $170K on that gamble (something tells me Taman is not a great poker player or market investor).

Maybe Simon will prove to be an ageless wonder and re-establish why he is the leading receiver in league history but for me it’s not worth risking $170,000 to find out.

The one good thing I'm noticing is that although Taman is still determined to continuously trade draft picks for imports, at least he's now focusing on midround picks instead of first rounders like he did in Winnipeg. In particular he seems to have a huge aversion to the 3rd round as we have not made a selection in the 3rd round in the last 3 years,

NFL Watch
DL Armond Armstead – signs with New England for big time $$$
DL Odelll Willis – worked out for Pittsburgh
K Justin Medlock – worked out for NY Giants
DB Carlo Thomas – worked out for Minnesota
OL Brian Simmons – worked out for Washington
DB Geoff Tisdale – worked out for Minnesota
DB Rod Williams - worked out for Minnesota
DL Lee Robinson – worked out for Miami

CFL Ins and Outs

In: DL Tearrius George, FB Neal Hughes, LB Mike McCullough, RB Stefon Green, DB Ramzee Robinson (contract extension), Geroy Simon (trade with BC)
Out: DB James Patrick, K Sandro DeAngelis (released), WR Justin Harper (trade with BC)

In: DL Chima Ihekwoaba (contract extension)

In: WR Marquay McDaniel, LB Derron Mayo, DL Justin Phillips, LB Karl McCartney (contract extension)

In: OL Glenn January (contract extension)

In: QB Travis Lulay, DB Ryan Phillips (contract extension)
Out: WR Geroy Simon (traded to Sask)

In: DL Marcus Howard, LB Mike Cornell (contract extension), DL Eddie Steele (free agent signing)
Out: QB Steven Jyles, WR Glenn MacKay (released)

In: WR Dave Stala, OL Marwan Hage, Peter Dyakowski (contract extension)

In: WR Spencer Watt (contract extension)
Out: DL Ron Flemons (cut)

In: Marcel Desjardins (hired as GM)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sentimonies In Progress

Just my luck that the normally painfully slow pace of the offseason erupted into a flurry of activity in the worst possible week for me. Don's people ever consider my needs when making important CFL announcements?

Long story short... is is a phrase whose origins are complicated and rambling... kidding. Long story short, things a pretty hectic in my non-prophet related life (you know the one that pays the bills, keeps me clear of divorce papers, and keeps social services off my ass?), so my irreverent commentary on all the goings on across the league will have to wait until next week.

I won't leave you completely empty handed. So please accept these half asses, point form thoughts that may or may not be funny, or coherent, or thoughts for that matter....

- So pumped about Cortez as our OC!!! Just look at what he did with Burris and the Hamilton offense last year... though I'm pretty for that success to continue here we will need to find someone other than Dressler who can actually catch the ball. We can worry about that later though... for now let's just enjoy having one of the premiere OC's in the CFL as opposed to one who couldn't figure out how to run the ball in the 2nd half against the worst run D in the CFL while protecting a huge lead (yup I still do not like Bob Dyce)

- Really sad to see James Patrick go. I have been a huge fan of his ever since he showed up here as a rookie. That said we were paying like he was the best safety in the CFL (which he was a one point) but he didn't even come close to being worth that. Can't argue with the deicsion but will miss JP.

- We have horrible luck when it comes to paying people big money
   - Sean Lucas was awesome... then we started paying him  figures and he became useless
   - Patrick was the bets safety in the CFL... then we started paying him big $$$ and now he's justifiably unemployed
   - Chris Getzlaf used to catch the ball more often than not and occasionally kill the Stamps... then we handed him $120K and he sunk so low as to get booed off a Regina field.

- Even though Mike Sinclair's tenure only lasted a month and he accomplished absolutely nothing, I would still rank him ahead of Jim Daley in terms of contributions to this franchise.

- Why in the blue hell would Montreal sign Arland Bruce to a 3 year deal?!?!? They already have SJ Green, Jamel Richardson and Brandon London.  Something tells me something is up with one of those (Richardson perhaps?) and Bruce will be a replacement for one of those as opposed to playing along side them

See you next week

Monday, January 14, 2013

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Riders Sign 3 Canadians and A Sweed

 The Riders are slowly but surely whittling down their list of potential free agents. This past week they re-signed Patrick Neufeld, Scott McHenry, Rob Bagg and Limas Sweed. For those of you who have no clue who this Sweed fellow is (and likely misread the headline and thought we signed a Swedish player) he’s a receiver who spent the last 2 weeks of the regular season on the practice roster. He’s a former second round pick of the PIttsburg Steelers (which on this team tends to mean he’s destined for a whole lot of nothing… cough Jarrett cough Moss cough).

I have made my thoughts on Neufeld quite well known… I don’t like the guy. He was a liability at tackle last season. Now I can understand the pro-Neufeld crowd. The guy is 23 and Canadian so you live with short term pain to develop a long term solution at tackle. I get the thinking, I just don’t think Neufeld will develop. The guy’s calling in life is to be a 6th OL who can fill in at any spot. Maybe he’ll prove me wrong but I hope we at least bring in some competition, because there were points last year where a one legged anorexic fashion model would have offered us better pass protection.

As for the other two, McHenry is good on special teams and, unlike a certain teammate of his who is making 3 times his salary, can actually catch the ball when targeted. He’s a solid depth signing. I have always been a huge Bagg supporter (should probably have worded that better). Love the guy, love his heart, love his skill, hate his achy breaky knees. I like signing him because if he can stay healthy he will give an immense boost to our O. now, I’m not expecting him to play a solitary game based on his history but if by some miracle he does it will be huge.  He likely came cheap so its definitely worth a shot.

We also released Johan Asiata and Ismael Bamba. Asiata was actually a very good guard, problem is there is no place in the CFL for an import guard. As for Bamba, how low must this guy feel? His competition at Cdn WR consisted of a guy who can’t catch, a guy with no knees, Jordan Sisco and Aaron Hargreaves and he wasn’t even worth bringing into camp. Ouch! Not that I disagree with the move. When he was drafted, Bamba was a speedster who was a poor route runner… I don’t think he evolved much even after a year of practicing at the pro-level. Remember when we used to have so many talented Cdn receivers we didn’t know what to do with them? It seems like so long ago now.

One last story that I will touch on today is goings on in Ottawa. First it appears their search for a GM has been narrowed to 4 people: Joe Mack, Marcel Bellefeuille, Marcel Desjardins and Lionel Vital (though he was recently promoted by the Atlanta Falcons so I’m assuming he’s out). Ottawa also apparently asked permission to talk to Brendan Taman about the vacancy. Why we said no is completely beyond me! I would have paid for his airfare out there.

People wondering about how well the new franchise will do should be concerned that the “top” candidates include Desjardins (who when he was with Hamilton traded us DJ Flick and Wayne Smith for Rocky Butler), Bellefeuille (who has refined the term “mediocre offense” including being responsible for the worst offense output in over a decade in Montreal when he was there) and Taman (who’s faults have been discussed thoroughly in this space). Lord I hope for their sake they hire Womack!

Then there is the news that the leading candidate for their team name is now Red Blacks. Now I’m not sure if they feel Ottawa football fans are too stupid to catch on to a name that doesn’t describe the teams colour scheme or if they are just trying to pay homage to the area's rich history of sunburned African-Canadians but I’d like to think they could do better.

That said after reading this article about the actual submissions, maybe Red Blacks was as good as it gets. Go Bacon Warriors!!!!!!

NFL Watch
DL Armond Armstead – worked out of New England, Philadelphia and a couple other teams… dude ain’t coming back the CFL anytime soon.

Jim Popp – Interviewed by the NY Jets… mainly because they were wondering if he could somehow work out a trade to dump Tebow to Canada.

Marc Trestman – Interviewed by the Bears, Browns and now Raiders for their OC. Jimmy Johnson tweeted that it looked like Trestman was going to be hired by the Bears… when that rumour proved to be baseless, Johnson clarified that all he said was it LOOKED like Trestman was getting the job. Oh… our mistake Jimmy. Getting the feeling that Trestman ain’t coming back, someone will hire him.

CFL Ins and Outs

In: K Williams Dion (Free Agent Signing)
Out: DL JP Bekasiak (retired)

In: Jonathan Hefney (contract extension)

In: K Rene Paredes (contract extension)

In: Dennis McPhee, Allen Rudolph, John Zamberlin (hired as assistant coaches)
Out: Joe Womack (contract not renewed), DT Eddie Steele, DB Geoff Tisdale, LB Ike Brown, DB Carlo Thomas, LB Byron Bullock, RB Terry Grant (released)

In: WR Ismael Bamba (free agent signing)