I hope you appreciate just how rare of an occasion you are witnessing. No, I’m not talking about the Riders… I’m talking about me doing work on a stat holiday. I tend to ardently honour these great days by honouring the occasions they commemorate… even when the occasion is commemorating this province’s long history of wanting more days off work.
Since there is no actual game to talk about, my options for today’s post were to either make smart ass commentary on what is going on around the league. You know things like how Dan Hawkins made Greg Marshall’s tenure look like an eternity. Or how it only took Winnipeg over 3 years to realize that maybe Buck Pierce has a durability issue thus putting their 25 year plan to rebuild into Grey Cup champions in serious jeopardy. But instead I will opt to talk about the Riders, I mean after all I’m sure you don’t come here for the banner ads and picture of men in robes right? … on second thought, don’t answer that.
The 2013 season has obviously started out better than any of us could have hoped for… short of being awarded a bonus win for being awesome, or them announcing we get to play the crap teams in the East a few more times. The reasons for this outstanding start are well documented both in this space and others so I won’t turn this into another post outlining the reasons we are doing so well or the reasons why I would leave my wife for George Cortez. Instead I’ll talk a bit about what we will need to do over the next 13 games to ensure this season ends with the Riders coming out of the home tunnel on November 24th.
Now although I will be talking about some potential areas of weakness, I don’t want this to come across as a depressing “the Riders aren’t really as good as their record” post. They are every bit as good as their record. No question. But there are a few areas that have potential to catch up with us at some point.
Offense I honestly have nothing to talk about. We have proven week in and out that we can beat teams in a wide variety of ways: on the ground, deep down with field, over the middle, with the offensive powerhouses known has McHenry and Clark… hell we can even beat teams with our Willy. There will likely be games coming where our offense sputters but it will be because we come up against a great opposing defense, not because we lack the game plan or weapons to do so. Short of injury (pauses to knock on every piece of wood in the house) our offense is not a concern at all going forward.
Special Teams is in the same boat pretty much as well. Sanders is getting great returns and will eventually bust one for a TD, cover teams have been lights out!!!, Schmitt has been absolutely booming the ball and Milo has yet to miss. That said Milo will miss at some point, I just hope its not at a critical, game deciding moment. Closest thing I have as a criticism of our Special Teams is that Schmitt struggled when punting into a strong wind. Having witnessed years where “having difficulty punting into the wind” wouldn’t crack the top 150 list of special team concerns, I am thoroughly enjoying this. Maybe Bob Dyce initially missed his calling as a Special Teams guy… here he can put his philosophical insistence on short gains to positive use.
That leaves the defense which currently is allowing less points than any team not named the REDBLACKS!!!!! Front four is getting constant pressure, Rey Williams is playing like a man possessed and our secondary is making plays when they need to. That aside, I think defense is the area that has some potential weaknesses. Now at this point they are only potential but it’s something I think warrants some attention.
Run D –Feels wrong to say that the league’s stingiest run D is a potential weakness but honestly our run D has really on faced 1 real challenge through 5 games. Hamilton’s run game is so abhorred that they might as well not even bother and in Edmonton we got up on them early forcing them to abandon the ground game. Yes we did shut down a dangerous runner in Cornish but part of that was Dave Dickenson’s mind boggling decision to only let Cornish touch the ball 8 times (a decision that I can only rationalize by blaming on post-concussion symptoms). That leaves the Toronto game the only game where our run D was truly tested on a sustained basis. Admittedly they passed that test with flying colours but my point remains that I think if a team like Calgary or BC decided to commit to the run there is potential there to show we aren’t as rock solid against the run as we appear. I still say a true test of whether we are as good as we think is this coming Friday when you can bet Cornish will be running right at Butler and Brown.
Pass D – It seems almost incompatible to lead the league is passing yards allowed but have allowed the fewest points and passing TDs but that’s the 2013 Riders. Now part of that is our O running up the score early and forcing teams to pass a ton and another part is that the stats are inflated by many “garbage time” yards we have allowed while protecting a sizeable lead late in the game. But the fact remains that we have allowed over 300 yards passing per game and if we allow that to continue it will bite us in the ass at some point. Receivers are finding holes in our coverage and vets like Anderson and Brown have been found in the trail position more than I would like to see. Fortunately up until now (in true Richie Hall “bend but don’t break” fashion) we tighten up when teams get near the scoring zone. Hopefully getting guys like Macho and Maze back in the line-up will help tighten things up.
So there you have it. Again I hope this doesn’t come across as bitching about an undefeated team’s performance because that is not the intent). I just wanted to discuss a few things I would be keying in on if I was an opposing coach. After a week of rest and relaxation let’s see if the Riders pick right up where they left off and keep firing in all phases.