After a bye week that seemed to last an eternity, the Riders will finally be back on the field Saturday night as they host the Argos looking to atone for a god awful performance when these 2 teams last met. Both teams come into the contest with 1 win. The Riders will be looking to climb out of the West basement, while the Argos could conceivably grab sole possession of the first in the East. Parity my ass.
The Argos will have a very different look offensively from the first game as Owens, Durie and Barnes all played in that one but are now on the 6-game IR. It seems as though Darvin Adams and rookie Anthony Coombs have earned the most trust from Ricky Ray in the absence of the big 3 and that is who we will need to focus on shutting down. The passing game for me though is a secondary concern (no pun intended) as we are currently downright embarrassing against the run. We are allowing close to 130 yards rushing per game and a disgraceful 6.5 yards per rush. We can’t expect to win games if that continues. At lot of it boils down to tackling. If we could actually do it then the numbers would not be nearly as bad. Toronto has yet to decide on a primary RB but quite frankly the way we are tackling, Henri Childs could be successful as their rusher (though I think Childs is tentatively penciled in as the Riders’ Week 11 starting RB). Of their backs, Slaton actually concerns me the most, he’s a guy that could take advantage of poor tackling and hurt us. So priority #1 will be tackling from our LBs. The other thing we need to be mindful of defensively is the short pass. Ray loves to throw short, high % passes and let his receivers get YAC yards. If I’m Milanovich and I know my receivers are short on experience and my opponents have a hard time tackling I would call a lot of these passes until the Riders show they can stop it. Again it comes down to tackling. If we can limit the run and short passes it will allow Chick and Foley to get into the backfield and throw Ray off his rhythm, which is key to beating him.
I am confident the D has a solid game in them. I am a bit more concerned about the offense. The match-up last time was ripe for the taking against a weak Argo D but (with exception of a 2 minute span) we made them look like a dominant defensive force (which they are not. Only Montreal allows more points per game than the Argos). Sounds like still no Getzlaf but we do get Schillens back (which has the dual bonus of getting Schillens’ skill set back in the lineup and getting Riley’s out). We will need to lean on Taj but the only way to do that will be to establish another receiver (be it Schillens or Swain) as a viable option to take defensive pressure off Taj. Last time we played it was the long ball that was most effective so our OL will need to buy Durant time to take advantage of an Argo secondary rated last against the pass.
A strong running game it needed too and honestly despite what the gong show at RB would imply, we actually have a solid running attack. We have the most rush yards per game and per attempt in the league… the production is there, we just can’t commit to a guy (or find a guy who doesn’t fumble). All that offseason talk about “any RB could get 1000 yards behind our OL” is actually looking pretty accurate. That’s why I’m not as concerned as I should be about whether Messam, Ford or Allen will be the primary back. I’d like to see Allen get the chance but have a gut feeling Ford is our new guy… until he fumbles. Either way I expect us to run the ball effectively. I just hope we stay committed to it even if something goes wrong. A strong run game can carry us until our passing attack starts firing on all cylinders.
Also, if our guys can’t coax Dwight Anderson into at least one objectionable conduct penalty, I will be disappointed. DA will be fired up and looking to make an impact. We should be able to take advantage of that by baiting him into jumping early and getting beat deep as well as a few penalties (not like we’ve seen many of those from the refs this season). Toronto is the most penalized team so if we can stay disciplined and let them hurt themselves we will have yet another advantage.
I can’t tell if I’m just a sucker for believing in this team but I see this as a very winnable match-up even before you factor in the noise of a big Mosaic crowd on Saturday night. I’m expecting us to need to win ugly, and I’m also expect to utter some profanity throughout the game but in the end I think the Riders will show up focused, ready to play and will get back on the winning track against the Argos. Honestly if we can’t beat a team from the lowly East division who is missing their top 3 receivers, at home then we’re in trouble.
Riders by a rushing TD (I was going to say an Allen TD but who knows who will be carrying the ball)