The question on everyone's minds and lips ever since the Riders dropped their second straight game has been "What is wrong with the Riders?" Since its the bye week I figured I'd take the opportunity to tackle this question. I also figured I better tackle it while I'm sober because I get a lot more angry, ranty and loud when I've indulged in a few rye and once the weekend hits, all bets are off.
So what is wrong with the Riders? ... Honestly not as much as people seem to think. I've watched most of the CFL season so far and when I watch us I don't see some of the glaring issues I see on other teams. We don't have the O-line mess that Hamilton has, we don't have the serious injury problems Toronto does, we don't have the QB problems Montreal has and we don't have the complete lack of anything resembling a reliable receiver like Ottawa has (don't get me wrong we have issues at receiver but we are better off than Ottawa right now). I'm not going to blow smoke up your ass and say that everything is rainbows and sunshine but my point is that are issues aren't as massive as some would make it seem.
Issue #1... Health. We knew coming into the season that our depth at receiver was very thin on experience. Then we lost Getzlaf which is huge (if you had asked me a few years back I would have sworn I'd never utter those words). Losing Schillens made it worse. Those injuries caused an already thin WR group to lose its #2 and #3 guy. That meant relying on guys we projected as 5th and 6th receivers heavily. The results are predictable. Receivers aren't always where Durant thinks they should be, they aren't adjusting their route for things like blitzes, they aren't calling out DB blitzes. Having a vet like Getz out there who can do all those things and be one less thing Durant has to worry about will improve our offense. Tough to say yet whether Schillens will also boost the O but he's gotta be better than Riley. By next week hopefully we will be back to the starting WRs that we expected. Don't expect a dominant offense to suddenly appear but remember that we had the ball inside the 5 three times last week and only got one TD so even a couple more offensive plays made can be the difference between us winning games.
Issue #2... Running Backs. While issue 1 is beyond our control, this issue is the most frustrating because its completely within the coach's control. Its its almost as inexplicable as roughing the passer calls have been this season. We refuse to commit to a back and are intent on switching them every time a mistake is made in order to send a message. Well the message being sent is "stop trying to make plays. Play conservatively and don't make mistakes". Its a recipe for mediocre performance when we need a strong running attack. And the crazy thing is, we HAVE a strong running attack! Allen was leading the league in rushing before he got yanked. Charles had close to 90 in a half. The run game is working but we just refuse to put our faith in a RB. At this point I don't even care which one but show one of them some faith and I bet they will reward you handsomely. For such a smart coaching staff this one just baffles me. The good news is that its very correctable.
Issue #3... LB. Injuries again play a big factor as Kilgore was our guy and if we can survive until Game 7 I think he will be an impact player. But we still have 3 games minimum until he's back and he can't fix the issues at both LB spots so we need to address it. I'm not calling for personnel changes. For 1 I don't think it would be a miracle cure. For 2 we don't have anyone who can step in (unless you want to try Shomari again, or beg Rey and McCullough to unretire). Much like the RB I think we will need to commit to Hurl and Peters and let them grow into the roles. We also need to teach people how to tackle (and this applies to everyone on defense). Between poor angles and poor tackling (seriously its like they think they can catch a disease by tackling someone too hard) we have gifted our opponents way more yardage than we need to.
To me that's the list. There are small things like Maze having a couple bad games, or Green not looking near as good on returns now that the games are for real. But if the 3 issues above are addressed then we will be a competitive team. It's too early to be panicking.