Saturday the 4-2 Riders look to extend their winning streak to 4 as the play host to the 1-5 Alouettes.
For all the talk of Troy Smith and how bad he has been (and boy has he), the Alouettes’ struggles run far deeper than anything that has been happening on the field this year. It all starts with their coaching staff, which has pretty much been in disarray since last season ended. To summarize briefly: after firing Dan Hawkins early last season, Jim Popp took over as head coach and expressed his desire to stay in that role this season. Instead, the Als ended up delaying any kind of decision until the end of February at which point they surprisingly hired Tom Higgins. In the middle of training camp they fired Rick Worman their offensive coordinator and name Ryan freakin’ Dinwiddie as his replacement. They have since added more big name consultants that I can keep track of and fired their receivers coach (because clearly the Als’ offensive struggles were the fault of the receivers not being able to compensate for a QB who couldn’t place the ball within 15 yards of them). So regardless of the quality of the players on the roster is it really any surprise to see a team this dysfunctional at the coaching level struggle? They have been behind the ball since the offseason and don’t look to be gaining much ground. Now add a terrible level of play at the most key position and quite frankly it’s a wonder this team manages to dress itself let alone get one win.
It’s too bad for the Als because when I look at their roster, aside from the coaching and QB gong shows, they should have the talent to be a competitive team. And in the woeful East division “competitive team” should coast you to a home playoff game. That’s why we can’t afford to take the Als lightly, they have talent. One of these games they might figure out how to put it to use.
I was surprised to see how statically bad the Montreal D has been. Most yards allowed, 2nd most points per game allowed, most passing TDs allowed. I have to think part of their struggles have to be related to how bad their offense is and how tired they must be by the end of most games but there must be more to it than that. The stat I like the most is the fact that the Als currently have the worst run D is the CFL averaging 116 yards given up on the ground per game. The struggles against the run surprise me because last year the Als had the #1 run stopping D in the League with almost the some defensive players. Adam Lavarias must not be as good against the run as Emry was. I can’t tell you which RB will get the ball but I can tell you, whoever it is should be able to rack up the yards. I actually expect both Ford and Messam to share the workload with Messam getting the lions share because I get this vibe that Durant hates Ford for his struggles in blocking.
Pass game should get a boost with Taj Smith returning (don’t even act like your surprised by this. In professional sports talent trumps off field activity). Of the 6 passing TDs Durant has thrown this year, half came in the only two games where both Getzlaf and Taj played together. Word is Taj’s role will be limited but I’ll believe that when I see it. I do like that Korey Williams looks to take Chaz Schillens' spot, if he can do something....anything he’ll be an upgrade. We don’t need an aerial assault but Montreal will be stacking the line and bringing lots of pressure so we need to be able to throw enough to take the pressure off. That said I would still pound them with the run. By the second half that D will be tired and Messam can roll over them like he did Winnipeg. I also like countering the pressure with TE leak outs to the likes of McHenry... and dare I say... Dan Clark.
On the other side of the ball, this match-up has all the makings of the Als bringing a banana to a gun fight. They have the League’s worst offense. Our defense is among the most dangerous there is. Montreal still has talented receivers in SJ Green and Duron Carter, but given that they don’t have a QB to get them the ball, they might as well have cabbage patch dolls out there. The Als seem to have finally given up on the Troy Smith experiment. But they are reportedly countering with a two QB attack of Brink and Straight Outta Crompton. Even if you combined the skill of both of those guys you wouldn’t get one capable QB. Only 1 guy on that team scares me and it’s Whitaker. About the only good moments in the Als O have come from him. Priority #1 will be making him a non-factor. That will allow John Chick and the rest of those beasts along the D-line to tee off on whichever craptastic QB the Als serve up. The Als have a better OL than we have faced in a few games so don’t expect utter dominance but I don’t think Bourke is playing at 100% so we should still get pressure.
I honestly expect the Als O to start hot as the surprise factor and lack of film on whatever they will be doing will work to their advantage. By the second Q we will have settled in on D and if they score more than 2 FGs in the 2nd half I’ll be surprised.
Side note on D: I will be interested to see Ocho vs. Brackenridge. There was lots of talk preseason but I get the sense Ocho is steadily mentally checking out. You can bet, given the chance, Brack will unload on him.
First quarter will be frustrating to watch, our O will start slow and D will take a while to settle in. By half time we will be up by a score and will grow that in the second half on route to another win.
Riders by 18.