Saturday the 2-2 Riders make their first trip to Ottawa to play the 1-3 Redblacks. This will be the Riders’ second road game of the season… the last time being that embarrassment in Toronto. Hopefully that game was an aberration as opposed to a sign of what we can expect on Eastern road trips this season. The game is sold out which is good.
People keep talking about how the Redblacks look pretty good for an expansion team. But really this is just a polite way of saying that we’re all surprised they haven’t been a complete and utter embarrassment. The comparison bar for expansion teams is set pretty low so looking good by that measuring stick is like being the best team in the East division… oh wait. I do think Ottawa has a good core of players and will be able to build themselves into a good team in a year or 2 but as of right now they have holes we should be able to exploit.
Offensively they have one weapon that concerns me: Chevon Walker. Guy is a threat to score from anywhere on the field. Thing is his season is starting to resemble his first season in Hamilton. Hot start followed by a steady decline back to mediocrity. Check out his stat line over the first 4 games of the season and note the trend:
Game 1 – 99 yds, 2 TDs
Game 2 – 94 yds, 1 TD
Game 3 – 85 yds, 0 TDs
Game 4 – 64 yds, 0 TDs
Defensively giving him zero space needs to be priority #1. We need to hit with the same intensity and fundamental soundness that we saw last game. If we can stop Walker from being a factor we are left with Henry “The best fans in the league are by far [insert city I’m playing for here]” Burris and a cast of receivers that that weren’t good enough to stick as a #3 or 4 receiver on other teams. It’s true that 2 of their receivers have more yards then our top receiver but that says nothing of their quality. Someone has to catch the ball in Ottawa… remember that year Elijah Thurmon put up big numbers here? Guys like Marcus Henry are capable of making the odd highlight reel catch or having the odd big game but do not have anything remotely resembling consistent performance. Our DBs should be more than up to the challenge of covering this group. That leaves the battle we are all most anxious to see: our sack happy D-line vs. Burris. As long as they stay disciplined and keep Hank contained I expect our sack tally to grow and to see a lot of this face…
Offensively we get another favourable match-up is spite of the fact that we lack a little something called a credible passing attack. Here’s a stat for you: we have completed less passes than any team… including Montreal (though to be fair we’ve attempted less passes and thrown for more yards than Montreal). Pop quiz for you: After Taj, who is the Riders’ leading receiver...
By process of elimination I’m sure you will eventually come up with the answer… Rob Bagg. My point is our passing attack (if you can call it that) isn’t scaring anyone. All signs point to Chris Getzlaf finally returning to the line-up which will be an immense help. It will be add a veteran guy who knows how to adjust his routes and get open but more importantly it will add a second receiver Durant trusts.
Here are the facts about Ottawa’s defense… they suck. They suck against run, allowing a league worst 121 yards per game and 6.1 yards per attempt. They suck against the pass, allowing a league worst 305 yards per game. They suck at creating turnovers with a league worst 6 this season. And they suck at keeping people out of the endzone, allowing 28 points per game (2nd most in the CFL). This is why I say this is a favourable match-up.
Game plan should be the same as last week. Hit them with the run until they prove they can stop it. We are the top rushing team, they have the worst run D. Don’t over think this just pound it at them. Be patient in the passing game. With the protection our OL can offer receivers will get open. Honestly if the likes of Swain and Schillens can’t get open against the Redblacks we are in trouble when we face credible defenses. TJ Hill and Jerrell Gavins are about the only guys who concern me on D so where possible I would avoid giving them an opportunity to make plays. If/when we do decide to pass I would attack the safety spot where Eric Fraser is far from an impact safety (unless you count having a negative impact on the team he plays for).
The Redblacks have only one win and it came against the lowly Argos and they didn’t even manage to score a TD during that win… there’s no reason we shouldn’t win this game. Add in the fact that injuries are taking a toll on Ottawa (Jovon Johnson, Kierre Johnson, Chris McKoy and Justin Phillips are all likely out). Unlike what we saw when the Riders traveled to Toronto, I expect the team to come out focused and with the same intensity we saw last week. I expect another strong defensive performance, another strong rushing performance and a moderately improved passing attack.
Riders by 14.