Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween Costumes For O-linemen

It’s Halloween so I decided to take a break from all the “serious” football talk and have some Halloween-themed fun. This has almost nothing to do with the fact that the Riders are on bye and I have nothing tangible to write about in terms of football matters. Just a very fortunate coincidence.

Halloween can be a time of great fun and joy… but not for everyone. Just imagine to struggles to larger gentlemen go through when trying to find a costume. Larger men such as our Rider O-linemen.

And so I’d like to take this opportunity to unveil my new line of Halloween costumes designed specifically for larger gentlemen. They are inspired by and named after offensive lineman.

The Brendan Labatte Man

The Dan Clark Kent

The Ben He-Man

The Dominic Captain Picard

The Chris Best Man

The Professor Xavier Fulton

Happy Halloween Everybody!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Getting Closer

Riders 27 - Stamps 40

Plain and simple this team has forgotten how to win. I don't mean that in the literal sense like they no longer know that the key to winning is scoring more points than the other team or something else equally as obvious that John Madden might say. I mean they have lost their killer instinct, their ability to close out games, their ability to do what is needed to hang onto a win. For the second week in a row, they went toe to toe with a top tier team and had them on the ropes and managed to screw it up. Last week, we outplayed Edmonton for the first half and blew it in the second. This week we were up 2 scores on the best team in the league entering the 4th quarter and blew it like they were a pornstar in a low budget film... or at least what I assume a pornstar in a low budget film would blow it like, having never actually seen one. There's no one person that you can pin that collapse on as everyone across the board shares some responsibility.

The game started with such promise. Joseph was slinging the ball like he was 10 years younger. He looked sharp, made good decisive reads, spread the ball around and put points on the board. Chris Geztlaf emerged from hibernation and turned in the first solid performance I've seen from him in a long time. Toston lived up to some of his hype with some massive runs. The defense had their issues but generally kept the Stamps in check. They even chipped in on the scoring effort thanks to a beauty pick 6 by Peters (who played a great game). Things were really looking up in Riderville.

Then came the 4th... I had to check the calendar to make sure I didn't space out on 2 months because I would have sworn it was Christmas by how we gifted that game to the Stamps. After having success spreading the ball around, Joseph completely forgot that we had any receivers not named Bagg or Getzlaf in the 2nd half. He locked into them so intently Korey Williams and Brett Swain could have swapped their helmets for rainbow coloured wigs and he wouldn't have notice. Who did notice was the Stampeder D and exploited that for 3 picks. We had the lead late in the game so naturally our coaches leaned on our 2 big bruising RBs to close out the game... oh wait, that's what an intelligent coach would have done. It was so painfully bad that even the offensive guru that is Glen Suitor pointed it out. Defense crumbled late when we needed a boost from them. Just everything that could have went wrong did.

This team is making strides in the right direction since the addition of Joseph but I'm sick of losing and would like to see us actually win a game. We had 2 golden chances to do so in the past 2 weeks and lacked the ability to capitalize. If we could rediscover that "never give up" attitude we had early in the year I think this team could be very dangerous in the playoffs even with Joseph at the helm. Until that happens though we will be stuck discussing the merits of moral victories. Personally I value moral victories like Sports Select does. Hopefully our coaches share that feeling and do what's needed over this bye week to right this ship... starting with themselves.

Other random thoughts:
- Dan Clark almost cost us another starting QB... we really need Best and Labatte to get healthy because he is just out of his league as a starting guard.

- I like Rod Williams but he had a terrible game . Seemed like all he could was interfere with his receiver.

- Jerome Messam seems to me like a guy who gets better the more you feed him the ball and the more he gets into a game. The minimal production we are getting out of him now versus the previous games where we unleashed him in the second show that. Either we need to feed him the rock more or not at all in my opinion.

- Seems that being relegated to back-up duty hasn't dampered Tate's douchebaggery or over inflated ego. You can celebrate like an idiot when you actually accomplish something in your career.

- We are really lacking  a true middle linebacker. I think that would do so much to shore up our D much like adding Lobendahn did in '12. The failed Kilgore experiment really hurt us. We have been left plugging in guys who are better suited for other spots.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Riders vs. Stampeders:

Friday the Riders travel to Calgary for a showdown with the League leading Stampeders. The Riders will be looking for their first win in over a month and our first win over a playoff-bound team since we beat BC back in August.

The Stamps will be an interesting team to watch over the final weeks of the regular season. They have first place locked up meaning that their next meaningful game will be the West final a month from now. You can bet that what happened last year is looming large on their mind when they also had 1st locked up and played their starters in the final game of the regular season. They ended up losing McDaniel and both starting DTs to injury in that meaningless game. While it wasn’t only reason they lost (cough 7 turnovers cough), trying to stop Kory Sheets and our OL with back-up DTs was certainly a factor in that game. So the Stamps will need to strike a delicate balance of protecting key players and not letting the team get rusty between now and the playoffs. We already know Cornish will sit out and I imagine a couple more vets will as well. Apparently Cornish is blaming “sliding on his hardwood at home” as contributing to his injury… which ranks right up there with Sandro DeAngelis blaming home renos for his poor performance in terms of excuses,

Seems the Riders are in the "resting players" boat too. Having resigned ourselves to the reality that no matter what happens in the next 2 games we will be on the road for the duration of the playoffs, we will be resting Dressler, Best and Allen. The fact that next week is a bye likely plays into that decision as well. My preference would be to push to win enough games to not crossover as the team historically gets way more pumped up for West road games then East ones but I get the desire to let our best players be healthy when it matters most.

I really think it’s important for the Riders to win at least one of the final 2 games. It may not matter standings wise but I really think we need that winning feeling again to build momentum for the playoffs. At the start of this year the team believed … hell they knew they could overcome adversity during a game. Recently, they just haven’t been doing that. We saw a more confidence with credible QB under centre last week but really need to take that next step and translate that into that elusive win.

Offensively, we need to see progression from Joseph. Hopefully he is closer to game shape this week and hopefully he improves his play. Calgary will have the benefit of film on Joseph running our O (something Edmonton did not). A big key will be finding balance offensively. Generally we have been too reliant on the run and last week the run just wasn’t there and we had to throw a lot. Success will lie in finding that middle ground. Keith Toston will finally get his chance (as fans have been clamouring for all year), if he’s even half as good as the hype he’s managed to garner then he will be some sort of unstoppable force. We really did not effectively use Will Ford’s speed (not that I see his departure as a huge loss) so maybe Toston’s power will fit better into our plans. With Dressler out, other receivers will need to step up. I’ve mentioned before that I like Korey Williams and hope we keep him involved. I really want to see Getzlaf turn in a “Stampeder Killer” performance like the ones that made him famous. He has really been Getzlafing the ball the year (it’s a valid verb, trust me) and we need consistency from him if we want the postseason to be more than 1 and done. Not sure if Labatte will be back this week or not but if not our much vaunted O-line could be reduced to Adcock/Watman/Picard/Clark/Heenan. Stamps will likely look to eliminate the run and force Joseph to do the hard work himself (just cause it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s not true). To counter that I think we need to not give up completely on the run (pretty safe bet with this team) and we need to take advantage and make the passing plays that are there. A few deep balls for a big gain would really help open things up underneath. Joseph really telegraphed his deep shots last week and wasn’t very accurate (not that he was ever known for his deep accuracy) so that needs to change. Bottom line, Joseph needs to take command of this offense and continue producing and scoring. Bagg and Geztlaf are the guys I think we need to lean on.

Defensively, we won’t have to worry about Cornish which makes life easier in the run stopping department. I thought we did a decent job against Cornish last game and Walter is no Cornish so we should be good. Normally I’d worry about Mitchell’s mobility but I’m guessing he’ll be under coach’s orders to play it pretty conservative in terms of exposing himself to injury. He will still run but likely be very picking about when. If Maze is back then I like our secondary matching up on what’s left of Calgary’s receivers (Fuller, Sinopoli, McDaniel and West all out). If he’s out then the task becomes much harder. Maurice Price is the dangerous one so limiting the big plays to him will be a key. I hope Brackenridge gets the chance to drill Price if for no other reason than my general dislike of the guy (a feeling I think shared by many). We need to win the battle of the trenches in order to get the edge defensively. Fortunately we have the talent along the D-line to do so. If it was me I would rest John Chick. The bye is next week and I’ve long thought he’s nicked up. I wouldn’t volunteer to be the guy to tell him he wasn’t playing mind you.

Really tough to say what to expect in this game with both teams resting so many key players. Given that it’s a home game and they hate us, I expect the Stamps play us hard regardless of the unimportance of the game in the standings. Word is the game is damn near sold out so the good news is the Riders will have a large chunk of the crowd on their side. I predict will be start slow and fall behind early but claw back and make a game of it by halftime. I think the Riders will manage to keep it close but this one just isn’t feeling good for a victory. I think we could win… hell we almost beat them in a meaningful game with Tino Suneri. My gut just says we will have to wait until the final game of the regular season to get back in the win column.  

Stamps by 7

Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Belated Evening Edition

Riders 19 - Eskimos 24

Only the Riders could manage to have me walk into a game I fully expected to lose and have me leave feeling disappointed. Such is life as a Rider fan.

Before I get to the game, let illustrate just how bad things had gotten in Riderville over the past month or so. On the first offensive play of the game when Joseph took a deep shot, there was damn near a standing ovation despite the fact the pass feel incomplete. On the next play Joseph hit an 8 yard pass and as he and the offense were headed to the sidelines, there was another raucous ovation despite the fact we just went 2 and out. We have been so desperate for competent play at the QB position that even failure of the less embarrassing variety was a welcome sight. Every ounce of me wanted to stand up and yell “Really?” to the fans cheering a 2 and out but I couldn’t bring myself to do it because I was also happy we didn’t suck quite as bad. For anyone who watched Mad TV, the whole scenario reminded me of a sketch they did about a really bad dating service call Lowered Expectations.

As for the game, a competent QB changes everything. Plain and simple. Was Joseph great? Lord no. Was he good? Good enough. And low and behold, given the talent we have around him, “good enough” was almost enough to beat the 2nd best team in the CFL… hell we should have beat them. I figured Joseph would do good but admittedly he looked better than I expected. He was poised, made reads, bought time, made passes, moved the ball, scored points… you know all those things that our other QBs just couldn’t do. Clearly it was advantage Joseph in the first half since the Esks would have had no film on him running our offense and they certainly made adjustments in the second half to level the playing field. Regardless, Joseph showed enough that I think we can win with him. The whole team played better around him. O-line had their best game in many weeks buying tons of time for Joseph. Heenan had a rough outing but as a unit they were improved. Receivers were a mixed bag. They made some good plays… but also dropped far too much. I like what Korey Williams brings at that wide-out spot. Our run game was clearly affected by the late scratch of Allen. His back spasms should come as no surprise given his attempt to carry the entire team on his back last week. While our run game was a disappointment, what was refreshing to see was us be able to adjust and still move the ball without it. Joseph and the O will need to be better but I have faith in their abilities overall which is something I did not have in the Sunseri/Doege offense. More importantly the coaches seem to have confidence in Joseph given that he didn’t get the training wheels playbook.

Overall a very good effort by our defense. They really manned up and contained the run, both of White (68 yards) and Reilly (11 yards). Foley was a monster out there. That D-line looks a whole lot better with Derrick Walker in the line-up. He is very underrated in my opinion. The injury to Maze was devastating. While he was in, we really contained Bowman and the rest of the passing game. When Green was forced into action, it all went to hell. Hopefully Maze will be back soon because he is a key piece of that secondary.

That kick return TD was a killer. We had all the momentum going into half after an outstanding 30 mins of football and lost it all right then and there and let Edmonton back into the game after having them on the ropes. Simply put we are currently not a good enough team to overcome major mistakes like that. We need to play our best football in all three phases in order to compete with top teams like Edmonton and Calgary. The second half displayed less than our best in all 3 phases and we weren’t able to overcome it.

We had an opportunity to win that game and let it slip away. I think the confidence level across the province increase by monumental proportions but a loss is a loss and I won’t be happy until I see that increased confidence translate into wins. We have 2 games remaining and in both cases our opponent will not care about the outcome so we need to keep improving and be ready to play our best football come playoffs.

Other random thoughts:

- Greatest kiss cam ever! Also likely the last kiss cam ever. For those of you who weren’t at the game you really missed out. It was all going along like normal until the camera showed a young couple. The guy told his lady friend to stand up. She seemed a bit confused but obliged. He then shocked everyone by turning her around and giving her a her very enthusiastic dry humping.

Somewhere someone had to be yelling “Won’t someone think of the children!”

- By now if you are not convinced that Dressler had paid off the refs with paninis and blizzards you are obviously in on the conspiracy.  They just seem to look away when he is returning punts. I’m not complaining mind you… in fact I think he should expand his bribing ways to offensive plays as well.

- I am certainly not on the “Fire Cortez” train. I have longed for an OC this good for years and hope he sticks around long-term. That said, I have to question some pretty basic stuff that I’ve seem him call. One example: Short yardage play we run Ford up the middle. Next play we run Messam off-tackle. I’m no offensive genius but that seems really backwards to me.

- Bartel is every bit as inconsistent a punter as Milo. He really needs to get better if we are to continue justifying using a roster spot on him.