Monday, March 30, 2015

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Rules They Are A Changing

Punctuality has never been my strong point. Regular readers will have grown accustomed to the somewhat loose interpretation of "Monday" and "Morning" I keep with respect to my Sentimonies. So it should come as no surprise that while the rest of the journalistic world has moved on to the CFL Combine, I show up fashionably late to discuss the proposed rule changes. Well to be fair the word "fashionable" is not often used to describe me. Let's go with "disheveled and late".

On to the rules...

Let me preface my thoughts by saying that I am a fair bit of a traditionalist when it comes to rule changes. I see nothing wrong with the game of football and think this cycle we have gotten into where some rules have to change every year is ridiculous. I have nothing against minor tweaks here and there provided they don't fundamentally alter the game... with the exception of my ongoing campaign to have the referees ride ostriches.

1. Converts - Let's get to the big ones right away. As I mentioned, my preference is not changing rules but that said, I can live with what has been proposed (i.e. 1 pt converts from the 32 or 2 pt converts from the 3). It doesn't fundamentally change the scoring system and a 32 yard kick should be routine (unless you name is Milo and there is a goal post in the stadium). Gives the incentive to try more 2 pt converts (especially when the weather goes to hell). My major problem with this is that I used to used the extra point to give myself an extra bit of time for a bathroom/drink run so I don't miss anything. Don't they take my needs into consideration?

2. As for the "trial" of a 3 point convert in preseason, the whole idea is idiotic. You can't just magically invent a new scoring play. Any team that even attempts one in preseason should be booed off the field as should anyone involved with thinking it was a good idea even to try it.

3. Illegal contact - The theme of this year's proposals is "massive overreaction". Scoring was down but the rules had nothing to do with it so trying to fix a non-rule problem with rules is a head shaker to me but I digress. Provided they don't call every single tiny infraction, I don't hate the rule but mark my word: Illegal contact penalties will skyrocket early in the season. Remember how they tried to fix the return game by expanding illegal block penalties and all that resulted was a crap load of illegal block penalties? Same thing here. Defenders won't magically undo years of training just because the rules changed. I don't mind the theory behind this one but in the short term I see this causing issues.

4. Only refs be able to call for measurements - Here's one I actually like a lot. Most of the time of coach is calling for a measurement he doesn't give a crap about the actual measurement but just wants the extra time without having to call a timeout.

5. Coaches can now signal no substitutions and run a hurry up -  Again, I like it. Allows for the game to naturally speed up and allows for actual hurry up offenses, not the current "hurry to the line and then wait 15 seconds for the ref to signal in the play.

6. Eliminating the option to force a re-kick on a kick out of bounds leaving only the option to take the ball where it went out or 30 yards up from where it was kicked - I'm indifferent on this one. Sometime that second kick when defenders are a bit gassed is when you see bigger plays but I get the idea of wanting to reduce unneeded repetitious plays.

7.  Offensive pass interference now challengeable - A very logical move. Seemed dumb to me to allow defensive PI to be reviewed but not offensive. I still have issues with the challenge system, based mostly on the lack of consistency in review outcomes last year but if you are going to allow PI to be challenged, makes sense to me that it goes both ways.

8. Five yards no yards tacked on to the return as opposed to a spot foul - No a huge fan of this but don't hate it either. I see the logic in it but didn't see a burning need for change.

9. Inside 5 guys on punts can't cross the line until the ball is kicked. I like kick return TDs as much as the next guy (well minus those 8 dozen the Riders gave up last year) but I hope the CFL realizes that if they make them too common, the excitement will wear off. Not that I think this will drastically change things, just a little bit. I can live with this change I guess. The coach in me would immediately start watching film for any team that shows a tendency for not rushing the punter inside because they don't have to hold up the inside 5 guys. This may open up chance for fakes/runs up the middle. As I type this I have this sinking feeling that 4 months from now I will be cursing at Bob Dyce saying "I warned you that would happen!"

Overall though the changes are many, most are either good or something I can live with. Though I seriously think we should put a cap on the number of changes to the rules within a 5 year period. At this pace, 7 years from now I will watch a 15 point TD followed by an 4.7 point convert attempt where no defender can even look in the direction of the intended receiver. Avert your eyes!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Lousy Smarch Weather

Spring has officially started, Regional combines are getting underway this week, it should be happy time... or at least happier. But between the snow, the lack of real football and your failed attempts to gamble on a sport you know nothing about, its pretty depressing before considering that today has the added joy of being a Monday.

I'd like to say that I have come up with a post that will brighten your day... I'd like to say that but I would of course be lying. You'll have to settle for the standard, run of the mill Random Quasi-Coherent thoughts.

- Macho Harris has signed an extension. Macho has been a curious case to watch over his years here. When he showed up here in 2012 his talent just jumped right out at you. The only problem is that he was hurt... all the time. I was even wondering if they would bring him back for 2014. But they gave him one more shot and it paid off. He lasted a full season by some miracle... perhaps his power is derived from his hair? What was also curious about watching him develop was early this season. He was easily one of the best cover guys to there... but had a complete inability to do anything useful when the ball arrived. He shadow the receiver perfectly only to fall down or take a penalty when the ball arrived. He seemed to get past that thankfully. Macho is a very versatile. I would be comfortable starting him at HB, CB or LB.

- Speaking of DB's former Rider Chris McKenzie announced his retirement last week. If you want a stark reminder of how short a football career can be just look at McKenzie. He showed up here in training camp in 2009 after a bit of time in the NFL and Arena League. From day one of camp you could tell he was making this team. By 2010 he had firmly taken over a starting HB role and I considered him one of our better DBs. There was too much other awfulness to worry about in 2011 so I honestly can't remember if he had a good year or not. 2012 was not a great year for him and it ended with him blowing coverage on Romby Bryant in the WSF (yes he was the one who screwed up, not Maze) and that was his last pro football play. Four years and that's all she wrote.

- In non-football related musings, my Wichita St Shockers are still alive in March Madness. That won't make a difference in my bracket pool chances but I'm settling for moral victories here.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday Round-Up: Comissioner Orridge

Spring apparently arrives today and the only good news is that you can use the tattered remains of your busted March Madness bracket to make a small fire to keep you warm. The official team of the Rider Prophet, the Wichita St Shockers, have yet to join the ranks of teams that ruined my bracket but that's likely because they haven't played yet.

Let's get to the big CFL news this week...

In this day and age its almost impossible to keep things secret in the sporting so I find it amazing that the CFL managed to keep the name of the new Commissioner under wraps almost right up until the announcement. Part of the reason the secret was easier to keep is that the person they hired was off most radars.

Jeffrey Orridge was unveiled as the 13th Commissioner of the CFL. What he lacks in name recognition, he more than makes up for in terms of qualifications. Harvard law, Mattel, Reebok, USA Basketball, CBC Sports. In reading through his resume, its easy to see why the CFL was interested in him. All he is really lacking is the perfect hair of his predecessor Cohon... or any hair for that matter.

A big deal is being made about the fact that Orridge is the first non-white commissioner of any pro sports league in North America. On one hand I think this is a positive reflection on an attitude the CFL has had for a long time: the only thing that matters is if you can do the job. To be fair that attitude is likely rooted in a history where we couldn't afford to be picky about who the league employed because this wasn't exactly the most desirable place to work. But nonetheless, its a very Canadian thing not to concerned about things like skin colour.

On the other hand though, in this day and age, its kinda sad that the colour of Orridge's skin is even newsworthy. Like its some kind of surprise that a black man could run the a football league. Just how far do we take this? Will there be a news release about the the first asian sports exec who doesn't pronounce it Rions and Loughliders? I don't care if they're black, white, asian, female, paraplegic or tusken raider as long as he can do the job. Ok, check that, I would care if he was a tusken raider... that would be newsworthy.

Orridge looks like a solid hire for the CFL. It will be interesting to see if he can maintain the CFL as one of the few leagues where the Commissioner isn't universally reviled.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday Round-Up: Hardin, Sheets and More

The sight of grass poking through the snow gives us hope that football's return will soon be coming. Not soon enough mind you. I don't know about you but I'm so football starved that I'm considering using Prophet Jr's Lego to make a model of a football stadium and use the Lego men to act out football games. That would inevitably end with me telling the Lego men to shave their sideburns and making roster cuts. Yes, I'm aware I have issues.

Let's get to actual football happenings. 
- Can't remember the last time the Riders had to have a news conference about a player whose not even on the roster. But this week they had to trot out O'day to calm the firestorm created by Chamblin's comments on "character issues" regarding Kory Sheets. O'Day pretty much clarified that what Chamblin meant was they aren't sure if he can get over the border with his pot charges and then there's the whole issue of his health. I do think the Riders are interested but Chamblin was just trying to throw a bit of cold water on the assumption that his return is guaranteed. It was a poor choice of wording that spiraled out of control.

- WR Greg Hardin who has been on the neg list for a while now was finally signed today. He is notable for having broken all of Weston Dressler's college records at UND. I had assumed that North Dakota of produced short white receivers... Hardin is not exactly tall but he sure breaks the Dressler/Smith mould. He's one of the few WR recruits in a while that I'm generally excited about.

- I'm less excited about Naaman Roosevelt, the other WR signed today. He's been in the NFL for a while, fitting the Schillens, Swain, etc... mold. 

- The Riders also made the signing of QB Brett Smith official. It had been reported for a while. Be interesting to see if Doege or Smith can unseat Sunseri for the solitary young QB spot.

In: WR Greg Hardin, WR Naaman Roosevelt, QB Brett Smith (free agent signing)

In: WR Jabari Arthur, LB Deron Mayo (contract extension), LB Shomari Williams, DL Eric Taylor (free agent signing)

In: LB Christopher Johnson, LB Pawel Kruba (re-signed)

In: LB Eric Samuels, DL John Lattimore (free agent signing)
Out: DL Stephon Miller, DB Davon Key, WR Skyy Simmons (released)

In: RB Stefan Logan, DL Cory Grissom, DL Damien Jacobs, DL Jerome Raymond, DL Markell Carter (free agent signing)

Monday, March 9, 2015

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Belated Afternoon Edition

Apologies for not getting this up this morning, things are a bit hectic around the Prophet household. Also sorry for you out-of-province readers who have to suffer through the daylights saving switch... we of course don't bother with such nonsense here. I mean can you imagine the chaos among livestock?

Kory Sheets unpredictably become the hot topic of discussion on the prairies last week after he tweeted that he was done in Oakland. This is Riderville where hysteria reigns supreme so of course this logically led to a determination that he was coming back here. With that mystery solved maybe speculation-crazy Rider Nation can turn its attention to other pressing matters.

But if I could call you back to the land of reality for a minute, Kory Sheets' homceoming is far from a sure thing. In fact 4 things have to happen for it to happen:

1 - Sheets must be healthy
He's less than a year removed from blowing his achilles. Before he can play football anywhere he needs to show he's recovered. I don't doubt he's worked as hard as he can at rehab. I don't doubt he will recover. But he's not healthy today and it may be months, midseason or even next year before he is back to 100%.

2 - Sheets must be done in NFL
I'm guessing this one is a formality but he will no doubt explore any options down south. Can't imagine the market for an over 30 RB coming his second blown achilles is huge but hey its not like logic and sound judgement characterize the likes of the Jacksonville's and NY Jets' of the world

3 - We must be interested in Sheets
Interested is a relative term since everyone is interested depending on the price. So while we are no doubt interested, our valuation may be affected things like his legal issues (though not likely, talent trumps character), his age, his injury history, and our money situation. We don't NEED Sheets with Allen, Miller and Messam around so there will be a price limit on our interest.

4 - We must be the top bidder
Coming off his second Achilles injury and nearing the later stages of a normal football career Sheets would be stupid not to maximize his value now. That means testing the market. Fortunately for us I don't see a lot of other CFL teams willing to get in a bidding war for Sheets. Teams like Hamilton, Montreal, Edmonton and Calgary are already set at RB depth. Wally Buono hates over 30 players at any position let alone one as replaceable as RB (no to mention he has Harris and Antolin) so BC is out. Sheets fits Toronto's ex-NFL RB criteria but they already have Steele, Slaton and Scott so I doubt they have much beyond a cursory interest.

That leaves us, Winnipeg and Ottawa as the only teams I see as potentially having serious interest. Now Winnipeg is high on Paris Cotton and just signed him to a new deal so that will temper their interest a lot in my opinion. One prominent media member has said he bets the Bombers sign Sheets but this particular person's track record on rumours is so abysmal that this statement has next to zero credibility. Ottawa has Chevon Walker but if his history shows anything its that he will have 2-3 great games and then disappear into irrelevance. Not sure how much of their big $$$ is left after ridiculously overspending on receivers but I imagine they have some coin. I think Winnipeg or Ottawa would have to offer a lot more money than us for Sheets not to pick the Riders and I don't see any team throwing big $$ at him. His health is a question and he missed the big money portion of free agency.

So odds are pretty good Sheets ends up here but a) it might not be until later in the season and b) it is far from a sure thing.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Friday Round-Up: Random Quasi-Coherent Thoughts

Cohon reportedly in mix for next chair of MLSE

It's that time again.

What time is that?

That time where I don't have enough material for a post that is even remotely coherent by my low standards so I just post random thoughts as they pop into my head. Its an offseason staple around here.

- RIder news continues to trickle in as the Rider Prophet Endorsed Eltoro Freeman's signing was made official. Also added was Philip Steward. Given our track record of LB recruits lately I'm a bit skeptical but I do like that unlike in the past where we seemed to sign a lot of old LBs with long NFL stints, at least now we are picking up younger guys... you know guys with potential. 

- We also released Marvin Burdette (just another failed LB recruit) and Shomari Williams... whose failures could take up an entire post. I'll say this though, I thought he had a decent season on special teams last year. not spectacular but not bad. Problem is when you are  make $120k "not bad" on teams doesn't quite cut it.

- 2010 will go down as an abysmal drafting year for us. We got Shomari, Jordan Sisco (don't get me started on that pick), Pat Neufeld (who I hated when tried to turn him into a starter) and Bruno LaPointe (who never even attended a training camp).

- In Winnipeg, there has now been a lawsuit filed over all the deficiencies in Investors Group Field. Issues like poor drainage, poor insulation and weak concrete are all alleged. I still say that a giant red flag should have been back when a wall blew over during construction and they said they did not expect it to delay timelines.

- Between the shoddy workmanship in Winnipeg and the unending delays in Hamilton, the bar has been set insanely low for our new stadium to be considered a success.

- I read a rumour that Mark Cohon might be in the mix as a potential new head of MLSE. If he ends up in that role and MLSE doesn't buy the Argos he could go from one of the most beloved men in football to one of the most reviled.

- Speaking of the Argos, their status as the destination of choice for out of work NFL RBs continued this week when they signed Bernard Scott. With Steve Slaton already in camp could the likes of Darren McFadden and Peyton Hillis be far behind?

CFL Ins and Outs
In: LB Philip Steward (free agent signing)
Out: LB Shomari Williams, LB Marvin Burdette (released)

In: QB Bo Levi Mitchell, LB Juwan Simpson (contract extension)

In: DL Marcus Dixon, DL Zach Minter (free agent signing)
Out: RB Stefan Logan, DL Eric Taylor, DL Chris Olson, RB Bradley Randle (released)

Out: LB Eric Samuels (released)

In: WR Ezra Millington, DB Shea Pierre (free agent signing)

In: K John Mark, RB Akeem Shavers, DB David Toussaint (free agent signing)
Out: DE Devan Walker (released)


In: DL Sam Scott, DL Scott Adewale, DL Dan Giordano, LB Dan Molls (free agent signing)

In: RB Bernard Scott (free agent signing)

In: DB Billy Parker (contract extension)