Monday, June 29, 2015

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Armageddon

Riders 26 - Bombers 31

It took me a long time to write this. I had to get over strong emotions such as sadness, anger and disappointment. Otherwise this would have mostly consisted of a mixture of swear words and incoherent sobbing. I also had to get over a hangover that resulted from my dedicated attempts to suppress the aforementioned emotions last night. Alas, despite my pounding head, I awoke to a world where the Riders lost, Durant's season was over and scientists for some reason did not develop a miracle cure for a ruptured achilles overnight.

As a Rider fan I've grown sadly accustomed to heart wrenching pain. But Durant injuring his Achilles before even halftime of his first game back from elbow injury ranks up there among the worst. As bad as I feel for the team, I feel 10 times worse for him. No one works harder and cares more about leading this team to another championship. For that all to be taken away so quickly sucks. I pray he has a full recovery in time for 2016.

As if that wasn't bad enough we also lost 3 very important Canadians to long term injury. Emry, MacDougall and Demski. Look, our Cdn depth was sketchy coming into the season but now we are in full on crisis mode... with 17 games left in the season. For god sake pump whoever is left full of steroids (at leas until the League resumes testing). I expect phones of guys such as Woldu, Alex Anthony and even Tino Suneri may have rung last night. I have a  feeling this will get worse before it gets better.

Now that I've addressed my sadness, let's move on to the failure and disappointment. The worst thing about Saturday's game was that in spite of being smoten with a crazy amount of injuries, that was a very winnable game... if we were capable of tackling. To call out tackling style embarrassingly awful would a compliment to the crap I saw on display. Not wrapping up, going for kill shots, poor angles. Mistakes that wouldn't cut it in peewee ball. We make even half of those missed tackles and we win the game, plain and simple.

Our defense over all was terrible. Our front 4 were as advertised: talented, solid, imposing, disruptive. The remaining 8 players were whatever the opposite of all those adjectives is. As I mentioned, we had no ability to tackle in the run game. Pass coverage was one of 2 outcomes every down: interference or defender in a trail position in coverage. It was pathetic. Obviously we haven't figured out how to survive in the new rules CFL and that is scary. Brackenridge can't fix all our defensive shortcomings.

Offensively, I honestly think we will be okay. Certainly not as good as if we had Durant leading the attack but the O-line held their own, run game looked good, receivers were making plays, Glenn had a couple ill advised passes but I think he will settle in more and more. Bottom line is we scored enough points to win. But that defense needs a lot of work... and will now have to do so without 2 key Canadian pieces. Honestly not sure how we re-jig the ration to manage Emry's absence. Regimbald/Kankongolo at LB? 2 Cdn DL? Webster a starting DB? None of those are good options and its not like you can just invent Canadian depth at this point.

Based on how things of started I'm going to have to increase my whiskey budget for this season. Buckle up... this is going to be a bumpy ride.

Other random thoughts:
- Kevin Glenn curses every starting QB he comes in contact with. He has never... ever stayed as the back-up anywhere he goes. Hiding behind his unassuming nice-guy look is a clearly someone adept in the voodoo arts.

- Give Winnipeg credit. Willy played a very good game. Their O-line and Cotton were deadly in the run game (albeit aided by our tackling deficiencies)

- Damn you Milo! You had 2 chances at that FG and missed both. Had he actually made that FG we would have been driving for a game winning FG late in the game instead of a TD. Big difference. Be better Milo!

- Telvion Clark had a rough, rough day. He was a terrible tackle (though he fit in well with the rest in that regard) and looked lost in pass coverage. Tackling and pass coverage and kinda important skills for an LB

- Ryan Smith has upped his game. He keeps this up we might even have to start using his actual name instead of "the other Dressler"

- There has to be some loophole that would have allowed Jerrell Freeman to put on the pads and play.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Riders vs. Bombers: Home Opener

Its football, on a Saturday night, the Riders are opening the season, at home, against the arch rival Bombers... simply put if you have a voice on Sunday morning there is something wrong with your circuitry. I have been pumped for this game for a long, long time. The preseason game  gave us a small taste but nothing compares to Rider game day when its for real.

Winnipeg started last season on fire but ended with barely a whimper. Their O-line was a train wreck (thanks in large part to Joe Mack's inability to manager talent... its not like that was his job or anything) and they also had embarrassingly bad defense... particularly run defense. They were easier to beat on the ground than a CFL drug screening program. But they've vastly improved their OL with additions of Picard, Stanley Bryant and draft pick Suhk Chung. It's ironic that Suhk is a key to improving the team given that in previous years they had more suck than they knew what to do with. They've also jettisoned Gary Etcheverry for the more reliable and fundamentally not insane Richie Hall. So admittedly they are a vastly improved team. But are they ready to content with the big boys yet? I don't think so. I think they've improved to the point where they can go toe to toe with most teams but they aren't quite there yet.

Offensively we need to attack Sam Hurl and that linebacking core. You can bet Richie will be dead set on proving you can't run all over the Bombers so I don't expect the run game to be a huge part of what we do but I would run at him early and often. I would also use RBs out of the backfield and WRs coming across in motion to try and get favourable match-ups on Hurl. Chris Randle (a converted DB playing LB now) is a top cover guy so he's a guy I'd look to run it at so we aren't playing to his strength. We have no Dressler but I'm sure if Ryan Smith just wore a #7 jersey most people wouldn't notice. A big key will be if our revamped OL can stand up to a pretty strong Winnipeg DL. Stating the obvious here but if Durant has time he will eat that defense alive. I expect we will need to use some screens and quick hitters to ease the pressure off of him. Medium passes and crossers to attack the middle of the field would be good to. Aside from Randle I'm not sold on Winnipeg's other LBs and they will be missing Maurice Leggett (one of the top safeties in the league) so that should help open up the middle too.

Defensively, I expect Willy to come out guns blazing and go on the attack early. Our secondary had better have their heads in the game from the first snap. It's no secret that our D-line is an intimidating force and that most teams would prefer to not them them pin their ears back and attack their QB (they do a good enough job of that regardless). That means Paris Cotton will see the ball lots. This is where the value of having a true middle linebacker should pay off. Between our DL, Emry and Clark, I think we should be able to hold the run in check and force Willy to throw. Willy is a good QB and improving steadily but with the pressure our front 4 can bring I don't think he can succeed in a hostile environment if he is forced to throw a lot. With Maze and Brown at HB we have as solid a combo as there is in the CFL. Not having Brack will hurt but we don't need MacDougall to be a superstar, just be solid and keep the plays in front of him. Hell if Scott Gordon can make a career as a safety surely MacDougall can be useful for one game. My bet is Hall and Chick force Willy into at least 2 turnovers.

Here's a fun fact Chamblin is 3-0 is season openers and has won those games by a combined score of 113-44!!! We have dominated opening day under him. I expect this game to be a very close game, we may even be behind at half time. But I think we have the edge at QB, D-line and LB and in the end, the Riders will prevail.

Riders by a Taj Smith TD.

See you in the stands. Let rock the stadium so much that we prematurely start the demolition process... given the current state of Winnipeg's "new" stadium, any visiting fans won't even notice the difference.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Official Predictions 2015

Twas just about the kickoff and Prophet did curse
“I almost forgot to do my predictions in verse!”
The fans will be wondering “what is the deal?
How we gonna do this year? What do you feel?”
I really need an assistant to whom I can delegate
And whom, when the predictions suck, I can then defenestrate
But alas the last of the budget was spent on rye
So let me chug that bottle back and give this a try
So here are my predictions with rhyme but no reason
On what should be an exciting CFL season

We ditched both coordinators gone Cortez and Hall
We brought in Chapdelaine who might actually pass the ball
Both were good at what they do but no longer a fit
Cortez in particular many won’t miss a bit
He ran the same run play even when we were losin’
He thought Tino was useless… can’t disagree with that conclusion
Gone Heenan, Gone Peters, Gone Woldu and Hughes
Gone Chad Kilgore… see it’s not all bad news
We’ve shored up our LBs and brought in Glenn to allay fear
We’ve got actual receivers not the bums who started last year

Our defense will by imposing led by the front 4
To the top of sack count will this unit soar
We will give up lots of yards and that will make some pout
But we’ll get a ton of turnovers to balance things out
Hall will get the nod for top defender in the West
Watch for Telvion Clark, at LB he may be the best

Our offense will now be an aerial show
Durant will top 5000 yards, but 6000?… no
We will spread the ball around to everyone
Except for Jamel, who’s impact will be slightly above none
He won’t top 350, he’ll score just one time
He’ll generally be found along the sideline 
Dressler will lead in yardage and Getzlaf in TDs
If feel dirty just writing that, like I have VDs
The top back will be Allen but he won’t crack 1000 yards
But him being active in the pass game is definitely in the cards
Messam will see touches but will be used less each week
He’ll be a role player, at certain times havoc he will wreak

We will start with bang as we usually do
Hot out of the gates at 6 and 2
It will seem its inevitable for a Grey Cup birth
But a midseason losing streak will bring us back to earth
Some Canadians will get injured, it’ll all go to hell
Our lack of depth will be easy to tell
The O-line will struggle and so will special teams
“Fire everyone!” the fans they will scream,
“We need to play Glenn, that Durant is a bum!”
“We should have kept Richie! Man Taman is dumb!”
But Chamblin won’t waiver, he’ll stick to his plan
The wins will come after a long losing span.

An 10-8 record is what I foresee
Thanks to a tie breaker, 2nd place, Yippee!
The Esks will come to town and we will have one goal
Eliminate them and their coach… whose a total a-hole
The West-Semi will come down to a Milo try
The prospect of that will make most people cry
But fear not good people, there is no need for woe
For we will shout “Another kick for Milo!”
Then it’s off to Calgary for a chance at the Cup
But unfortunately that’s not where we’ll wind up
Will fall short in the final, a sad season ender
I’ll cope with my pain by going on a bender

So there you have it, that’s what I envision
But fear not for I don’t have the greatest precisions
My prediction accuracy is “a little bit”
So I cover that up with rhyming and wit
So bring on kickoff, with football don’t skimp
So I can see Chick swallow up Willy and make him go limp

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Are You Smarter Than A Toddler 2015

For the 4th straight year he’s back to remind that in many ways you remain inferior to a small child. 

That’s right it’s time for everyone’s favourite child related gambling contest Are You Smarter Than A Toddler (he’s getting too big to call a toddler but I was too lazy to bother coming up with a new name). Your chance to go head to head with a 3 year old in CFL pick em’. There will be prizes for the winner and much public shaming of those who lose.

Each week Prophet Jr. will predict the winning teams of all 4 CFL match-ups. Correctly predict more winners and you could win big prizes.

Rules are as followed:
- Contest is free to enter. Simply send an email to RiderProphet at gmail
- Each week I will post Prophet Jr.’s picks
- Each week you submit your picks by email
- You get 1 point for each correct pick
- At the end of the regular season, whoever has the most points overall will win the $50 grand prize.
- Also, every person who has more points than Prophet Jr. will be entered into a draw for an additional $30.

Prize money will be funded by selling off Prophet Jr’s toys so he had better win if he wants to keep his favourite stuffed animal.

For the chronic gambler among you (of which I know there are many) we are also bringing back the Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is Bonus

- $5 to enter.
- The person with the most points at the end of the regular season wins the pot
- If interested contact me by email to make payment arrangements (I can accept a wide variety of payment forms… but be aware that farm animals and sexual favours, or some combination thereof remain expressly not accepted)

Season kicks off on Thursday so be sure to get yourself entered and your week 1 picks in ASAP.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Preseason Finale

Riders 29 - Stamps 37

It seemed ironic to me that after months of literally begging for rain, we finally got it and a whole lot more on the one day where we all didn't want it. To protest Mother Nature's lack of understanding I ran my car for 7 unnecessary hours yesterday while punching a squirrel (I'm kidding, don't phone animal rights on me). Once we got past the hail storm it was actually a pretty decent night for football. It was great to be back in Mosaic. Back amongst the usual cast of characters in the stands. Back cheering my lungs out. Back getting increasingly gouged for booze. As a younger lad I used to smuggle in booze to get drunk. At the rate prices are increasing I may start smuggling in booze just so I can casually sip on a drink or two without taking out a second mortgage.

I'll start with my thoughts on the game and then get into my thoughts on the easiest part of any coaches job... the cuts.

Quarterbacking was good. Durant sailed a couple passes and was late throwing both the long pass to Bagg and the TD to Getzlaf. Both receivers made the catch but it was a lot closer than it should have been. Overall though Durant looked ready to go come next week. Glenn looked very sharp. I really noticed a lot of different motions and misdirections in our O. I like that a lot. There were often receivers wide open on leakouts (which will help once teams dial up the blitzing in the regular season). We even added a pitch inside. I love all those new wrinkles and I guarantee that's only the tip of the iceberg.

We are likely going to use both Messam and Allen at RB but the sense I get is Allen will end up getting the bulk of the carries. That is based purely on gut feel. The Space Cowboy even managed to play himself off the cut list. Dressler and Bagg looked in midseason form. As did Jamel Richardson and by that I mean he looked utterly useless. Hardin, Roosevelt and Williams all made nice catches. Not to get on the "let's completely over-hype Demski like he walks on water" train but this kid is gonna be good. We will get a taste of his talent in year one but just like Fantuz's coming out party wasn't until year 2, Demski's year 2 is gonna be where his stock sky-rockets.

Defensively, Alex Hall was a monster. Just causing chaos all night. I can't wait until both him and Chick are terrorising QBs simultaneously. Oh and if you want to double them, George will be coming straight down main street. D-line will once again be a big strength, I love that we actually seem to have a couple useful linebackers instead of erroneously putting all our eggs in the basket of a solitary linebacker who couldn't tell the difference between the B gap and the store the Gap. Both Clark and Knox look solid and I see both of them seeing the field this year.

Chris Milo locked up the starting kicking job by hitting 2 big kicks in the first half. I no longer assume the worst when he lines up. Fear not people Odd Year Milo is back and he is awesome. Early certainly left some room for doubt with his kicking. He wasn't bad but I expected him to be far and away the best kickoff/punt guy and he was not.

Overall a good game. We were winning until the 4th when a parade of the future unemployed took the field and lost the game.

Saturday the cuts came down and for the most part they were obvious: Doughty and Steward (outplayed by Knox and Clark), Carter (good lord was he bad), Singletary (tough D-line to crack), O'Neil (out-kicked by Milo, out-punted by Early plus we couldn't afford the maintenance costs of his beard) the list goes on and on. It really was the easiest part of any coaches job.

However, I damn near blew a gasket when I read that we pretty much cut every young receiver on the roster including the most outrageous of all Alex Pierzchalski (or Alex Perogy as we had dubbed him to simplify our lives). Gone Hardin, Roosevelt, Perogy and Carroll. Now I don't think any of them were the next superstar receiver but they all showed me something. Fact is our receivers are old and outside of Demski and Williams we have no up and comers. I think keeping useless Richardson and his bum knees over Roosevelt and/or Hardin (who by the way does need to develop further) is a mistake. But the decision to let Perogy go (after already cutting Anthony and Carroll) is mind boggling. Fact we start 2 Canadian receivers. Fact, 1 was hurt most of last year. Fact, the other has a history of major knee injuries. We need more depth than just Demski if we hope to survive a whole season. Our only other depth WR is Scott McHenry who is on the 6 game. I just don't get the logic. Apparently we offered Perogy a PR spot but he declined and is now likely to sign in Ottawa (I guess they can think of a use for a young, developing 6'5 Canadian). I guess keeping 2 long-snappers ranks ahead of build depth behind Canadian starters on our priority list.

I would put our starters up there with the top teams in the league but I have serious concerns about our Canadian depth. Unless our plan is to take advantage of the current lack of drug testing and pump our Canadians full of steroids to create superhumans impervious to pain, I'm just not sure about our current direction.

One last note. Sad to see Woldu go. He's a stand-up guy and a strong special teams player but I get the decision to try someone younger and slightly cheaper in his place.

But enough talk about the preseason.... we are just 5 days away from the 2015 season kicking off for real. Saturday can't come soon enough!