You may not know this but the CFL preseason opens tonight as Ottawa faces Hamilton. Tomorrow night Winnipeg faces Toronto. You probably didn't know because TSN will not be televising them. Evidently they just can't find room on one of there 5 feeds. Look I get that TSN has a ton of commitments with the Women's World Cup and that preseason football is largely garbage but I don't care. I'm football starved and I'll take anything I can get at this point. Also, you can't tell me Germany pummeling Ivory Coast 10 to nothing is any more of a quality sporting event than CFL preseason. I would even take settle for games with no announcers (like during the CBC strike). Silence is generally preferable to most of what Rod Black says anyway.
Fortunately the wait is almost over as the Riders will open the preseason on Saturday in one of only 3 televised preseason games. I can't wait to actually get to physically see the team for the first time this year. You can only get so much out of reading other people's reports.
As we wait with eager anticipation for Saturday, here are my thoughts on how training camp has gone so far:
- I'll preface this first statement by saying I've knocked on every piece of wood in my house and apologize in advance if my typing this inadvertently jinxes us but... the biggest news of training camp so is that other than a few minor strains and pulls we have stayed healthy. So far we have seen Hamilton lose Gaydosh and Watt for the year and now CJ Gable for a month. Edmonton has Jon White in a walking boot. Ricky Ray still isn't throwing. BC even had a failed attempt at putting Paul McCallum on the injured list with a severe case of "holy crap you are old" . I'll knock on wood again but being relatively healthy at this point is huge news.
- There has been nothing so far to sway my opinion that Jamel Richardson will not be a contributor this year. The glimmer of hope grows weaker with each passing day.
- The starting RB job appears to be Jerome Messam's to lose. I fully expect whoever the back-up is will see significant playing time but Messam has come to camp lighter and faster than last year and the coaching staff is giving him every opportunity to secure the #1 spot.
- So far Dan Clark seems to have a slight edge over Corey Watman in the battle for centre. Though its tough to get a real assessment on linemen until real game action.
- Ryan Smith, Namaan Roosevelt and Alex Pierzchalski are all routinely getting strong reviews among the receivers. Korey Williams is fighting hard for a starting job too. Sound like there may be some tough decisions at receiver coming. That is a huge improvement over last year where a pulse and ten fingers pretty much got you a starting role.
- Veterans like Maze and Brackenridge have been held out a bit to rest minor injuries which has given the new guys a lot of playing time. Mario Norman has reportedly had a good camp. So has Matt Webster. He is a 5th round draft pick who we cut in training camp last season and only brought back because every Canadian special teamer we had was hurt (had he not answered him phone I may have ended up playing teams). But he has steadily improved ever since and it would be something if he eventually developed into a reliable contributor.
- I keep hearing that we have some strong contenders at LB this year. I want desperately to believe it but after being burned in the Kilgore hype last year, I'm holding off on my excitement for now.
- Based on his size, there was a lot of hype surrounding DB Antareis Bryan but he has been hurt and may fall victim to the "you can't make the club in the tub" adage.
- Chris Milo will be our kicker again. If that angers or scares anyone, let me reassure by stating that Milo is an awesome kicker in odd numbered years. Check out this field goal percentage by year (note the pattern):
2011 - 84.6%
2012 - 64.7%
2013 - 88.5%
2014 - 71.4%
This being an odd numbered year, you have no reason to worry about Milo... just as long as we cut him before the calendar rolls over.
- Strong possibility that the punter/kickoff duties will go to import punter Ray Early. His booming punts have been the most popular topic of conversation so far (only in Saskatchewan)
- The main thing to remember about camp is that no coach is ever going to say "Our players all look like crap and we are pretty much screwed" even if its the truth. So even though Chamblin is speaking very highly of camp so far be sure to take it with a grain of salt.