Monday, August 31, 2015

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Downward Spiral

Riders 13 - Redblacks 35

I find it amazing that I expected us to lose this game and still somehow came away disappointed. Sadly "disappointing" is about the only thing the 2015 Riders appear to do consistently. The game started with utter embarrassment, featured a brief reprieve in the middle where we resemble a professional football team and then quickly disintegrated back into embarrassment on pretty much every front possible. We pretty much only missed "legal trouble featuring the word inappropriate" for a blackout in Embarrassment Bingo.

Let me address the topic on everyone's mind: coaching. I have been a staunch Chamblin defender all season. He's certainly had his issues this season but I still thought he was a good coach. But the fact is that the lack of discipline, the lack of preparedness, the lack of defense and boneheaded coaching decisions are starting to get too numerous for even this ardent Chamblin fan to ignore. Sunday's game alone had a laundry list of coaching ineptness including:

- We clearly weren't well prepared for the game because we came out and laid an egg in the first quarter while Ottawa had their way with us.

- We are intentionally kicking rouges. Meanwhile one of the best directional punters in league history is sitting idly on the sidelines wondering when his Old Age Security kicks in and if the coaches have ever heard of something called field position.

- We ran Jerome Messam 3 time... 3!!!! Early in the season when our offense was humming two key parts were the yards chewed up by Messam and Allen (early on they were both on pace for 1000). Now one is benched and one might as well be because he's never given the ball

- Then there is the QB debaucle. First of all, the only time Tino Sunseri should be allowed on the field is to take a note to refs saying "we forfeit" because actually letting him play is essentially the same as waving the white flag. Seems ridiculous to do so after the young promising QB makes 1 mistake in a 4 point game. Apparently Smith lipped of the Chamblin. So what?!?! As a coach Corey has 2 primary objectives: #1 win, #2 develop the players on the team. Benching Smith accomplishes neither of those and clearly shows that Chamblin's ego trumps everything (including logic). Sit him out one series to settle him down?... fine, no issues. Bench him completely... especially in favour of the only player in the league who could possibly make Brian Brohm look good by comparison? There is no way to justify that.

- If Chamblin treated the defense with the same "zero tolerance for error" policy as he does offensive players like Allen and Smith then there would not be a solitary player left on the field to play defense.

Chamblin's biggest flaw is his ego and stubbornness and it has been on display far too often this season for all the wrong reasons. It may ultimately be his downfall. I realize that things like lack of Canadian depth; lack of quality players to fill in for our injuries; and refs calling phantom head shot penalties on his linemen are out of his control but preparedness, discipline, and in game decision making are all well within his control and all are trending severely downward as weeks pass by. I just don' get the sense he has any clue how to fix this team... especially when his standard response is "I can't throw or catch so I will just keeping doing what I'm doing". Good coaches adapt to their circumstances... in terms of adaptability right now Chamblin looks like those people offering those gross hard candies to small kids. "Kids love candy!"

We are going to win Labour Day... that much I can tell you. But what I can't say is whether Chamblin will be our coach or whether than will be our only win in this pathetic season.

PS - I'd like to congratulate myself on getting through that with next to no cursing.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Riders vs. Redblacks: Token Pessimist

Sunday the Riders travel to the nation’s capital in search of their first victory. In a surprising turn of events they will face a team that hasn’t beat them yet…to be fair Ottawa's lack of beating us is more a product of not playing us yet as opposed to not being able to. I’ll be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I’ve seen this level of optimism around a winless team before. Despite an 0-8 record, the pick-em pools I’m in would lead you to believe Ottawa is the underdog and there is still talk of playoffs. Perhaps those who cheer for the green have taken to smoking it or maybe they’ve all built up a subconscious mental block to help them cope with the mess that this season has been. I don’t know I’m not a doctor… I’ve just pretended to be one for the purposes of acquiring prescription drugs and female companionship.

In a refrain you are all probably sick of by now, I think this is a game the Riders could win… but don’t actually think they will. I still find it weird that I am in the minority when it comes to thinking the winless team is in tough this week. I mean I’m used to people disagreeing with me it just usually happens when I take more radical stances than this.

I think a lot of people are discounting Ottawa based on the last two games where they got utterly embarrassed by Calgary and blew it against the Argos because they took penalties at a rate that would make the Riders look like angels. Prior to that they were a 4 and 2 team… keep in mind that only one of those wins came against a team  with a winning record. They certainly aren’t a power house yet but they can’t be overlooked or discounted. 

Offensively I can sum up our ideal game plan in 2 words: Run Messam!!! We finally gave him a bit of a workload last week but it wasn’t even close to enough. What are we saving him for? Playoffs? Hahahaha. Seriously, dude is averaging 7.3 yards per carry! Run him as much as you can. I feel the need to point out that a tendency for not giving the RB enough carries was one of the leading factors in Chapdelaine’s firing in BC. Ottawa has a very underrated D. They are allowing the 3rd most points in the league but they are #2 against the pass and are allowing a league low completion % of 57%. They are also allowing just 86 rush yards per game. Still let’s not overthink this. Give them a heavy dose of Messam along with some short inside passes and Smith using his legs. 5 out 8 games we have failed to register a first quarter point… this might be the time to start taking more chances early… what’s the worst that could happen? Not like we have much to lose at this point.

Defensively, short of miraculously discovering how to defend the pass after 8 games of being dumfounded by it, I’m not over optimistic about our chances. If you prefer most optimistic outlooks, I could point out that Ottawa is the lowest scoring team in the league, they have a non-existent run game (68 yards per game and an embarrassing 3.7 yards per attempt) and have the second most turnovers (on a Burris led team, I’m sure that shocks you). They have finally realized what I have been saying for a long time: Chevon Walker can’t be an every down back. Jeremiah Johnson will carry the load. He’s a decent back but Ottawa’s run game doesn’t overly concern me (unless the game is close in the 4th quarter then they are likely to run on us at will). Earnest Jackson is the scoring threat and Sinopoli is establishing himself as their possession receiver. That’s not to mention the speedy Chris Williams as well as Mo Price… in Price’s case I don’t mention him because he hasn’t actually done anything this season worth mentioning. At the salary they are paying him I’ll be surprised if they keep him past Labour Day. Given his ability to keep passing yards to a minimum maybe we should get him to play DB… though he’d have to play CB because he won’t go over the middle (at least according to recent twitter beefs).

D-line needs to step up and be disruptive, if they can get to Burris early, we all known his propensity for collapsing epically (and often comically). This new found ability to generate turnovers would be great to continue (though I have the feeling this might just mean we used up our turnover quota for the next month). I would be willing to risk some long passes early to dial up the pressure big time on Burris. If we allow him to get comfortable against our sad sack pass coverage we will make him look like a great QB (oh the horror!).

I expect another very competitive game, though a low scoring one. We are likely to have the lead at some point around halftime. But I’m one of the few that has not bought into the wave of optimism sweeping the province. Until we learn to defend the pass any other step forward we make is in other phases is moot. Until I see any evidence of that…

Redblacks by a 4th quarter Earnest Jackson TD.

In picking the Riders to lose this week I kinda feel like Principal Skinner when he did this...
Haha prove me wrong Riders. Prove me wrong.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Are You Smarter Than A Toddler - Week 10 Picks

Here are the Prophet family picks for week 10

Rider Prophet - Hamilton, Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa
Prophet Jr - Hamilton, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Saskatchewan
Mrs. Prophet - Hamilton, Toronto, Calgary, Ottawa
Step-Prophet - Hamilton, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatchewan
Momma Prophet - Hamilton, Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatchewan

Monday, August 24, 2015

Monday Morning Sentimonies: So Close... But So Far

Riders 31 - Stampeders 34

The 2015 Riders are among the more puzzling teams I've ever watched. There are moments when you watch them and figure there is no way they can be winless. They ran well. They forced turnovers. They scored 3 offensive TDs and a 4th on special teams. Certainly worse teams have managed to win games. Then there are other moments when it all becomes pretty obvious why this team has failed to win a game. One such moment might be allowing a TD on a hail mary at the end of the first half. I'm not sure I've ever been more embarrassed with my pants on then when we allowed that TD. But such is life for the Riders. It always seems they manage to take 2 steps forward, only to turn around and stumble back 3 steps. I've used this line before but we keep finding ways to lose.

Offensively I thought Brett Smith further cemented his status as someone who belongs under centre. I like his poise. I like his guts. I like how his eyes are always down field and how he finds ways to make plays. But he also cemented his status as a rookie QB. He made mistakes, He locked on to receivers at times. He had a rather lacklustre passing attack (minus his passing ability into the endzone) failing to pass for 200 yards... it would have been closer to 100 had Calgary not completely forgotten about Demski on that one play. I think Smith is still showing a very positive progression... but he's still got a lot of room to grow. I did like how we rediscovered our ground game.

Defense just keeps making positive steps forward. Like how we managed to explode for 3 turnovers after amassing just 2 all season. I noticed that they were hitting with aggression (like they were finally angry). Hell they even managed to hold the Stamps to FGs on both offensive turnovers in our own end. Sadly, no matter how much they show promise and progress, this defense always ends up regressing to an utterly useless group that couldn't stop my 8 year old touch football team, let alone a professional level offense. In addition to the aforementioned embarrassing hail mary, there was the complete inability to stop the run, even when everyone knew they were running well in advance (a depleted LB group likely factored in to that but excuses don't win football games); the inability to get off the field on second down; and the inability to tackle on the first, second or third attempt. There are signs this could be a good defense but they always end up blowing it in the end.

I do feel the need to comment on the now infamous "Clothesline from Hell". First of all, I'm fine with the call to go for the ridiculously long FG. It was the end of the half, the wind was at out back and Early has that kind of leg. Even with the clothesline, that play is nothing more than a forgotten footnote if our defense was not accessible to the high percentage play known as the hail mary. Second, as a fan who has not had much to cheer for, that was freaking awesome!!! Third, upon seeing the replay I can see why he was ejected. Though to be fair, if Tim Brown wasn't a midget that would have been a nothing play. Fourth, I nominate Randy Richards to play free safety next week... ain't nobody coming across the middle then.

As I said in the opening this is a weird team. We aren't getting embarrassed, we are hanging tough with some of the best teams in the league with our 3rd string QB, we are playing good ball at times and yet the loses keep piling up as quick as divorce notices following the Ashley Madison leak.

Other random thoughts:
- I would have asked Eddie Davis and Geno to suit up in the second half. Both guys still look in great shape. Very cool to see them inducted here in Saskatchewan.

- It is now 5 our of 8 games where we have failed to register a first quarter point.

- There were some pretty brutal calls by the refs in our favour. Like the penalty for a D-lineman being throwing into our QB by an O-lineman. Or the guy who was penalized for his pinky grazing our player as he went out of bounds.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Riders vs. Stampeders: Saturday Night Showdown

The agony that is the bye week (at least for us fans) is over and the Riders return to the field Saturday night against the hated Calgary Stampeders. In a surprising turn of events, the game is sold out. I realize that the fact that its Hall of Fame weekend likely contributed but still for an 0-7 team to sellout out is very impressive. It either means we have a province full of diehard fans or a province full of masochists

I can offer you two ways to view our chances of victory in Saturday’s clash:

1)    We are rested off the bye and starting to get healthy (with Green, MacDougal and Dressler all expected to play); Brett Smith looked like a playmaker last week and probably would have led us to victory had we not been as prone to illegal occurrences as Subway Jared; it will be a raucous sold out crowd; Calgary has yet to win on the road; with BC and Winnipeg struggling, this could be the jump start to a win streak that improbably returns us to the playoff discussion.

2)    We are winless, can’t defend the pass and are playing a top team in the West division

Feel free to choose whichever viewpoint speaks to you as both are valid. As for me, I am firmly a believer in viewpoint #2. I know that aside from the Edmonton game we have been playing some good football and with a few plays difference could have multiple wins this season. I know Brett Smith looked really good last game. I know Calgary has been playing some mediocre football (well aside from last week when they embarrassed Ottawa worse than the people whose names were leaked from Ashley Madison). I know all this and don’t care. While I believe there will be wins in our near future, I do not believe this is one of those times. I think we will be very competitive and I expect a hard fought game… I just expect the end result to be an 0-8 record. (How’s that for an uplifting read on a Friday?)

Offensively, it all hinges on whether Brett Smith can continue progressing as a starting QB. History is littered with QBs who had one great start but failed to turn that into a successful career. This list includes names like Dinwiddie, Elliot, Butler, Porter. I do think Smith will continue to shine but it’s far from a sure thing. Feel like a broken record here but we need to establish a strong run game with Messam/Space Cowboy to ease the pressure on him. It will be tough sledding though as Calgary has the #2 run D. We also need to give him the freedom to run when needed to move the chains. Adcock is out and when facing Charleston Hughes (who I think is the best pass rusher in the CFL) that scares me. Hopefully we give some TE/RB blocking help to whatever side Hughes lines up on. Getzlaf the Stamp Killer is also out.

We need to focus on attack the short/medium inside routes with our slots as that tends to be the soft spot in the Calgary D. Unless we are taking a deep shot I would shy away from the wide-side passes as the Stamps have playmakers to make us pay for those. We also need to get things going early in the game to keep the crowd alive. In 4 of our 7 games we have failed to score a 1st quarter point and have a TOTAL of 13 first quarter points this season. That needs to change. Calgary has given up just 1 rushing TD this season… if we want to win, that also needs to change.

Defensively I encourage you to pray to whatever higher power you subscribe to and rub whatever lucky charm you have (provided its legal to do so) because with opponents completing a league high 74% of passes against us and a league high 17 passing TDs allowed, our pass defense are going to need all the help it can get. It all starts up front. Our front 4 has come back to life of late and they need to take advantage of a favourable match-up against the Stamps MASH unit.  Credit Calgary’s depth, they lost an all-star centre and tackle in the offseason, lost a starting guard and 2 starting tackles… and numerous other injuries (I honestly lost count) but are still holding up alright all things considered. Though the combination of the O-line issues and a lack of Cornish has their ground game floundering. They are averaging an uncharacteristic 86 yards per game and a lowly 4.6 yards per attempts (2nd worst in the league).

Sounds like Brackenridge will be moved up to LB with LeGree taking over safety. This likely comes at the expense of Macho which means the coaches are finally addressing his substandard play which has been on display all season (I assume Macho moves back to HB and bumps Suber out but am just guessing at this point). With Cornish out, the key cog in that offensive wheel is Marquay McDaniel. Rogers and Fuller are dangerous big play guys but McDaniel is the workhorse and chain mover (he is also apparently not a big Mo Price fan... then again, who is?). Doughty looks to be out so it will likely be up to Knox or Unamba to patrol the middle and slow the ground game. I think we are definitely up that task. The bigger concern is finding a way for our porous pass D to slow the likes of Rogers, Fuller, McDaniel and West. We need a strong pass rush to harass Mitchell. Calgary’s O has actually been rather mediocre this season (likely a product of being on their 8th string O-line) but they imparted their will on an Ottawa defense that has been playing much better than ours.

As I said, I expect a strong, hard-fought game from the Riders. I expect a close game. But I expect a loss. I try not to over think things and Bo Levi Mitchell throwing to Fuller/Rogers/McDaniel against our non-existent pass D is a good enough reason for me to expect a loss.

Stamps by a late 4th quarter TD.

Despite my gloomy outlook, I’m actually excited for the game. I love evening games, especially against the Stamps. Plus we get to honour Geno and Eddie Davis as they get deservingly called to the Hall of Fame. I’ll be fired up and I hope everyone else is to including the team. I want to see some fire… I want to see some emotion… I want to see someone other than Chris Best lead this team out of the tunnel. Brackenridge should fly out of that tunnel and go start jawing the Stamps. Let’s ramp up the nastiness level in places other than the washrooms.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Are You Smarter Than A Toddler Week 9 Picks

 Here are the Prophet family picks for week 9:

Rider Prophet - BC, Hamilton, Calgary, Toronto
Prophet Jr. - BC, Hamilton, Saskatchewan, Toronto
Mrs. Prophet - BC, Hamilton, Saskatchewan, Ottawa
Step-Prophet -  Montreal, Hamilton, Calgary, Toronto
Momma Prophet - Montreal, Hamilton, Saskatchewan, Ottawa

Monday, August 17, 2015

Monday Morning Sentmionies: Fixing The Riders

I admire the optimism that some of you still hold for this season. Not sure if it’s related to undying Rider passion or drugs but good on you. As for me, I’m firmly in next season country. An objective look at our roster is needed. Anything that fits into the plans for 2016 is safe. Anything where there are question marks should be in consideration for trading or cutting. I’m not abdicating trading away anything and everything regardless of the return or cutting the entire roster and filling it with replacements (unless Keanu Reeves and that crazy cop linebacker guy are available) but we need to at least be entertaining any option that can make us better next season.

Though I’m sure the Riders aren’t likely to adhere to my plan (nor are they likely to pay me a consulting fee for doing their work for them), here are 6 things I feel we need to be doing to prepare for 2016:

Manage The QB Situation
Cut Sunseri immediately. He has no future with this team (or any team for that matter).  Any rep in practice or game situation he is given is a wasted opportunity to develop someone with actual potential. Brett Smith has earned the starting job and the chance to prove if he can be our #2 next season. Keith Price needs to be given some playing time. Start with a few series and build up to playing at least a full quarter. Blake Sims should also get a few reps once he’s up to speed on the playbook. Its sink or swim time for our young QBs. Thus far Smith swam, it’s time to find out if the others can do the same. If they can’t, better that we find out now so we can look for better options.

I would also explore trading Glenn. Now I realize that his injury situation may make this problematic but we need to at least explore options. I like Glenn and he more than delivered on expectations but the fact remains if Smith can be a bona fide #2 then he is not needed.  A healthy Glenn has value. Maybe Winnipeg would be interested?

Play The Young Guys
As with Price and Sims, we need to get our new recruits some playing time and figure out now if they can show enough in a game situation to be invited back next season. Guys like Roosevelt, Mertile and Bryan should see some meaningful playing time (We are off to a good start by dumping Tisdale. Suber should be next as he isn't in the future plans). If he heals up, MacDougall should be given a starting job to see if he can hack it. I would pay particular attention to our O-line. Richards, Vonk and Watman should see time with the starting unit (Not all at once since I’d rather not have to scrape Brett Smith off the turf so soon after finding out that he’s good). This is the perfect time to see if these 3 can really provide the depth we need.

Work The Phones
Outside of a token few untouchables (e.g. Durant, Dressler, Demski, Labatte, Brown), anyone on our roster is fair game for the right price. We had better be talking to every team out there about any potential trade. Obviously what we will be looking for is mid-round draft picks (to replace the ones Taman routinely trades away), young Canadians with potential and young Americans if they address an area of need… such as DE. We are currently lacking a proven rotation D end. Chick is also not getting any younger and although he will probably want to play forever to pay for the army he has fathered… it would be wise to start grooming a replacement.

I’m not expecting any blockbuster deals since we would mostly be trading role players and guys in the final year of their contract. But if we can get a couple mid-round picks or prospect players for some of our 30 years plus guys then you gotta explore those options. A guy like Tearrius George comes to mind. Solid player but he turns 33 this offseason. If you can get value for him now then take it.

Start Working On Extensions Now
One of the few upsides of your top players suffering season ending injuries is that it likely results in more cap space than you intended. I get that our constant injuries make managing the cap difficult but I would bet that given contracts like Durant, Brown and Emery largely won’t count, that we have some cap space to work with. We should use that to start extending current players that we want to retain with big signing bonuses to get a head start on the offseason and ease our cap situation next year.

Scan NFL Cuts
NFL camps are in full swing and over the next month a lot of cuts will be made. There is a chance (though no guarantee) that they may include so former CFL players who could make a big impact if the returned north. Obviously Heenan, Peters and Brett Jones are on the watch list but I would expand that to include names like Marcus Ball (who was close to signing in Winnipeg this year). Possibly the likes of Henoc Muamba, Jalil Carter, John Chiles, etc… as well. If we have cap space we may have an advantage in luring these guys here if they shake loose.

Manage the Kicking Situation

I know there is a distinct chance that McCallum will be kicking long enough to see New Mosaic stadium tore down and replaced with Mosaic 3.0 but we should not count on that. As refreshing as his consistency has been, we should be on the look for our kicker of the future now.   Sean Whyte is out there as an option. In Calgary, Tyler Crapigna is sitting idle behind Paredes and Maver. Not sure if you could coax him out of Calgary but it’s worth a call. Maybe we want to try out a young unproven guy (it worked out for Winnipeg with Harullaju and Toronto with Pfeffer). Whatever direction we want to go it would be easy to give a young guy a trial opportunity for a couple games to see how he handles live action. If nothing else it would give McCallum extra time to catch up on Matlock re-runs and naps (I was going to add “yelling at kids who cut across his lawn” to this list but when it comes to McCallum’s lawn, he likely has good reason to be yelling).

Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday Round-Up: Bye Week Musings

I won’t lie, I really expected some kind of big news (of the firing variety) by this point in the bye week. That said, given how my luck goes, there will likely be a big announcement within 5 minutes of this being posted. I will reiterate that I don’t want anyone to be fired (except possibly Taman but that’s a topic for another day). I just assumed given how things work in the province, the Riders would have done something to try and appease the fan base… even if that something wasn’t the right move.

The good news is given that our starting quarterback didn’t recently have his jaw broken by a teammate’s sucker punch, things in Riderville suddenly don’t seem quite so bad. That  said I can’t help but have a flashback to that time Kenton Keith had a “lower body” injury that by all accounts was inflicted by a few of his teammates. I kinda miss those whacky days.

Given the lack of actual Rider news (that I had really been banking on), I decided to instead brighten up your by week by discussing ways you can make the remainder of the season more enjoyable:

1)    Do up a bunch of bingo cards listing various penalties, whenever the Riders take one mark it on your card. First complete line wins. The beauty of this game is that the rate the Riders take penalties, you will be able to play 3 or 4 different rounds each game. 

2)    Before each game, every participant puts in $5 and picks a random injury. The prize pool goes to whoever correctly guesses the first injury that knocks a Rider player out of the game. (This game has its origins as the Buck Pierce Injury pool where you’d predict what would knock him out of the game)

3)    Every time the kiss cam is on yell out “That’s my wife!” and stomp of in a huff.

4)    Take a back pack full of helium balloons to a home game. When security asks to check your bag beg them not to open it. Then when they open it and release all your balloons have your kid (or any kid for that matter) start crying saying they ruined their birthday

5)    Leak an online report that Jim Daley will be hired to replace Corey Chamblin and watch the inter webs devolve into anarchy.

6)    Drink heavily (what? Just because its super obvious doesn’t mean it’s not good advice)

7) Bet money against the Riders. That way you can at least financially profit from their losing. Though be forewarned, the odds of them winning out of spite when you do decide to bet on them is quite high. 
8)    Go back and watch games from either 2011 or any of the 90s and remind yourself that things aren’t so bad

9)    Demand the Riders give as mascot soccer as a halftime show to make up for all the losing. Seriously, do it.

10)    Get Rider Prophet drunk on rye and mention the decision to draft Jordan Sisco… it’s an epic rant.

I will be back on Monday with my ambitious (and patent pending) plan for how the Riders can use the remainder of this season to effectively build for 2016.