Friday, October 30, 2015

Riders vs. Stampeders: Almost Over

Saturday afternoon the Riders travel to Calgary for a scheduled ass kicking otherwise known as a game. It would take some pretty powerful hallucinogens or the sudden deportation of at least 23 Stampeders before I could be convinced we have an actual shot in this game. If you haven’t already figured it out, you are in the wrong place if you are looking for bright, happy optimistic reading.

Once again since the Stampeders are competing for first place and we are hosting a glorified audition, I won’t bother doing my usual breakdown of the match-up. Instead I’ll make some general commentaries on things to watch for and the general sucktitude of our team.

Offensively we will obviously be watching the QBs. I’m very curious to see if Keith Price looks any better in his second start now that he finally got a feel for the speed of the game. I would like to see him put together some good extended drives. I still think Brett Smith has a lot to prove as well though. He really needs to establish that he can operate comfortably in the pocket. His mobility is an awesome weapon but he can’t take the next step in his progression until he can be effective without it at times.

We will see a couple new faces offensively with RB Stephen Houston and WR Marcus Davis getting some playing time. Interested to see what they can do. Overall I’m just curious to see if we can not use up all our offense in the first quarter. Even a late garbage touchdown to reward me for making it through the entire game would be nice.

Defensively, all I can really say is buckle up and pray for help… this could get ugly. Between injuries and the punitive benching of Junior Turnstile our starting defense is going to be a scary mishmash of whoever is available. George checks back in at DT. I would normally use this space to implore the team to give Ainsworth some starting reps but it’s becoming apparent that this is a waste of time. Linebackers will likely be Unamba-Knox-Brackenridge . Doughty being injured again certainly casts some doubts on him. I guess that would make him Jake Doubty (I’m sorry it’s the best you’re going to get from me on Friday).

This brings me to the secondary. It sounds like we will be starting the intimidating group of Webster-Green-MacDougall-Jackson-Macho. Now why on earth Jackson is playing halfback instead of Macho is beyond me but I’ve given up trying to understand things this year. I didn’t think it was possible for our secondary to get worse than it has been all year but this combination scares me. If Adarius Bowman can get 200 on us, Eric Rogers might top 300. I just hope MacDougall continues to look useful at safety.

By this point in the season I just hope there are enough positive plays to offset the ass kicking the rest of the game will entail. All I’m asking for is a bit of hope for next year. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Better Than Expected

Riders 24 - Eskimos 35

Saturday night it was a tale of two games. The first lasted 15 minutes and 30 seconds and saw the lowly Riders who are generally extremely slow starters hang 21 points on the supposed best defense in the league on route to an improbably big early lead. The second lasted the rest of the game and saw the top team in the west pound the bottom feeding Riders 32 to 3 on route to a predictable win. I'm not really sure how to explain that first part. Some running theories include being transported to Bizzaro World or the Eskimos sporting us a lead to at least make the game fair. In reality, I think it was a case of the Esks taking this game too lightly (can you blame them?) and the Riders getting uncharacteristically aggressive early to take advantage. I mean the end result was still a loss but at least we had stuff to cheer about. Lowered expectations indeed.

The game definitely made clear to me how this team was hampered this season by boneheaded decisions regarding the roster. Just watch Roosevelt play and tell me he should have been stuck behind Taj Smith and Jamel Richardson. He's a playmaker who would likely have a lot more plays to his name had we actually put some faith in him earlier in the year. Also, in a surprising turn of events Keenan MacDougall is not a useless sack of garbage. He's certainly no all-star yet but I actually noticed him out there and noticed him make plays. He was far from perfect but even Ray Charles would be able to see that MacDougall is miles ahead of Webster. It was a very pleasant surprise, though it made me wonder if MacDougall just brutal in practice or are our coaches just oblivious to talent? Frustrating to see that we have underutilized the talent we have (not like we have enough of it to waste it).

Brett Smith certainly looked like he progressed from his ugly first start against the Esks. He looked more comfortable and a bit more decisive. That slant to Smith for the TD was picture perfect. Still room for him to keep growing but the visible progression is encouraging. As for Price, he certainly started off with a bang. He looked shaky at times, made some mistakes and generally looked like a rookie. That said, he showed me enough to want to see more. I think he belongs on the field. I never put too much stock in a QB's first game. Some starts start hot and go to hell when defenses have the benefit of game film. Other start off shaky and continually improve. The second game is always more telling and I'm looking forward to Price's second game.

I liked what I saw from the RBs. Allen averaged over 7 yards per rush (you think he's happy for the chance to be the unquestioned guy?) I also liked the spark I saw from Spann. He's a thick guy (no chance that one gets taken out of context).

I wish I had something positive to say about our defense... but I already talked about MacDougall. I guess I could add that Marcus White caught my eye a few times. Other than that it was the sorry excuse for pass coverage that we have grown accustomed to. I think 2016 will bring good thing for Hollins.  Green is a frustrating player to watch because he'll make some plays and then turn around and shy away from contact and miss a tackle or botch his coverage. The good news for Green is that he was from from the most embarrassing one out there. Far, far, far. That distinction goes to he Junior Mertile, whose complete unwillingness to even make a movement in the direction of Bowman on that long TD earned him internet infamy...

Good luck explaining that one to the coaches when going through game film.

Other random thoughts:
- That Bagg TD where we made a stupid play call, the exchange was awkward, he dropped it and we still scored pretty much summed up our season perfectly in one play.

- Where was this aggressive shot taking offense when the games mattered?

- There was a ridiculous amount of fireworks set off at the start of the game. Pretty sure that was all the fireworks we had intended to set off when we scored TDs but ended up stockpiling all year.

- Its nice when a kicker just quietly does his job with no drama.

- I wonder how nervous Eskimo fans were getting watching that first quarter? I also wonder how many players Chris Jones would have murdered if his team didn't pick up their level of play?

Friday, October 23, 2015

Riders vs. Eskimos: Auditioning

Normally I would use this space to breakdown the key match-ups in the game, the strength and weaknesses of each team and what the Riders need to do to win. Given that what the Riders need to do to win involves either locking the Eskimos in their hotel room or convincing them that the game has been moved the New Mosaic, I won’t bother wasting time on that. Edmonton is a 4 loss team fighting for first place in the west. We are a 2 win team that is treating this like a slightly more important version of a preseason game. Simply put, we won’t be winning. Though if by some miracle (likely many simultaneous miracles) we do win, I plan on partying like we won the Cup.

Rather than breakdown match-ups I will instead talk a bit about what I will be looking for in this game… you know other than stocking up on beer tokens because odds are good of a price hike next year.

1 – Brett Smith
His first start came against the Eskimos a few months back and he predictably preformed like a raw rookie would against the top D in the League (i.e. terribly). While I still expect struggles, this will be a good gauge as to how far he has progressed since being thrust into the starter’s role. I’m looking for him to be better this time around.

2 – Keith Price
Likely due in large part to the lobbying I have been doing for weeks (you’re welcome), Coach Dyce confirmed Price will see playing time. He may flame out, he may show promise, either way I’m excited to finally see him in action.

3 – Anthony Allen/Chad Spann
This will be the first time since the early days of 2014 where Allen is the unquestioned starter. The time in between saw Hugh Charles, Will Ford, Jerome Messam and the Space Cowboy come and go. If he can run hard, block well and most importantly not fumble, he will make a strong case for the starting job next year. As for Spann, I know nothing about him but it would be nice if he could show something.

4 – D-line
Hall (injury) and George (just being shut down) are out meaning there is a huge opportunity for our back-ups, particularly the Canadians, to show they can be valuable contributors on D even if its just in a rotational role. I have been pumping Ainsworth’s tires for a few weeks (which historically is akin to the kiss of death so my apologies in advance for derailing Ainsworth’s career) so hopefully he can step up and take the next step in his career.

5 – Secondary
At this point any remotely decent play by that group will be a welcome sign... as well as a massive improvement. Green is moving to CB and MacDougall will see time at safety (clearly Dyce and O’Day have been reading my blog and valuing my input as I suggested that on Monday). The good news is that Adarius Bowman’s catching ability seems to decrease the more space you give him so that plays well into our defensive strengths.

6 – Linebackers
Loving the prospect of Knox and Doughty working together again. Brack has been shut down in what I say is a very telling sign on his future here. Likely not a done deal but I expect Brack will want more $ than we are willing to offer after his play this season. What I want from the LBs that do play is solid tackling. At this point my expectation have been lowered to the point that I don’t even care how many yards they get before we tackle them. I will settle for solid form tackles on the first try (I know I’m asking a lot).

Tough to get really pumped for a game you know we will lose but I am excited to see what the potential stars of tomorrow can bring to the table against a team playing at the highest level. Wetaher will be pretty darn good for late fall on the prairies so hopefully I won’t be only one there… though if I am, the 50/50 is all mine.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Managing The Last 3 Weeks

The Riders mercifully have 3 more games left in what has been a dreadful 2015 season. While they have little to play for other than pride, the remaining games can still be valuable for the team if managed properly. Doing so involves focusing every roster decision on planning for next year. I’m not advocating benching all our vets and activating the entire practice squad plus whoever we can airlift in. That would be irresponsible… and quite frankly painful to watch given that every team we play cares a great deal about the outcome. You don’t learn a hell of a lot about a team/player by watching a bunch of newbies get pummeled by the top teams in the West. Rather what I propose is basing all decisions on whether they fit in the plans next year.

Here’s how I see it:
QB – The departure of Glenn actually makes this pretty straightforward. We need Brett Smith to solidify himself as a legitimate #2 for next season so he gets the bulk of the reps. Keith Price needs to get a minimum of a half and ideally a start in the final game. If Price doesn’t get meaningful playing time, we have epically failed as an organization. I love his potential but we need to find out definitively whether he has what he takes in a real game situation (in which case he comes back next year) or whether he falls flat on his face (in which case we know we had better find a new option at QB this offseason). If Huston Mason sees the field for a series or two it’s a bonus but he’s only been here a few weeks. Honestly even with next to no practice, can he really be worse than Sunseri?

OL - As much as possible we need to play what’s left of our starting unit here. This will be easy because Matt Vonk is our only depth guy. To properly evaluate QBs and offenses we can’t have a rag tag line… we have enough issue blocking with our starters, no sense making this harder for ourselves. I’m hopeful Adcock will return after the bye as that would really help.

RB – I would give the bulk of the reps to Anthony Allen. I think he’s earned the opportunity to be the starter. Not only that but I would way rather a vet like him be in there on most snaps to help with blocking rather than a raw rookie who may get our young QBs killed. Chad Spann needs to see some snaps to see what he has to offer.

WRs – Demski and Roosevelt get priory because they are our future at receiver. I would keep Dressler in there so that our young QBs get the experience of a reliable go-to receiver instead of a hodgepodge of the future unemployed. Bagg can stay as we really can’t afford not to play the few Cdns we have plus he likely is a part of the team next year.  Getzlaf should sit in favour of Carroll for at least 1 or 2 games (unless the ratio fix for Messam’s departure is starting 3 Cdn WRs). This offseason Getz will have 2 choices: a smaller salary or a change of address. Nothing he does on the field in the final games will alter that. I would like to see each of our PR receivers (Williams, Lankford and Davis) get one game (i.e. a new different one each week). This approaches balances keeping a reliable group on the field to help evaluate our QBs with seeing if our recruits have what it takes to get an invite to next year’s camp.

D-Line - Chick and Munroe play because they will be part of our D-line next year. The injury to Hall (as unfortunate as it is) opens the door to evaluating a DE. I strongly recommend giving Ainsworth the bulk of those reps. It would be nice to know if he can actually take the next step to being a regular contributor on defense (which I think he can) or if he’s just another career special teamer we wasted a high pick on. That would also address our need for a 7th starting Cdn. I’ve been saying since mid-season that based on age and salary Tearrius George is unlikely to be back next year. Might as well give his reps to Connop, Agbaje and Tennant (if he’s healthy). Not sure any of them will ever become a bona fide starter but 1 or 2 will likely be providing depth next year.

LB – I honestly don’t think you can count on Emry playing football at all next season. That means Doughty in the middle and Knox outside are the future. So let’s play them together as much as possible to develop that chemistry. To accommodate this I say bump Macho back to the secondary (because he’s certainly not who we want at LB next year) and leave Brack in Macho’s spot. We should also give practice roster LB Denicos Allen one game by benching Unamba.  
DB – Tristan Jackson has no future as a short side CB, Marshay Green has a questionable future as a HB so both need to be taken out of those spots. I would roll with Green on short side CB, Hollins (whose potential I still see) and Macho at HB and either Jackson or Mertile at wide CB (likely leaning towards Mertile due to age). Also gotta let McDougall see some meaningful time with the D… even if it’s likely he’s not very good. Webster is not the future at safety (at least I pray he’s not) so might as well see if MacDougall can rise to the occasion. Quite frankly if he can’t cut it on D, I would look at either cutting him loose or negotiating his salary down. Not sure exactly what he’s making but it’s more than we should be paying for a pure special teamer (if that’s indeed what he is). The good news here is that no matter what the configuration in the secondary, we can’t possible get any worse given that we already have the worst pass coverage in the league

K – Am I the only who finds it ironic that the arrival of a kicker with the word Crap in his name will lead to the departure of McCallum from Saskatchewan? Anywho, let the kid kick, let McCallum drink prune juice and join a mall walking club.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Friday Musings

The Riders are on a bye week, which with any luck means they will not be losing this weekend. Yay! Though, if there was a team that could find a way to lose on a bye week it would be the Riders… and possibly the Maple Leafs. With no upcoming game to breakdown, I figured I would take this opportunity to give my assessment of the flurry of activity on trade deadline day. I keep telling TSN they should give me a trade deadline show on TSN 8 the ocho and in a shocking turn of events there actually would have been something to talk about this year. You missed out on a gold mine TSN… not like there was anything else interesting in the sports world on TV at that time to compete with right?
Let’s start with the Glenn trade. Most people expected it, particularly after Montreal had exhausted every option at QB short of getting Calvillo or Dinwiddie to step back on the field. The low return surprised some people but there are 2 things you need to keep in mind. 1 is Glenn was set to be an FA at the end of the season (granted he did sign an extension) so essentially we were trading a QB we no longer needed for 3-5 games max. 2 – is there was no market for him. Its hard to drive up the asking price when there is only one interested party. You pretty much take what you can get. When you consider Matt Nichols went much earlier in the season for a 7th round pick, the price seems in line with the going rate with Glenn being superior to Nichols. I will always like Kevin Glenn and wish him nothing but the best but I just don't see him as part of our future so getting a draft pick (no matter how low) for a guy who is no longer needed is a good move.
Messam was the surprising move of the day and incited far more anger from fans. Look I get it. He’s been our best player this year. He’s a Canadian and among the top RBs in the league. But the counter to that is, he was set to hit free agency at seasons end, he’s the wrong side of 30, is about to have only his second 1000 yard season in 6 years. Like Glenn this was a case of getting value now for a guy who may be gone for nothing come the offseason.
The third round pick is a solid addition. We will wait and see on the neg lister. I think the key to whole deal is Tyler Crapigna. Calgary has 2 very good kickers yet chose to stash him which tells me that Hufnagel likes his talent a lot (no one needs 3 kickers… except Toronto and Ottawa who have needed far more this year). Crapigna has potential to be a solid Cdn kicker for many years here (something that we certainly need).
These moves show that O’Day is committed to improving our draft pick stockpile (not pissing it away like his predecessor), improving our core of young Canadians and not being afraid to make unpopular moves that improve this team. Both moves are also likely part of his initial attempts to improve our woeful cap situation. Both Glenn and Messam will be replaced with cheaper options which will free up cash to go towards improving areas of need elsewhere. I believe this process is far from over as we will have to shed other big salaries (cough Getzlaf cough) in order to be able to devote money to rebuilding our Canadian core and our depth. O’day is making a good case for permanently assuming the GM spot so far (though that decision will not be made until a full offseason search is done)
I will be back Monday with my blueprint for how the Riders should manage the game day roster over the remaining 3 games.  I did a similar post back in August which included the suggestion to look into the services of one Tyler Crapigna as well as trading away Kevin Glenn so I would strongly recommend checking it out as I seem to know what I’m talking about (go figure).

Monday, October 12, 2015

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Done Like Thanksgiving Dinner

Riders 15 - Ti-Cats 30

Normally in this space on a Thanksgiving holiday Monday, I would pontificate on all that I am thankful for. About all I can say that I'm thankful for at this point is that I no longer have to listen to delusional dreamers talk about what needs to happen for the Riders to make the playoffs. There are only 2 ways the Riders were ever going to make the playoffs. One involved a DeLorean. The other would involve 3 other teams folding or disappearing from existence prior to the playoffs starting.

Friday was just a terrible performance by pretty much everyone involved. O-line was predictably bad (bad protection, no holes for the run game), Getzlaf made his returning presence known by taking penalties and dropping passing (or as its known locally: Getzlafing). I would have to learn 3 more languages to have enough curse words in my vocabulary to discuss the terribleness or our secondary, and I'm already bilingual. Play-calling was awful and unable to adjust on both sides of the ball. McCallum failed. And of course Glenn was terrible... again.

Two things really entertained me during the game (neither of which involved the actual play on the field). One was how they kept talking about trade speculation involving Glenn... despite the fact that he was playing like utter garbage literally as they spoke. Unless Kent Austin recently developed blindness and was hit in the head with a 2x4 and lost all his football memories, I highly doubt Friday's performance was really going to help Glenn's trade value (which was almost non-existent coming in). The other thing that entertained me was all the gushing about the phenomenal performance by Jake Matthews and how much he improved over his last start. No one seemed to clue into the fact that last week he played a solid Rich Stubler defense and this week they played the sad sack Rider D. We make stars out of any QB (well except Cromtpon and Brohm which gives you an idea of just how crappy those 2 are). Only Jock Climie seemed to clue into that fact.

Once again our O-line was bad. Hardly surprising when 2 starters (Watman and Hardrick) have no business starting. That certainly hampered Glenn but let's face it, he was bad and it continued a streak of bad that began in the second half of the Montreal game. Smith's mobility helps masks a lot of the OL shortcomings which is why he is able to do things. In one pass, Smith put up more yards then Glenn in the first half. That tells you all you need to know right there. For being such a supposed offensive guru, Chapdelaine sure seems to show no ability to adjust his game plan to a defense. If they have him figured out in the first quarter, we are pretty much screwed. At least we remembered who Dressler was.

Defensively I just won't bother getting too much into it... there's only so many alternatives for bad in the thesaurus. Chick had a good game. Munroe continues to be one of our best tacklers downfield... which tells you just how awful our actual cover guys are. We actually now have visual evidence that Matt Webster can make a play. It was on a fake FG (which was a super dick move by Austin) and not actually on defense but I figure if I'm gonna rip on the guy, the least I can do is acknowledge when makes a play. Tristan Jackson is struggling with the move to the short side CB, he looked lost for much of the game... though he fit it seamlessly with the other 4 DBs. Green got embarrassed repeatedly all night and if we can't trust him against a guy like Sinkfield, how can you trust him to be a HB where he will routinely be matched up on better receivers?

In summary I am thankful that there are only 3 more of these games to endure. Hopefully you find more joyful things to be thankful for this weekend.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Riders vs. Ti-Cats: Game Preview

Friday the Riders travel to Hamilton to take on the 8-5 Ti-Cats in a road game… or as they refer to it in Toronto, a home game. The last time these 2 teams played you may recall a certain interception that cost us the services of Kevin Glenn for an extended period of time and likely the game. Good times. The string of “unbeaten at home” is long gone is as the Ti-Cats have now lost 3 home games this season. The good news for them is that the Riders “winless on the road” streak may soon enter its 3rd calendar year (unless of course we miraculously pull out a win in one of our remaining 3 road games).

All signs point to Glenn getting the start which I have previously said I’m okay with… provided the last 2-3 games are devoted exclusively to Smith and Price… and provided Glenn gets pulled sooner if he plays like he did in BC. Unfortunately for Glenn, and the Riders in general, Dan Clark is out with a concussion meaning Corey Watman steps in a centre. Simply put our O-line has issues and Watman is definitely not an upgrade so things will likely get worse. Dan Clark has actually been one of our more consistent OL this season… certainly not all-star level but week in week out he’s consistently not bad (a statement not true of his counterparts). We get Getzlaf back this week. It’s been so long I actually had to look up when he last played (week 7 in Toronto for those curious). Hamilton is a formidable defensive opponent: third least points allowed and most takeaways. The one slight weakness that is developing in them is their run D. It started as suffocating but has slipped to #6 in the league. That’s where I would attack. Take pressure off the O-line is pass protection and use our biggest strength. Its not like we are saving Messam for a playoff run. We need to be smart with our passes because Hamilton can easily turn an errant pass into 6 the other way. Our offense has struggled on the road, averaging just 17 points per game (as opposed to 30 at home).

Hamilton does have the league’s top offense though that is largely due to one Zach Collaros who is no longer playing. Under Matthews they are not quite the same offensive juggernaut. He amassed 155 yards and two turnovers while producing just one offensive TD in his first start. He looked like he had potential but has a long way to go.  A normal coach would help him out by running but Hamilton has an aversion to the run that would put Chapdelaine to shame. We can’t completely forget about it because they will on occasion run but the air is where they like to attack… and conveniently where anyone how has watched more than 5 minutes of Rider football this season would attack our defense. We need our D-line to step up and when the battle in the trenches. If Matthews has time I can see him having a huge game (like so many opposing QBs this season). But if we can force him to throw under duress he is prone to another lackluster outing like last week. Tough to key on one receiver as Hamilton has many who can make plays and like to spread it around.  We will need to generate a couple turnovers if we hope to win this game. No one turns the ball over less than the Ti-Cats so that will not be easy. Though the odds do go up with Matthews in there.

When I look at this game I see a team that is winless on the road, has a struggling O-line with a back-up at centre and a secondary that honestly seems to go out of its way sometimes to avoid covering a receiver. Even with a back-up QB Hamilton is a tough place to play. I expect we will keep it close. I expect a low scoring game until later in the fourth when we start our usual nosedive. I just hope we do something to make Austin really mad… Angry Austin makes me laugh. That will provide a brief pause in my attempt to drink the end of this season pretty.

Ti-Cats by 10

Monday, October 5, 2015

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Snap Back To Reality

Riders 20 - BC 46

Being a Rider fan of late is a lot like being a parent of a child who plays on a really bad sports team. You watch the games out of a feeling of obligation, but the whole time you are mentally debating if anyone will notice if you slip away and go grab a beer or if there is a way to make money by betting against them. The biggest difference between the kid and the Riders is that with the Riders I don't have try to find some positive spin to convince them they weren't awful on the car ride home. With them I can tell it like is... they were lucky Lirim Hajrullahu played just before them and set a new standard for sucking because they were awful on Saturday. (Side note on that kicker reference: Is there something in the water? Because since Thursday I have seen more missed FGs in pro football than I recall seeing in some seasons... and I've watched Chris Milo)

Hard to win a game when your QB plays like crap and that's what Glenn did. I still like him but Saturday was just not his day. It happens. He threw 2 bad picks and it should have been 3 were it not for the fact that Eric Fraser is so terrible at safety I'm surprised he's not starting for the Riders. To be fair to Glenn, its not like our O-line game him much protection. Though I did kind of chuckle on those jail break rushes where Glenn actually thought he could use his legs to avoid pressure. You're old and slow man, just admit defeat sometimes.  I find it hard to be critical of a guy like Jamarcus Hardrick failing. We are only playing him out of necessity. But I saw Brendon LaBatte (our top OL) get beat too many times. When he's getting beat, you know we are in trouble. I felt we didn't run enough early in the game. As I mentioned in my game preview the Lions have the WORST run D and we have the best run game (when we choose to use it). Pretty obvious how we should have been attacking them. It would have had the added benefit of taking pressure of Glenn and our line. Yes the run was stuffed early but by not remaining committed to it, we played into BC's strength and away from their weakness... generally not a recommended coaching strategy.

I was starting to worry that a refusal to play Brett Smith was about to result in another coaching termination. It would not have made a difference but Smith should have been in long before he was.

Defensively, we were reminded of what happens when we try to defend a competent QB... we get embarrassed. Jennings made our zone D look like we had garden gnomes out there instead of actual human athletes. At least the BC receivers might have tripped over the gnomes. What really gets me is seeing professional football players repeatedly make mistakes I just spent the last few weeks harping on my 8 year old's touch football team for. The DB's were losing their receiver (the odd time they actually managed to cover them) because they got caught peeking in the backfield rather than focusing on the receiver to be defended. We also failed epically on a couple sure tackles for a loss because the defender attacked the inside shoulder of the ball carrier allowing them to slip outside. This is fundamental stuff. Coverage breakdowns, or just plain getting beat happen at the pro level... but mistakes due to poor technique or ignoring basic fundamentals are inexcusable. Our secondary is poor at the best of times but when they don't get good pressure from the D-line... as we saw Saturday, it increases the issues exponentially.

Simply put we sucked at pretty much everything on Saturday... with the exception of Tristan Jackson's returns and that blocked kick (though its a sad day when Keenan MacDougall is all we have in terms of an offensive spark).

Where to from here? Glenn has been named the starter for next week and I'm fine with that. Of our 4 remaining games, I say give him 1 or 2 more (with the caveat that if games go to hell, he gets pulled). Leave the last 2 games for mostly Smith and a bit of Keith Price.

Other random thoughts:
- Taman's inability to build Canadian depth has hurt us badly this year. First we were forced into starting Rory Connop at DT for ratio reasons even though he was clearly not ready. Now we are forced to endure Matt Webster occupying the space normally reserved for a competent/useful safety again for ratio reasons. This has to be priority #1 of whoever gets our GM job... you won't win games when you start people who have no business being a starting simply because its the only option you have to meet the ratio.

- The more I watch Namaan Roosevelt the more I love him.

- Is there a more underused player than Weston Dressler? How have we not found ways to get our best receiver more involved in our offense?

- To make the remaining games more interesting the Riders should announce that in one of the the remaining games they will be allowing 2 kickoff return TDs purely to make Safeway pay someone a million dollars.

- I demand 10% from the eventual winner if that happens as a sort of finders fee.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Riders vs. Lions: On The Road Again

Saturday the Riders travel to BC to take on the 4-9 Lions. The Lions have lost 5 of their last 6. The Riders are fresh off their second win on the year and well on their way to a miracle playoff appearance… just kidding we’ve been out of the playoff picture for well over a month now (normally this is where I’d make a joke about how our odds of making the playoffs are about the same as the Blue Jays, but in a surprising turn of events the Jays don’t suck this year so there goes that line).

Ever wonder how different our season would have been if Leone hadn’t made that massive 56 yard FG way back on July 10th? I mean BC would suck slightly more but that may have made a world of difference for us. I’m not normally one for “what if” talk like this but when you’re trying to make a match-up between 2 teams that have a good chance of missing the playoffs interesting, you gotta take whatever material you can get.

BC continues the string of terrible offenses we faced in the last few weeks. They are the 3rd worst in points scored (behind Winnipeg and Montreal). They have the 2nd most turnovers and interceptions. They have a so-so run game (which is surprising given the presence of Andrew Harris). About the only good thing they have going offensively is an O-line that has allowed the least sacks (a surprising stat given the concern about that O-line coming into the season). What they do have going for them is playing the Riders Defense who have made all QBs not named Brohm or Crompton look awesome. That said, don’t look now but after getting 1 turnover for most of the first half of the season, the Riders are suddenly up to 20.They also get a boost with the return of Jake Doughty. With him back in the middle and Knox outside I like our odds of containing the run game (not sure if Andrew Harris plays as of writing this. I’ll assume he does. If he does not then the Lions will be in some trouble.) Not sure how we make room for Doughty among the starters. Possibly Macho drops back into the secondary? Sounds like Jennings will play and Lulay will only play in an emergency situation. Regardless, we need to stuff the run and force BC to throw. No better way to rattle a young QB then to have the D-line make life miserable for him. We also need to keep him in the pocket. Remember that second game against BC where Lulay literally ran all over us? Can’t let that happen.

Offensively we get a struggling defensive opponent. Second most offensive points allowed, 3rd worst pass D, the worst run D (125 yards per game, 5.6 yards per attempt)… they really miss Elimimian in the middle. Meanwhile, our offense is coming to life with Glenn at the helm. It’s pretty obvious that when facing a bad run D we should probably give a heavy dose of Messam with a healthy side of Allen. Don’t overthink this, run it down their throat. A lot of BC’s problems stem from a weak D-line. They have the least sacks and clearly hate BC area food banks (jerks). A weak D-line combined with a strong run game for us should give Glenn plenty of time to spread the ball around to our receivers. The Lions have been reduced to starting Eric Fraser at safety (a slight step above opting not to start a safety and playing with just 11) so that would be a good place attack. Run double seams or deep routes and he’ll likely make a mistake that results in a big gain.

My head tells me this is a very winnable game. The Lions are a struggling team. We match up well against them with our run game. Doughty and Knox will help our run D. My gut tells me that a road trip to BC is generally not kind to us and as bad as they’ve been, BC’s offense is way better than the Als’. Remember that we have made Matt Nichols look awesome… twice. This is a winnable game but I just have this sense that we will find a way to lose. Hooray for positivity!

BC by a late rushing TD.