Well that was certainly a fitting way to open the farewell season at Mosaic Stadium... an extended period of boredom and nothing happening... followed by a power outage. I'm kidding (mostly), even if it was not the greatest performance I was just happy to be back in the stands cheering on Rider football. There were some good things, there were far more bad things but at the end of the day I think we can all agree that we should be mildly concerned that our power system is not able to withstand confetti. I bet Chris Jones inquired about his ability to cut Sask Power given all his supreme overlord status.
There is a provincial tradition that follows the first preseason game that you can count on like clockwork and that is people grossly overreacting to the results of a meaningless game. Had we won, Jones would have be hailed an unstoppable force, recruiting guru and the printing of a banner featuring him to adorn Mosaic would have been called for. Because we lost, the thoughts range from we've clearly made a mistake in hiring him to we are in for a worse season than last year. As with every year, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. There were certainly some concerning things but remember that its a meaningless game where many key players had little to now involvement and we were playing with a drastically reduced playbook than we will have come regular season.
Let's take a look at what we learned and we will start with the positives (mainly because there were far fewer of them):
- Our starting defensive line looked really good (and that was without Cappy and Norwood). If what I saw was preseason Shawn Lemon than I am pumped to seem him when the games are for real. I also noticed Marcus White on a number of occasions. I would not have pegged him as a front runner for the DT spot when the year began but he's certainly fighting hard to earn it.
- I thought the starting O-line overall looked good... at least when they weren't forced to block for a ridiculously long period of time by their QB.
- From the "guys we've gotten used to being awesome" category: Rob Bagg will do great things in the slot. Levi Steinhauer was a impact player on special teams. I maintain that Otha Foster is a very underrated signing.
- From the "new guys who caught my eye": Terrence Cobb was a solid runner. Reminds me a lot of Anthony Allen, not a game breaker but a stronger guy who consistently chews up the yards. Dillon Grondin does not look out of place on the field. Certainly has room to grow but you can he belongs out there. Xavier Walker played a lot but I didn't notice him much... for a DB I'll take that as a decent sign.
Now let's look at the negatives:
- The Riders are currently researching steroids and how to be drug tests because after watching our back-up QBs play, Darian missing a game is not really an option. BJ Coleman just made terrible decisions. There was only one pass he was able to complete and he did it for pretty much every single completion he made. Brett Smith... well he was Brett Smith. One read, panic, start dancing around and hope make a play with his legs. I did appreciate when he channelled his inner Durant and out wrestled that sack. Smith needed to show he had progressed as a QB and thus far it would appear he has not. The only reason both of them are still employed is because the only other QB option looks like he's only there because he ate any other QBs ahead of him on the depth chart. I'm not about to panic as its still early and the QBs have another game to prove themselves but the early signs would point towards "screwed" if either are forced into action at this point.
- With the QBs both playing bad its tough to get a solid assessment on one receivers. Chiles struggled mightily early but showed a flash when he ripped that ball away from the defender. Denmark adjusted well to a terrible under-thrown ball and turned it into a TD. As a 30 year old guy not currently with the starters, he's in tough to make this team but he's the type of quite reliability we may just decide to keep around if the new WRs don't step up and seize their chance.
- Secondary had its ups and downs (and admittedly you can never get a great read on a secondary when they are playing a reduced playbook). Not sold on the Kevin Francis at safety thing yet as I honestly had to keep looking to see if he was even on the field. Some miscommunications (which are expected at this point. Ed Gainey showed signs of the Gainey-like tendencies that have led me to not be his biggest fan: penalties, failing to make a play on the ball.
Overall it was not a great game but if you add competent QB play (i.e. Durant) then it completely changes the complexion of the game. Anyone who thought the Riders would be world beaters right form day 1 (which certainly wasn't me) got brought back down to earth a bit. I see no reason for panic but we do still have areas that need work. I'll wait until I see how the performance in the second preseason game compares before joining the "grossly overreacting crowd"