Friday, June 10, 2016

Riders vs. Lions: Preseason Game 1

Football is back!!!!!

You want to know how much I’ve missed football? Wednesday I my kid had soccer practice so I PVR’d the Bombers/Als preseason game so I could watch it in its entirety when I got home. I swear another football-less month and I would have started filming my boy’s flag football games just so I’d have something to watch.

Saturday night we get to return to our beloved seats at old Mosaic Stadium… at least those of us who aren’t at Garth Brooks, Meatloaf, a wedding, scared off by the chance of rain or generally too lazy to leave the couch given that’s its televised. Me, I’ll be in the stands soaking it all in... and if anyone has some oversized novelty scissors I could borrow that I can display when someone commits a cutable offense that would be just swell.

Preseason is our chance to the players we’ve been hearing about for weeks in real live action. It’s their big audition and some will seize the opportunity and come out of nowhere to secure a roster spot (ala Kory Sheets ’12), others will blow the opportunity that Jones may cut them before the game even ends. Remember when Quentin Griffin decided he was too good to play in preseason?

Here are some of the battles I will be watching intently:
-       Defensive tackle: 3 of our starting front 4 are set in Lemon, Irvin and Cappy. That second DT spot is still a wide open competition with the likes of White, Vitale, Hazime and Williams (if he ever officially reports) in the mix. I’ll be looking to see who sets themselves apart in that battle
-       Secondary: Gainey, Brooks and Hollins are set in their spots. Newman being injured has muddied the water for me on if he will be the safety or if he we play at other positions. There is also a CB spot sitting vacant with guys like Cox, Jackson, Dean and Dixon competing. Also interested to see how serious we are about this Kevin Francis at safety experiment. 
-   Back-Up OL: I have reasonable confidence in our starting 5. However, my confidence level should one of them get hurt is somewhere between my confidence that Josiah St John will be named player of the game and my confidence that drink prices will actually be lower this year. Its actually not quite that bad, having Andrew Jones is really nice but I would really love to see a young Canadian like Picton, McKay or Adams establish themselves as a reliable depth option. Hopefully an import tackle can look good enough to keep around until Jarriel King is healthy again.
- Back-Up LBs: I love our starting 3 (assuming Knox gets healthy at some point... slowly starting to get concerned there). But after that "Prayer" and "Pump the starters full of steroids and hope they don't get randomly tested" are my leading back-up plans. Marte Sears sounds to be developing well as a patented Chris Jones utility defender. ALso going to be closely watching Sam Eguavoen and Canadian Dillon Grondin. If those guys live up to some of the training camp hype (Grondin espcially) it would really help calm my nerves on this group.
-       Back-up QB: Almost wasn't going to mention this as the media has been all over it. I get it, Saskatchewan loves, loves, loves back-up QBs (except Sunseri, in a rare united stand we all hated him). This will be a good battle to watch. Coleman has got a lot of good reviews in camp and I think has the inside track on the back-up job. However, Smith has reportedly grown from last year and he always seems to raise his compete level when the lights go on. Its nice having actual tangible competition this time around.

Here are some other random players to watch for:
-       QuDarius Ford - word is the guy can fly. He's in tough with Kendial Lawrence entrenched as our returner but I'm curious to see his speed first hand.
-       Jonathan Newsome - Chris Jones loves to rotate the D-line. Look at what he did with Willie Jefferson in Edmonton last season. Newsome has an impressive resume. Curious to see how that translates into a real (or at least quasi-real) CFL game.

-       Ino Vitale - He's a big scary looking Samoan. Based purely on that I want him to be awesome. (you won't find this kind of insightful analysis anywhere else).
-       AC Leonard - I initially brushed him off as a liekly early cut given that he was a converted WR/TE but he has better getting some very solid reviews in camp along the D-line.

Make sure you have a roster because unlike normal preseason games where by the 3rd quarter you don't recognize anyone, you will probably need a roster right from the first snap. With Durant not playing like half of the players people will actually recognize are gone. Either way sit back and enjoy the first Rider football of 2016... which will likely be followed by a predictable "I knew Jones was a bum" by some  if we lose this meaningless game. 

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