Riders 3 - Montreal 41
Friday marked the first game of the 2016 season where there really wasn't a positive to draw on. After weeks of play that gave hope that we were heading in the right direction, the Riders looked to have taken a step back... and by that I mean they took many steps, tripped, fell down the stairs and landed face first in a cow patty. In a season, where we are remembering the past, this team seemed to do their best to honour the 2015 team with their performance... or 2012... or most of the 90s.
Its true that the team was essentially fielding their second string offense (down a QB, WR, RB and anything resembling a starting O-lineman) but it was a putrid offensive performance nonetheless and even if we had a healthy Durant, its damn near impossible to win games when you give up 40+ points. Now it makes life tough on a defense when its offense provides less firepower than the average soccer team but there is no polishing up the turd that was the Rider D.
Offensively about the only positive I can draw is that we actually ran the ball. Its pretty sad that I'm excited about a game where we ran the ball 11 times for 56 yards but this was actually a monumental improvement. Now, as to why we refused to run in previous games while trying to protect a lead and decided to start while facing a massive deficit, I'll just leave addressing that questionable logic for another day. The only other comment I will make is that our offensive game star was the challenge flag. Our basic principle seemed to be "run terrible plays and then challenge in the hopes that something would show up and give us a first down".... I loathe that strategy even when it works in our favour.
Defensively we are just brutal. Our D-line was supposed to be a real strength for this team but in reality they have been mediocre at best. I guess we can hope Norwood will give them a boost when healthy but for now they just aren't being as impactful as we need them to be. A weak pass rush further exposes just how dreadful our secondary is. Its sad when the only guy not to look dreadful was the guy who showed up a few days ago (that being Culbert). Now I think Cox will develop into a solid DB but I'm not even sure the other 4 would be on the field for any other team (except possibly the Esks, their secondary is equally as brutal). I keep trying to be patient with Francis but I'll point to one play that shows me just how far he has to go yet. On that first long pass to Duron Carter the Als sent 2 receivers deep, Carter and some other shlub. Francis had to choose which one to to provide over the top help on. Rather than choose to help Foster cover the most dangerous player on the field going deep, Francis cheated over to help with the other. That has nothing to do with the complexities of pass coverages, just choosing not to cover the most dangerous offensive weapon when the opportunity presented itself. I hope Chris Jones knows what he's doing with Francis because my optimism is waning.
Speaking of brutal for god sake get Kendial Lawrence off the field! I don't know what happened to the dangerous multifaceted weapon from last year or why he's been replaced with someone who not only can't positively impact a game but generally repeatedly impacts it negatively. He needs to be sat for a game to hopefully help him get his head straightened out. That or Jones could just convert him to a DB.
I'm not writing off the season or disavowing the team (I've suffered through worse and that hasn't scared me off). I have faith in Jones and his rebuilding process. A complete rebuilt doesn't happen over night or even in 4 games. We still have a long way to go. My only hope is that Jones manages to get better effort out of his players in future weeks because I'm pretty sure than even if I spent all night at the famed Montreal strippers (which I'm sure not pro football player would ever do), I could turn in a more respectable effort than we saw.