Monday, July 24, 2017

Abbreviated Monday Morning Sentimonies

Just got back last night from fishing. We managed to listen to the game on satellite radio but I won't pretend to have my usual depth of knolwdge about the game so I'll just give you a few short thoughts:

1 - After 3 games against bottom tier opponents, this was a measuring stick game in terms of how we stack up in the west... turns out we stack up about as well as an asian man to a black man.

2 - We lost that game in the trenches. D-line couldn't stop or even slow down the run. O-line couldn't stop Kevin Glenn's ass from being imprinted on the turf.  Can't win when you lose the battle on both sides of the line

3 - We looked (or at least sounded) like a team coming off bye. That first half was painful and awful. The second half we actually managed to hold our own but by then had dug a hole way too deep to get out of with our mediocre level of play.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Gone Fishing

As of today I am on vacation. I'm headed up north fishing and won't be back until Sunday. Nanananananana Fishing! That means no Monday Morning Sentimonies and no game preview this week. Though I will tell you that I expect a close game for 3 quarters but a 10 point loss in Calgary in the end.

Don't burn the place down in my absence.... or do, who am to tell you what to do.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: We Won!

Riders 37 - Ti-Cats 20

Saturday night across the province enough pressure was released to put Tom Brady to shame (are Deflategate jokes still funny? well regardless I'm too lazy to come up with something better so you're stuck with it). Losing that game would sent the whole province into a spiral of negativity that would have had 2 full weeks to increase in severity. But instead we got our first win in our new home. Now that one win doesn't magically fix everything (as we are still a 1 win team) but damn it sure feels good to win.

I honestly had to check the sidelines to see if we'd replaced our coaching staff because the things we were doing stunned me. We consistently rushed 4 on D and dialed up the blitz more in that game than we have all season. While the stat sheet will show only one sack, it does not do justice to the pressure we applied and how much Collaros had to hurry or run to make plays. It was as if someone took Chris Jones' playbook and did a "replace all" of 3 man rush with 4. Hamilton has a weak O-line and we were actually able to take advantage. What I liked is how our D came out aggressive. We did not allow a first down until the second quarter and did not allow a major until late in the 3rd. We held Luke Tasker without a catch (I said pre-game that containing him was a key). All in all a great effort from the D. They allowed just 13 points (which by recent standards is only a few steps removed from an actual miracle.) Clearly Jonathan Newsome had been holding this unit back :)

The D was aided by a red hot offense. That was one of the best offensive game plans I've seen from McAdoo in a long time. They really attacked that weak Hamilton secondary (I mean that unit was awful... and this is coming from someone who has extensively watched our secondary). They played to Glenn's strength on the touch pass with a long of perfectly run timing routes (Glenn and Roosevelt were so in sync that there were probably finishing each others sentences on the sidelines). We balanced a solid passing attack with a committed run game Alleluia!!! Marshall finally got double digit touches and the bulk of them came early in the game and really helped set the tone offensively (damn he runs hard). Glenn has damn sure gotta stop telegraphing his weekly interceptions but otherwise you have to be elated with what he has done over the past 2 weeks. I especially love the drive he led after Hamilton made it 27-20. He  moved the ball 77 yards in 6 minutes including a massive 2 and 17 conversion to Roosevelt. That drive really calmed everything back down and reestablished our momentum even though we only got a FG.

As good as this win was, let's remember that we went 1-2 through the easy portion of our schedule. We need to use this game as a building block to even better play (and coaching) when we get back from bye. But for now let's enjoy this winning feeling. It's pretty awesome.

Other random thoughts:
- We were treated to the best Kiss Cam moment since the dry humping incident of 2015. For those who were there, the camera panned to a girl and guy and she was immediately utter embarrassed and clearly said "He's my dad". Maybe that kiss cam guy should be re-assigned to Manitoba where that kind of thing is more socially acceptable.

- Also on the big screen, there was almost another tremendous moment. The camera had a hot chick on as it was panning through the crowd (nothing usual there) but she then smiled and began to pull out one of those 2 foot hot dogs. I would have paid to here the panicked sound of the camera director calling for them to switch to another camera. It was close, but alas,we never got to find out what that nice lady would have done with that hotdog.

- Duron Carter would have a passing TD if he trusted Duron's arm and didn't let up on his route. Between that play and the onside Bartel punt you could tell the coaches were feeling the pressure and making sure they pulled out all the stops to win.

- Kacy Rodgers was so close to a couple INTs. I don't mind him playing it safe and playing his man rather than the ball given the situation but a little bit more risk taking and he coulda had a couple. 

- On the play after they took a Too Many Men penalty, Hamilton only had 11 guys on the field. Do you think they miss Orlando Steinhauer much?
- I would expect the punishment for grabbing and official by the shirt like Will Hill did will be a one game suspension (though I hope its 2) but maybe they will soften it like they did when Austin hit an official and say Hill is "suspended" but he'll still be allowed to be a part of the game.


Saturday, July 8, 2017

Riders vs Ti-Cats: We Need This

Only three teams remain in the CFL without a win in 2017. Granted one has a tie, one didn't play last week and one is us... but more to the point of this opening, one of those teams will emerge from Saturday night's showdown with a win (unless of course we tie). The 0-1 Ti-Cats are in town to face the 0-2 Riders for the second contest at New Mosaic Stadium. 

My preview will be somewhat abbreviated this week as I just got back from family vacation.  

I've been saying for a couple weeks that this is a big game. Given that we squandered the first 2 weeks, this is damn-near must win if we realistically think the playoffs are a possibility. This is our last "easy game" (and I mean that relative to the remainder of the schedule as no games are gimmes for us). A healthy Ti-Cat team would likely embarrass us but the Ti-Cats are to health what we are to aggressive pass rushing. The bulk of their secondary and a chunk of their receivers are out. Also they are benching CJ Gable because its his fault that Kent Austin is the only guy who hates to run more than McAdoo.

Offensively I love, love, love the match-up of our receivers on whatever it is they are trying to pass off as a secondary. If you include the Sam LB, they are starting 3 rookies and 2 second year players. Normally Emmanuel Davis, Abdul Kanneh and Craig Butler would be locking things down but they are currently only locking down IR spots.  I think the bigger loss is the loss of DC Orlando Steinhauer. A once fearsome unit looks almost lost without him. Glenn needs to pick that unit apart (Ray threw for 500 on them in Week 1). But in saying that Glenn also needs to limit his mistakes. Don't force it into double coverage like last week. Plays will be there if he's smart and patient. I think we need to balance it with some running to slow down a very good front 4 but that advice will be ignored so I guess its on the OL to step up and have another good game.

Defensively, normally Zach Collaros vs. our secondary would have me in pre-emptive tears,  but he only put up 9 offensive points against Toronto. Granted Toronto has a much better D than us but 9 is bad. Losing Tolliver hurts that unit as all the pressure essentially now falls on Tasker. Provided we actually remember to put a defender on him there is little else that scares me in that offense (aside from possibly Tyms). We already know the Ti-Cats don't run so disrupting Collaros in the pocket is priority #1 for the front 7 or I guess the front 3 in our case.The OL did not give great protection in game 1 and while they will likely make adjustments they are not going to be the toughest line we've faced. If we can eliminate the big plays, I think we have a real good chance of keeping the score low. Collaros is a way better QB than Matt Nichols but has a way weaker supporting cast so its time for our defense to step up and play a full 60 mins (not taking a nap for the 3rd quarter).

While they won't admit it,I think the team as a whole is starting to feel the pressure. A big home win would relax things but a loss sends us further into a downward spiral that becomes harder to pull out of each week. Even coming off a week's rest the Ti-Cats are a battered unit. We need to take advantage and get this win. I think we finally get our first real party in the new stadium...

Riders by a Roosevelt TD

Monday, July 3, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: New Home, Same Result

Riders 40 - Bombers 43 (OT)

We hoped coming into the season that the Riders could be a competitive team. Not a dominant one, not a really good one, but competitive. Through 2 games in 2017 that's what we've seen. But here's the problem with competitive teams... they aren't good enough to overcome mistakes. That was the story on opening night at New Mosaic, mistakes... well that and crazy long, slow lines for drastically overpriced food and beverage. Look if you are going to gouge me you could at least do it efficiently. 

It's easy to scapegoat Crapigna (are those goal posts regulation size or what?) but he was far from the only one to screw up. Pissing away yet another winnable game was a total team effort. In addition to the kicker there were our coaches. There errors were certainly less egregious than last week but the same old refusal to run and reliance on  the super-ineffective 3 man rush were there (though for the sake of the children's ear around me I was glad we were mercifully spared a Bridge appearance). The was the Greg Morris fumble and Kevin Glenn's really bad INTs (spoiling an overall solid outing). There was the defense who on consecutive plays chose to cover Weston Dressler with Kevin Francis and air. The whole 3rd quarter in general was an absolute monstrosity to watch (the score was 31- 16 in the other 3 quarters). On their own none of these mistakes are fatal (well minus the whole 3 TDs in 6 minutes thing) but when you combine this many mistakes with a mediocre team the results tend to be as expected.

It was nice to see our offense put up points after a lackluster first outing. It was nice to see the penalties decrease.  It was nice to see us get within an area code of the QB (on those rare occasions when a 4th or 5th guy clearly defied the play call and ran at the QB. Quite frankly it was just nice to have a game that the crowd could really get into (love that volume). But it's tough to focus on those positives when the end result was another loss. The first 3 games on our schedule are among the easiest ones we are going to get and we are 2 thirds through that and still winless. The don't award W's based on positives and hopefulness. 

We need to address our secondary as its a giant liability. Jovon Johnson is the best we have. I think Rogers is holding his own more often than not. The rest... off. Gainey is have a bad year. Lyles is struggling. Sam Williams is struggling. And Hecht, well he' s the mediocre at best safety we knew he was coming into the season. Matt Nichols exposed that group, what do you think Reilly, Harris, Mitchell and Jennings will do? Now of course a normal coach would try and compensate for poor coverage by not hanging them out to dry with zone coverage and no pressure on the QB but no one asked me for input on our defensive schemes, or concession logistics, or anything for that matter. I have a lot of good opinions to offer that are going to waste.

This team isn't hopeless as they are two kicks away from being 1-0-1 (a tie was the best we were doing in OT) but mistakes still are way too common and until that happens there is little reason for optimism.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Riders vs. Bombers: Home Sweet Home

Saturday we celebrate 150 years of Canada and the opening of new Mosaic Stadium. I haven’t been this excited for a game in a long, long time (likely due to the fact that we haven’t been competitive in a long, long time but I digress). The preseason game gave us a teaser but I cannot wait to hear how loud our new stadium will be when it is filled to the brim with a jacked up crowd. It’s going to be electric. Between the atmosphere, the holiday weekend and the crazy 50/50 jackpot, this is one game where the exorbitant booze prices might not be a deterrent to mass consumption.

On to the game itself…

Not to be melodramatic but if we are to have any hope this season, these next 2 homes games are critical. We have ravenous confines of our new stadium, an eclectic crowd and a Bomber team that I think is outside the top tier teams and a Ti-Cat that is so injured I’m not sure they’ll be able to field a roster next week. After these games we get @ Calgary, 2 game set with BC and @ Edmonton. So if we don’t do something over the next 2 games then our playoff chances will quickly be on par with those of the Memphis Mad Dogs.

Offensively, the Bombers remind me a lot of us. Solid OL, good group of receivers, mediocre QB. The main difference is that their OC actually uses his RB and isn’t likely to ask Dominique Davis to randomly throw a pass.  If I’m Paul LaPolice my game plan would have 3 things on it: 1) Run Andrew Harris behind that strong OL. 2) Throw the ball to Andrew Harris on swing passes and such. 3) Test or questionable secondary with deep throw once our LBs are cheating up. So it goes without saying that stopping Harris is priority #1. He is the motor that keeps that offense churning. I see this as problematic though because we will be relying on a very mediocre defensive front to keep a good Winnipeg OL from getting hands on our LBs. Lots of pressure on our LBs in this game, especially since our only good one is questionable for the game. I don’t care who he’s replaced with, the Rider LBs featuring not-Muamba don’t scare anyone. In the secondary the 2 receivers that worry me the most are Darvin Adams and Clarence Denmark. Sure Dressler will get his yards in but those 2 are the big play potential guys. I’m clearly not the biggest supporter of our secondary but quite frankly if they aren’t up the challenge of stopping Matt Nichols then there is no hope when we face the top tier QBs.

As for our offense priority #1 is protecting the football.  It’s well document that the bulk of Winnipeg’s success last season was due to the crazy amount of turnovers they forced. Take those away and all they really are is a team that gives up a lot of yards and kicks a lot of field goals. If we control the ball, we have a chance. If there was ever a QB suited to take on the famous Richie Hall bend but don’t break defense its Kevin Glenn. Let him dink and dunk behind that line taking whatever they give. The big key will be coming away with majors instead of FGs when we get the chance. I think we need to get Duron involved early even if it’s a screen or a punt return let’s funnel his energy in a positive direction early.  Obviously Roosevelt is the safety blanket but every receiver is going to need to be involved given the patient long drives we’ll need to string together. Some semblance of a run game would help keep what I think will be a very good Winnipeg front 4 slowed down a bit (but I realize there’s little point wishing for that… even though I would be running at Sam Hurl all night long until he proves he belongs in the starting lineup).

Maybe its Rider Pride in my veins… ok its definitely that and not logic but despite the challenges facing the team I do think they will step up and deliver a win to christen the stadium. It will be deafening, it will be electric and I think that will breathe enough life into the Riders to overcome their defense and offensive coordinator. In true Rider fashion we will do things the hard way and there will be way to much drama for my liking. But in the end…

Riders by a Duron Carter TD

Start warming up those vocal chords.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Same Old Story

Riders 14 – Alouettes 16

You can tell by the return of curse words echoing through my house, that football season is upon us once again. It’s a good thing my neighbours know me otherwise on most game days they might surmise a domestic is going on at my house and call the cops. Alas, the only ones getting beaten we the Riders (well I mean technically that’s a very good thing that no one else was getting beaten but that doesn’t make for quite the same calibre of segue).

Since the season opening loss on Thursday I have heard many people focusing on the positive things from the game. Yes our O-line looked pretty good, yes Nic Demksi had himself a game (save for that one boneheaded decision), yes our special teams coverage looked good. God bless all you optimists but honestly, screw all that. We lost, again, and losing sucks. Not only did we lose but we lost a very winnable game against a bottom tier team that didn’t play particularly well. It’s not like our schedule is going to get any easier.
I think what bugs me the most about the loss is that the loss was due in large part to a lot of the same dumb coaching mistakes that plagued us last season. The big 4 for me: Coaching errors, a refusal to run; overuse of the 3 man rush and McDoo’s complete and utter idiocy when it comes to randomly inserting the back-up QB:
Errors   Kevin Glenn plunged for a first down with 28 seconds left in the game. We did not run another play until calling a timeout with 8 seconds left. I don’t want to go full Glen Suitor on you here but we should have ran a minimum of 1 play in that time (possibly 2). The abysmal clock management cost us a few precious yards closer to the endzone and an easier kick. I am not absolving Crapigna of wrongdoing. That was a very makeable kick and I bet 9 times out of 10 he makes it. But it was well within our power to make life easier for him and our coaches dropped the ball (I guess in a show of solidarity with Duron).
Refusal to run – Pop quiz, how many carries did Marshall get in the first half? 2… 2!!! It still amazes me how one dimensional McAdoo makes our offense… particularly when we have a good O-line and a power runner. Marshall had a 7 yard per carry average and we ran him just twice in the first quarter… against a defense fielding a rookie MLB to boot. Old man Glenn had more rushing attempts in the first quarter.
3 Man Rush – Here’s a wrestling analogy for the fans among you. Every time we run the 3 man rush it reminds me of Ric Flair climbing to the top rope. The only thing that ever happened when he climbed the rope was he got knocked off. The infamous words of JR ring in my head every time only 3 defenders rush “Oh that never works!”
Back-Up QB – So in the McAdoo school of offensive strategery, it makes sense to keep the big tall athletic back-up QB on the sideline while a borderline senior citizen runs the sneak but he absolutely must be inserted when your starter has driven the field is in scoring position. Rather than have the guy who is known for touch passes and who is in a rhythm throw a touch pass, let’s randomly bring a guy cold off the bench to do it. In what universe does that sound like a good idea?!? I am starting a petition that every time McAdoo randomly inserts a the back-up QB for a non-sneak play a season ticket holder gets to kick him in the nuts.
Look I know the players have some responsibility in this there were too many drops, way too many penalties and countless more mistakes. But if our coaches keep making such glaring and frequent errors then it won’t matter how few mistakes the players make. We simply do not have a talented enough roster to overcome our own coaches’ self inflicted wounds.
Did I mention I the losing?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Riders vs. Alouettes: Season Opener

In a curious schedule quirk, the CFL is opting to open the 2017 season with a match-up of 2 of the worst teams from last season (I assume the writers at TSN will come up with something more enticing for the promos). But what this match-up lacks in quality teams, it makes up for in intriguing story lines… mainly Durant vs. his old team. It’s also Kevin Glenn vs. his old team but you can literally say that about 95% of our schedule.

For comparison sake I went back and looked at our opening day roster from 2016 to see if I feel better or worse about where we 1 year later. Downgrade at QB. Certainly receivers are better. OL is improved. D-line is comparable (possibly stronger inside). Linebackers are far worse (outside of MLB). The secondary is actually way better… though that is more an indictment on the utter garbage we fielded last year than an endorsement of what we have now (the middle of our secondary was Buddy Jackson, Kevin Francis and Brandon McDonald, shudder). So overall, yes we are better than last year. Still I’m not entering this game with any shred of confidence.

Darian Durant looked really good in the preseason, our secondary did not. I know it’s only preseason but it can’t be completely discounted. Durant may say that this game isn’t about getting revenge on the Riders but that’s only because it’s really about giving a giant FU to Chris Jones (and possibly a few crotch chops for good meaure). Durant plays well with a chip on his shoulder so we have good reason for concern… especially when you look at who are manning some of our most important cover spots: Sam Williams, Chris Lyles Erick Dargan and Jeff Hecht. The only people that line-up strikes fear into is Rider fans.

Offensively I actually like how we stack up. Noel Thorpe always fields very strong defenses (and probably would have a lot more rings if they had found a offense for him post-Calvillo) but I don’t think he has near the talent on the roster he is used to. Certainly they are very strong up front with Bowman and Knapton. But the lack of Bear Woods in the middle of that D is a huge loss for that unit, one that they will look to fill with a rookie. The secondary doesn’t look much better than ours. With Ryan Phillips hurt, Jonathan Mincy and Tyree Hollins are the only notable names out there. The natural tendency would be to turn Duron loose on a questionable secondary but I would resist that somewhat. My first priority would be to pound Cameron Marshall at the heart of that D to test the new MLB (though I know that running is generally against the morals of McAdoo). That will open up some big holes for Carter and Roosevelt. I would also look often to Grant and Holley as you can bet the other 2 will be keyed on. Our offense should have a productive day.

That brings us to the defense. If you could assure me that all plays would go in the direction of Jefferson, Muamba, Rodgers or Gainey, I would feel great about the match-up. But since its highly likely the other 8 defenders will become involved at some point I feel not so great. The addition of Jovon Johnson is huge in my opinion. That will hopefully bring some stability to that side of the coverage. The offensive game plan against the Riders remains the same as it was last year: throw until they prove they can stop you (which usually we can’t). Durant will look to air it out and we need to counter somehow. The best way we can if by getting pressure on him. If he has time, he will pick us apart. We need that ball out quick and its on the D-line to make that happen. I would also bring the blitz more than usual. For all of his strengths, Durant was never the greatest at the hot route so let’s force him into some bad decisions.

This is certainly a winnable game (Montreal is a bottom tier team) but we historically play awful in Montreal. Its almost as if there were some kind of night time distractions that detracted the teams readiness (but Montreal wouldn’t have anything like that conveniently lined up in large quantity up on one street would they?). Our best chance at winning this game is an offensive shoot-out and in a battle of which defense is more likely to get a stop, I’m certainly not taking us until we prove we can defend the pass.

The game will be close but ultimately it will be a disappointing start to the season.

Als by 7

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Official Predictions 2017

Twas the day before the start of a new season
And Rider fans were nervous, and with good reason.
We’ve got a fancy new stadium to take in the game
But have reason to fear our performance will still be lame.
So tell us Prophet, give us words that are witty
Give us reason to believe we won’t be so… you know.
So listen up dear reader as I share my predictions through rhymes
On what to expect in 2017… other than more fines

Its year 2 of the rebuild, but you really wouldn’t know
Jones is back but with pretty much a whole new team in tow
Gone Foster, Gone Cox. It’s such a drag
Hell, gone pretty much everyone not named Rob Bagg
The biggest news by far is gone #4
Some will say that means gone any chance to score
But it’s not all been bad news, so let’s not all freak out
Just don’t look at the new beer prices. That might make you pout.

The offense all rests on Kevin Glenn’s arm.
Can the old man do? Third time is a charm.
His O-line has been beef up and he’s got weapons galore
Roosevelt, Grant and Carter… there’s no way we don’t score.
Roosevelt will lead in catches and Carter TDs
We just hope that Duron doesn’t also lead in penalties
KG will do fine but allow me to be curt
At some point mid-season, he will end up hurt
It will only be a couple games but those won’t be much fun
It will be made worse because McAdoo will still refuse to run
Overall our offense will not be top tier
But it will certainly be better than the hot mess last year

Defense has some big adds like Jefferson and Muamba
Those 2 alone make me want to dance a samba (sorry it was a really poor decision to try and rhyme Muamba)
Our interior DL is not flashy but will do
Newsome and Leonard won’t (I really hate those 2)
By midseason there will be a new starting D-end
And that’s when our sack total will go on the mend.
Muamba gives us some really run stopping ability
But our OLBs leave a huge pass coverage liability
We struggled last year with a stud like Otha Foster
And we no longer have anything close to him on our roster
In the secondary, we have good reason to fear
Early in the season they will look as bad as last year
By about week 6, we’ll have tried 8 different DBs
But will finally find a combo that won’t allow so many TDs
The D will struggle early but down the stretch will giv’er
At least that’s what I hope for the sake of my liver.

We will be more competitive but still start the season rocky
Let’s be honest, we have no reason to be cocky.
We will struggle out the gate. 2 and 4, oh the dread!
There will be deafening cries for Jones’ head
The wins may be ugly but they will start to come
A big labour day win will make us not so glum
There will be another skid while Glenn recovers
Williams will assume the #2 spot beating out all others
At the end of it all we will have 7 wins (most within our own walls)
But good enough to cross over because the East still sucks balls
But that my friends is where it will end
We’ll lose the east-semi (mainly because we can’t defend)

So there you have it my official prophecy
Some might call my thoughts heresy
But if you don’t like this version or my claims
Could be worse, I had an alternate view where it all goes down in flames (like really super bad... let's all hope the version I posted is closer to reality)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

CFL Pick Em

This isn't really a blog thing but in case any of my readers are interested, I'm running a CFL Pick Em confidence pool. It's $20 to enter and there are prizes for most points over the whole season as well in throughout the season.

If anyone is interested in taking part just let me know and I'll get you all the details.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Burn the tape and get to the cuts

Riders 10 - Lions 42

I don't want to dwell on that monstrosity of a game anymore than I to. Even the most die hard of fans found that hard to watch and even harder to find a silver lining in it, other than maybe that we are glad that football games don't have 5 quarters. Its only preseason so let's not completely overreact. But still there are concerns heading into the season. I think the Lions are one the teams to beat this season and at this point it looks like we are showing up the West Division gun fight with a banana. Still its only preseason so let's not completely panic just yet.

I was going to do a section entitled "The Good" on the game but honestly, the only good was Tull looking like a beast. Even Antigha did fairly well. It renews some of my lost hope in a our non Jefferson Defensive ends. But I mean that was it for good. Our defense was scary bad. Our offense what utterly useless and those few times they weren't, penalties negated the play. We had 250 yards of offense and 150 yards of penalties. At one point we had as many turnovers as first downs. It's the type of game where you burn the tape and take a good stiff drink (or multiple as I did) and forget it ever happened. The highlights for me are the plays where Elimimian absolutely destroyed Stroshak and the play where Brandon Bridge took a helmet to the groin while hurdling a defender in a selfless attempt to make a rare positive play... only to have it all for naught due to penalty. I don't like see our players get knocked around but in a game as awful as that, any play that entertains me is a positive.

Onto the easiest part of any coach's job... the cuts (and honestly, after Friday it wasn't a very difficult job).

Only 3 releases surprised me:  Jarriel King (because he was our primary import depth and potentially a starting guard), Dillon Grondin (because he was about the only true MLB type we had to back-up Muamba) and Mark Roberts (because he has a good camp and was a projected starter). There is a chance that Roberts and Butler may be brought back when healthy so have to wait and see there. The rest should come as no shock. Maybe Bryan Bennett but he made one good pass over 2 games so all the good practice in the world means diddly. I was very happy we kept Williams. I like what I have seen from him. I was sad to see Milhouse go... but that isn't really for football reasons.

There were some names I was surprised to see make the team. There was the Juniors Thebaud and Philogene, didn't see them cracking the roster. There was Mike Dubuisson... who I didn't see cracking any roster. I was also surprised that we kept all 4 of Newsome, Leonard, Tull and Antigha. At some point 1 or 2 of them will have to go (please be Leonard, please be Leonard). 

So roster-wise where does that leave us? Receivers look real strong (something we knew all along). I like Marshall at RB. Assuming LaBatte and St John heal up I like our starting 5 as well as the OL depth we've assembled behind them. D-line is a question mark outside of Jefferson. There is potential on the inside as well as the other edge with Tull/Antigha but I want to see proof not potential. LBs will be fine... with the exception of the cover LB spot, which scares me. Williams looked awful and I really don't see a name on the roster that instills confidence at this point. Secondary is a big concern. We are certainly in a better spot than last year but unfortunately given that last year was an utter embarrassment early on in the secondary, while "only somewhat terrible" is technically an improvement, it is still a concern. I will add on a more positive note that our Canadian depth is better than last year. With the exception of Muamba, I see a viable back-up at every starting Cdn spot. 

I won't lie and say am confident about the upcoming season but I do feel better than last season and we somehow salvaged 5 wins out of that mess (along with a couple games we really should have won). So let's see what this team can bring when the bullets start flying for real.


Friday, June 16, 2017

2017 Canadian Fantasy Football Guide

Just in time for the last minute drafters, here is my 3rd annual Canadian Fantasy Football Guide. 

Visit to get your copy and get the edge you need to win your draft.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Riders vs. BC Lions: Preseason Game 2

Friday to the undefeated Riders (yes I realize that’s a gross misrepresentation but I’m not sure I’ll get the chance to use that term again this season) travel to BC to conclude the preseason. For some it’s a last chance to shake of the rust and tune up for the season. For others it’s a last chance to prove to the coaches they should be kept around (even if it’s on the super-secret pre-practice squad… that totally doesn’t exist this year).

Teams will take different approaches to this game. Some will ensure the starters play at least a quarter to get them in sync. Some will sit any player of remote importance and opt for a last ditch evaluation of players on the bubble. The Riders seem to be opting for sending everyone that is healthy (though the list of injured is long). BC appears to be doing the same though they are a lot healthier so pretty much all of their big names will see at least some time.

 Here is what I will be watching for during the game:

QBs – It will be nice to see Glenn get a couple series but the real thing to watch is the battle for #2. It’s Bridge’s spot to lose at this point so he will need to screw up or Bennett will need to do something significant to change that. I hope Bennett doesn’t come in feeling he needs to be a human highlight reel though. Bridge earned his accolades last week by being patient and taking what the D was giving. We don’t need 70 yard bombs, just go out and execute the offense and move the chain. I hope we find a way to keep Williams around but he’s a long shot at this point to crack the top 3.

O-line – This will be a good test of our depth. LaBatte and St John won’t play so we will get to see what our ability is to endure injury (which will happen). Not worried about Dyakowski but Bladek needs to show that he’s progressed after a somewhat shaky debut. I also hope that at least one of our other Cdn OL (White, Meredith, Adusei, Philogene) can impress as well. You can never have too many Cdn OL at your disposal.

RB – LaFrance may get his shot at some point to start but on opening day it will be an import starting at RB. Marshall for me is the lead guy but Allen can’t be ruled out yet. The starter spot is wide open and someone will need to step up a seize it.

WRs – It would be nice if Carter doesn’t get in an altercation. Other than that I think the big thing to watch is the Canadians Stanford and Picton. With Bagg sitting out they will get more reps than normal and this is their big chance to prove they can provide solid depth behind Bagg and Demski. As for the imports…. Good luck. I think Carter, Roosevelt and Grant are locked in. Holley seems destined for the 4th spot that leaves Stoshak, Collins, Mayo, Reece and the other Grant fighting for 1 spot (and in theory Chad Owens, if he’s ever healthy). Reece is getting returner reps which boosts his stock somewhat. The others will need to show something special to avoid the axe. (Note: Fulwood is being converted to DB for this game because… of course he is. Though if he ends up as an HB that make him a Halfwood?).

DL – For the love of god show me something! With Leonard and Newsome both being rested this is the perfect chance for someone like Tull, Tavarres or Antigha to show what life could be like without them. I will also be watching the interior guys (Mrabure, Minter, Steele, Gaydosh, MIlhouse) closely. Their ability to generate an interior push is key to opening up room for Jefferson. Again, show me something!

LBs – We seem to be trending towards Dargan and Williams as the OLBs so I’ll be watching how they perform as a unit with Muamba. I will also be keenly watching Grondin, Love and Francis. Love may yet be pushing for a starter role but these 3 represent our depth at LB at least until Judge arrives and Eguavoen (hopefully) heals up.

DBs – With Bingman out a month-ish, looks like it will be Butler and Roberts as starters opposite of Gainey and Rodgers. Gatewood, Adams and Lyles have one last chance to unseat them. Edem and Hecht are still duking it out at safety though I expect both will make the 44 man roster and be used on a rotational basis. BC has a far more formidable offense than Winnipeg so this is a great test of where we are at with this unit. My expectations are deliberately set low so hopefully I won’t be disappointed.

Lastly, since the game is televised and I’m guessing booze at your house is somewhat more affordable than at Mosaic, this is a good chance to play the Official Rider Prophet Preseason Drinking game. Legally I can’t condone binge drinking or tell you how much more enjoyable it makes a preseason game but wink, wink, nudge, nudge. The rules are as follows:

1.     Every dropped pass of fumble you drink
2.     Every time the announcer screws up, drink (better hope Rod Black doesn’t get the call)
3.     Drink 2 if a flag bearer is out of formation during pre-game
4.     Every time count, illegal formation, no yards or offside penalty you drink. Two if it’s on the Riders. Four if it’s Too Many Men
5.     Every TV timeout you drink (note: Obviously the game is actually being televised but hey, this is a drinking game after all)
6.     If someone calls for a fair catch you shot-gun a beer
7.     If a player who is not dressed gets credit for a stat or penalty, you drink
8.     If a cheerleader falls, you drink
9.     If Josh Bartel scores a TD proceed immediately to the nearest liquor dispensary and purchase and pound one of those really big Fosters beer. (Traditionally this was the Jordan Sisico rule and I was prepared to make it the Vince Young rule but quite frankly even a currently unemployed Sisco has a better chance of scoring).

Monday, June 12, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: We didn't lose!

Riders 25 - Winnipeg 25

Sure we didn't win and sure it was a meaningless game but after the last 2 seasons, Riders fans we're so elated at not losing that I'm sure 9 months from now there will be a spike in births and children named Quinn.

It was great to get to my new seat and settle in for some long awaited football. Though the signs of the preseason were immediately all around me. It was preseason for the players who messed up the pre-game breakdown (half were off praying while the rest stood awkwardly at mid-field until they all gave up and went to the bench). It was preseason for the refs, who took literally 20 minutes to sort out a call... and still got it wrong even after a challenge. You can see the play here yourself. Not sure in what universe this wasn't no yards. Yes, it was a sloppy, slow moving, meaningless game... and I loved it.

 On the field there were some very good things that happened and some concerning things. I won't dwell on the QBs since everyone has been talking endlessly about that. Simply put Bridge was good. He looked poised and impressed me with his ability to not force it and take what the D was giving. Bennett was awful, not sure if all the hype he was getting all week got to his head but he was brutal. Bennett will have to show something pretty impressive enxt week as I think Bridge is now the #2. Williams also showed me enough (albeit was a small sample size) that I want him kept around.

It concerning to lose both Labatte and St John at OL but it was a nice chance for that not to lead to mass panic and a line of useless back benchers who couldn't block my mom. Dyakowski is already proving his worth and stepped in seamlessly. Bladek got a rough welcome to the pros as he was victimized and a few plays. He's a raw rookie and just needs more time to develop.

At running back Cameron Marshall is looking good and not about to give up his starter spot. Allen had some good moments too but Marshall is the guy for me. I think LaFrance will have to wait for an injury for a chance to show he can start.

It was great seeing Roosevelt again. He's still got it. Duron Carter still has it as well... and by that I mean he is a ridiculously talented ass-hat. He almost got kicked out of a preseason game (can you imagine how embarrassing that would be, oh wait) because he was worked up and running his mouth. I guess as long as the TD's outway the asshattery (just made that word up) we'll have to learn to love him. I liked what I saw from Stoshak, Picton and Desmki. While there were flashes, I don't think guys like not the good Grant (Antwan), Reece and Mayo did enough to crack a very tough competition at WR.

Defense remains a concern for me. My opinion that Willie Jefferson represents our only hope at a tangible pass rush was reinforced as we got next to no pressure. No one really stood out in the secondary but they played very good in the first half in terms of giving up points so that's good. I saw a lot of guys in good position but either not make the play or rely on the receiver not to make the catch. I mean its good that they are there but it means sweet diddly if you don't make the play. We are certainly big and fast.

Despite the questions that remain on D, I do feel better about where we are at this season as compared to last after the game. 

Other random thoughts:
- The coin toss ladies vintage Starter '95 Grey Cup jacket was just simply outstanding! 

- If that was preseason noise levels, I am amped up for how rocking the stadium will be on July 1. 

- I despise the game day hosts. They remind me about everything I hate about going to a game in Calgary. If I never hear either of them again it will be too soon.

- On teams, Gagne and Chevrier caught my eye a couple times.

- I notice Tevaughn Campbell in a negative way a couple times which surprised me as he looked to be taking the next step after finishing last year strong and having a good camp.

- Kacy Rodgers looks to have slimmed down and was the main guy I noticed in a positive way on defense.

- I won't lie, I was shocked that Chris Jones didn't needless challenge so play in a vain attempt to get a call overturned.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Rider vs. Bombers: Preseason Game 1

Hello football season, goodbye workplace productivity!

Saturday the Blue Bombers visit the Riders to open the inaugural season at new Mosaic Stadium. It's regrettable that we have to ruin our new stadium with Winnipeg stank so early in the year but it probably balances out with the lack of "mystery liquid dripping from the ceiling" stank that the old stadium had.

Normally preseason games mean playing the Official Rider Prophet Preseason Drinking Game. If you are a die hard and want to play along again the rules can be found here. But at the beer prices in the new stadium, I would have to either sell my car or perform sexual favours for money in the bathroom to afford it. It's a pretty fun game to play but even I have some standards.... what?I do so!

Here's what I will be looking for during the game:
- Vince Young is out. Kevin Glenn's only contribution to the game may be making sure the sideline turf doesn't blow away. That means this is a huge opportunity for Bryan Bennett and Brandon Bridge. The #2 spot is up for grabs and both will likely get a lot of reps with the 1s and 2s instead of having to wait until late in the game when they are relying on the future unemployed to make them look good. Marquise Williams (who will likely only see a bit of action late in the 4th) likely gets more reps than normal due to Young being out. He needs to show he's progressed enough to be considered as our #3 developing QB. 

- As much as I have publicly loathed the Vince Young experiment, I'm a bit disappointed he's not playing. I would rather see him play and prove that he's not worth keeping to everyone than have him go out this way.

- Preseason game is when you really get a sense of how your RBs and LBs stack up. Practice at these positions only tells you so much. You need to see people try and tackle or break tackles when they are going full tilt. Unfortunately I doubt LaFrance plays but the more he stays in tub, the more the door opens for Cameron Marshall to assert himself as a viable starter. Allen too. As for our LBs, I have full confidence in Muamba... but would feel a lot better if I saw some visual evidence of the other LBs playing well.

- I'll be watching the OL to see how St JOhn fares now that he has an actual training camp under his belt. I will also be watching the young guys (Bladek, Meredith, Guy) to see how they show.

- If your name is not Carter, Roosevelt or Bagg you better be laying it all on the line in this game because they is far more talented WRs than their are roster spots. Not just catching but you can bet coaches will be looking for who gives full effort in the little things like blocking as well. Holley, Grant and Stroshak seem to be in the lead but things can change quickly. 

- Along the D-line I will be watching our tackles to see how string we are in the middle. I'm hopeful there but some actual visual evidence would help calm my nerves. As for DE I am praying that someone shows something because as I have probably annoyingly repeated every chance I get, I don't like Leonard and Newsome. Looking at the roster, I guess by default I'm pulling for Tull.

- Lastly there's the secondary.... Please don't be brutal, Please don't be brutal. This unit is our biggest question mark coming into the season and a minimum of 2 starting spots are up for grabs. We really need a couple DBs to step up and separate themselves from the pack (especially now that Bingman may be out). Adams, Dargan and Roberts are guys I will have my eyes on.

See you in the stands!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Tuesday Morning Sentimonies: Camp So Far

We are now just 4 days away from football being played here! As camp rolls along (and make a more concerted attempt to actually get my sentimonies posted on Monday) I thought I take a position by position look at the team based on how camp has gone so far.

QB - Any doubt that Kevin Glenn is the unquestioned starter has been put to rest. All that's left to decide is who gets 2 and 3. Lots of Bryan Bennett hype following a strong showing at the mock game. Now I have already said that I am all in on Bennett as our only non-Glenn QB hope so I'm happy to see him shining... but let's temper expectations a bit until he does it in a real game. I have concerns about our secondary so it could just be him looking good against a bad secondary. I hope not but let's not appoint him the saviour of the franchise just yet.

RB - LaFrance's ongoing injury is making this position hard to get a read on. I still think he is the preferred option but Marshall has looked good and bringing in Allen is a sign that all is not settled yet. By the way, I'm happy to see Allen get another shot. I always thought he was underrated while he was here. He has some ball control issues but he's a productive runner. Certainly not a game breaker but a reliable producer (think Wes Cates closer to the end of his career).

WR - I have a feeling that we are going to love the Carter/Roosevelt combo. Holley has had a good camp as has newcomer Stroshak. We are so deep at receiver that Collins and Craig are being tried out at DB to see if we can justify keeping them around. Let's be honest its a pipe dream that either will ever be an actual DB but gotta look at options to retain everyone. This is why trading Edwards was a good move.

OL - Depth is much improved from last year. When Labatte went down we were screwed last year. This year, the luxury of having Dyakowski (and St John actually come to camp) is that we don't have to hinge all our hopes on one guy. Sounds like the young guys (Bladek, Meredith, Guy) have a ways to develop yet so we certainly have room to improve here but improvement here is key to any hope of success this season.

DL - Jefferson is good. I have high hopes for our interior guys (Steele, Minter, Milhouse) but until we see them in a game, its just that, hope. I still don't believe we have a legitimate second D-end. Praying some new guy like Tull or Poole make an impression on Saturday.

LB - A bit of early concern with both Love and Eguavoen not practicing due to injury. Love is finally back, Eguavoen is not (which is starting to get mildly concerning). Sounds like Francis and Hunter and the leading candidates on the other side. Not having an Otha Foster in that spot is a concern for me at this point.

DB - The top unit is constantly being tweaked and experimented with but one combo that seems to be recurring is Rodgers-Gainey-Edem-Bingman-Adams . Guys like Campbell, Roberts and Dennard remain among the contenders. Still have my concerns about this unit (especially given my concern over our ability to generate a pass rush unless Jefferson does it all). I guess the good news is at this point last season we had a rookie receiver as the starting safety, so by virtue of having an actual safety we are at least in a better place comparatively. 

I'll be back Friday to tee up the Preseason game

Monday, May 29, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Training Camp Begins

Football is back!!!

I so excited I might just... you know what I'll just stop there and let you imagine the inappropriate way I was going to finish that sentence. In fact, I'm so excited that I think the only thing that could put a damper on things is a surprise retirement of a projected starting Canadian. But I mean really, what are the odds of that? Very good if you are the Riders.

From retirements, to a trade, the actual first day of camp, it's been a very eventful weekend. So let's get right to me opining on all the news that is news.

Its a running joke that is sadly not just a joke. Everyone retires.... you know except guys like Kevin Glenn and Paul McCallum who are actually retirement age (a couple times over in McCallum's case). Brouilette was to be a stabilizing veteran presence in the middle of our shaky secondary. No such luck. The crazy things is that even though he reportedly wants to give back his signing bonus, it still likely counts against the cap. Given our recent run of retirements I would start negotiating all bonus' to be voided in case of pre-December retirement. The acquisition of Edem and the retaining of Hecht are now very key moves. We are not screwed but the unexpected loss of a Canadian starter is never a good thing.

Goodbye Armanti Edwards. Hello Peter Dyakowski. After mulling this trade over for a while, I've decided I like. We have been on the wrong side of the American for Canadian swap so its nice to finally do it right. Import receiver for veteran Cdn OL (who could start) is a win. I hate losing Edwards but given the tight competition at receiver we were likely to have to cut 2 of Edwards, Collins, Holley and Craig. Good to get value out of that. Edwards likely had the highest trade value of the 4. You gotta give to get. Besides you can never have enough Cdn OL depth. 

Training Camp
A caveat on my coverage of camp. Because the stupid Riders feel the need to pander to lesser fans in other cities... err... I mean grow the fan base and reward deserving fans outside Regina, I do not actually get to see camp. All my analysis is based on the reports of others (and god bless all of those who do post reports to keep us football addicts in the know). Now the issue with the reports of others is that I have heard everything from Brandon Bridge was the best QB, to he was the worst QB, to he wasn't even on the field but in the parking lot chasing seagulls away from discarded food. 

He's a few quick hitter thoughts on camp so far:
- May not be a shoe in that LaFrance starts at RB. If we start 3 Cdn OL we don't necessarily need him to start. It's early and you can't really tell anything about RBs until a real game but I think Marshall will push LaFrance

- Lots of rave reviews on new WR Ahmad Fulwood. Hopefully he pans out because I've already started drafting a ton of jokes based on his name, as well as possibly a T-shirt.

- Bryan Bennett is the QB not named Glenn that I am placing all my hope in. I think/pray he will outright win the #2 spot. 

- It will be tough to get a solid read on our plans in the secondary as there is lots of experimentation going on: Campbell at wide side CB, Francis at Sam LB. May take a few days before the starting group emerges. Look for solid camps from Tyler Hunter and Royce Adams. I think they are ready to take the next step after a few games with us late last season. 

- The Official Rider Prophet Endorsement of 2017 goes to Greg Milhouse. Who was lining up as starting DT. Unfortunately for Milhouse, the Rider Prophet Endorsement is akin to the kiss of death. I have previously endorsed such Rider greats as Eltoro Freeman, Boo Robinson, Gabe Nyenhuis, Ikenna Ike and Jose Valdez. 

Looking forward to following these story lines as camp progresses. Also hoping we can get through the rest up camp both fine and retirement free... hahah good luck.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tuesday Morning Sentimonies: Camp Battles

Training camp is now less than a week away and I am getting pumped. That feeling was certainly given a boost when my super nice box that contained only a plastic card and a string that was clearly diverted from being used as draw strings in dollar store sweat pants arrived (aka my season tickets).

While the Riders enter 2017 camp with less questions than they did 2016 (at least until Chris Jones starts cutting people), there are still many intriguing battles to watch as camp opens. Here are some of my top areas to watch.

Multiple talented people will not be making this team because the competition here will be so tight. I assume Carter and Roosevelt are safe, but pretty much every other player will have to be showing their top stuff from day 1 if they want to rise to the top. Guys like Holley, Edwards, Collins and Craig who saw action here last year will have to step it up if they want to beat out the vets that have been brought in.

Prophet's guy to watch: Armanti Edwards.
Offensive Line
Jones has stated he wants to start 3 Canadians on the interior of the OL in order to get to 8 starting Cdns. That means the right guard spot is up for grabs. Presumably St John is is the lead horse but guys like Bladek, White and Guy will also have their shot. Also, all Canadians will have to prove that they are a better options that having King play guard and starting 3 imports. 

Prophet's guy to watch: Josiah St John

Muamba will be manning the middle but both outside spots are up for grabs. At the Will Linebacker it will be between Sam Eguavoen, who looked great early last year before getting hurt and newcomer Glenn Love, who proved he can do more than play teams last season. Both are solid options and I expect both will see time on D but one will get the lion's share. At the Sam LB spot, I have no clue. Tyler Hunter spent time there. I think Kacy Rodgers would do good there. Maybe some unknown guy steps up.

Prophet's guy to watch: Dillon Grondin (I like him last year and now that we are starting a Cdn MLB he has a big chance to prove he can be the back-up).

I expect Brouilette to start at Safety, though Edem could push him (also an outside shot they both do well in camp and one gets bumped up to LB). Gainey gets one spot. That's all we know. The other 3 spots are more open that opposing receivers were against us early last season. If he's not an LB expect Rodgers to take a spot. I am just praying we can uncover another Justin Cox (you know, without the all the domestic issues). To me, this is the competition to watch... mainly because if we don't find 2-3 quality DBs then we are screwed.

Prophet's guy to watch: Royce Adams 

You'll note that everyone's favourite position (QB) was not on my list. Regular readers will know why, but in case you are new here and somehow managed to read this far before giving up on me, here's my view on QBs. Kevin Glenn will absolutely dominate all competing QBs. it won't even be close. The only question is whether Vince Young sucks enough to get cut. Or sucks but gets kept around as a back-up due to a pipe dream that he will develop. Given we currently only have 4 qbs under contract, odds currently look good for the latter.