Monday, April 24, 2017

CFL Draft 2017 Team Preview: Hamilton Ti-Cats

Picks: 7 picks, first selection is 4th Overall

2016 Draft Assessment: Landed a stud OL in Brandon Revenberg with the 3rd overall pick. He will likely be a mainstay in that O-line for years. I’m not really sure why they drafted Mercer Timmis in the 2nd round but he certainly has potential if they ever decide to use him. The pick I would keep my eye on is 3rd rounder LB Terrell Davis. I think he will grow into a solid special teamer/rotational defender for them. Overall a pretty good result for the Cats.

Potential Pipeline: DL Brent Urban (Baltimore)

Current Strengths: They have ample starting calibre Canadians (many of whom are or have been all-stars): Butler, Laurent, Stephen, Bomben, Revenberg, Filer, Capicciotti and Watt (as least as a token Cdn WR). They have a solid core of depth/special teamers (mainly due to their recent history of drafting a ridiculous amount of LBs).

Current Needs: The Ti-cats’ issues in not finding starters but ensuring adequate depth behind them. They have just 5 Cdn OL under contract. Given that they are likely to start 2 Cdn DBs (Butler and Stephen), they don’t have near the depth there they need. Particularly when you consider that Butler is coming off major knee injury and hasn’t played in a year. Depth behind Laurent and Capicciotti is thin as well with only Atkinson and Gill (who I wouldn’t count on given that he seems to always be hurt). The other big hole is the one left by Andy Fantuz. It’s likely he returns to the Ti-Cats once he’s healthy but who knows when that will be and given his age, they need to start thinking of the future. Lastly, for the second year in a row they currently have no kicker. Bold strategy (thought it worked out alright for them last year so why not do it again?)

Prediction:  WR Danny Vandervoot at #4 just makes way too much sense. He’s by far the best WR in the draft. They need a young Cdn WR.  It’s not like picking an impact OL or a DL would be a bad pick at #4 so they can't really go wrong (well ok there are many ways to go wrong, just ask Joe Mack). But Vandervoot is the odds on favourite here. Also, given past history, expect them to take no less than 5 LBs in the draft.

Friday, April 21, 2017

CFL Draft 2017 Team Preview: Toronto Argonauts

Toronto will have to sit out the first round as their hard earned 1st overall pick goes to Winnipeg thanks to the infamous Drew Willy trade. I still can’t fathom how at any point (even if alcohol was involved) that ever seemed like a good trade for Jim Barker. Did Kyle Walters have some blackmail material on him? Barker's replacement Jim Popp will now be making the picks (ironically he also traded a first round pick away with his previous employer).
Picks: 6 picks, first selection is 10th Overall

2016 Draft Assessment: Mostly a lot of depth additions like O-linemen Jamall Campbell and DJ Sackey (who really missed his calling in life as a D-lineman, best name ever!). The success/failure of this draft is really tied to the 2 receivers Barker selected: Brian Jones (1st round) and Llevi Noel (4th round). When he cut his entire receiver corp late last season (bold strategy), Barker was confident these 2 could step in as replacements. Count me among those skeptical about this strategy. Remains to be seen if the new regime is as high on Jones as Barker was… especially given that Popp didn’t make Cdn WRs much of a priority in Montreal.

Potential Pipeline: TE Luke Wilson (Seattle)

Current Strengths: Starts up front where Popp now has the ability to start an all Cdn O-line like he had in Montreal. Perrett and Van Zeyl at tackle. Holmes, McEwen and Deane inside. Plus a ton of depth behind them (Dyakowski, Smith, Watman, Campbell, Sakey). Of note are the young guys like Holmes and McEwen which bodes well for the future. Jermaine Gabriel is a quality safety and they have Black and Webster for depth. Anthony Coombs can be a playmaker (particularly if Ray is the QB). Hajrullahu had a bounce back season and proved to be a quality kicker (given how terrible the Argos were he had ample opportunity to prove it).

Current Needs: Their glut of OL assets leaves them free to target other areas (a luxury not shared by many teams). Defense would be the logical place for them to start. At DL they have Daryl Waud (12th overall pick in 2015) but limited depth behind him if they want to push him as a starter (which they may choose to do for ratio reasons). They don’t really have much in terms of Cdn LBs which could impact on their special teams play. I expect Coombs to be heavily involved in the offense and so the departure of Andre Durie leaves a need for some depth at RB.

Prediction: Based on need and what’s likely to be available come the second round, the Argos are likely to take a DL with their first pick (whichever of Faith Ekakite, Junior Luke or Kwaku Boateng is still there). Keep in mind though that Jim Popp is now calling the shots so one of his early picks will be a headscratcher from that no one saw coming. My bet is a fullback. Also, because Popp has never shied away from taking players he has to wait on, I could see Popp taking a flyer on guys like Justin Senior, Anthony Auclair or Geoff Gray (depending on how NFL interest in him pans out).

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

CFL Draft 2017 Team Preview: Edmonton Eskimos

Edmonton may not have a GM but presumably somebody will be making picks for them come draft day.

Picks: 8 picks, first selection is 5th Overall

2016 Draft Assessment: A very questionable draft strategy by then-GM Ed Hervey. Used his 1st and 2nd round picks on players bound for the NFL (Tevaughn Smith and Arjen Calquhoun) and did not have a 3rd or 4th rounder. That meant the first tangible selections for the team started in the 5th round. Not a recipe for success (just ask Brendan Taman). Obviously if either NFLer ventures north this assessment could change quickly but currently the value of the 2016 is negligible.

Potential Pipeline: WR Tevaughn Smith (NFL – Indy), DB Arjen Calquhoun (NFL – Dallas), DL Stefan Charles (NFL - Detroit), OL Austin Paztor (NFL - Cleveland), K Shaun Suisham (NFL), LS LP Ladouceur (NFL - Dallas)

Current Strengths:
They have a solid interior to their O-line with O’Donnell, Rottier and Sorensen with Groulx and Beard for depth. Safety position is in good shape with starter Neil King and Andrew Lue and Dubuisson providing depth. Calvin McCarty is one of those unheralded role players that every team needs in order to be successful. Sean Whyte was the most accurate kicker in the CFL last season at 93.8% and has missed only 6 kicks over his 2 years in Edmonton (I still have no clue what Montreal was thinking when they outright cut him but lucky for the Esks I guess). They have a glut of Cdn LBs led by Cory Greenwood (who could start) and solid special teamer Blair Smith.

Current Needs:
What the Esks really need is something to show for their first selection. Of the past 5 players the Esks have used their first pick on 3 are still in the NFL, 1 is no longer part of the team, and 1 was injured for all but 1 game last season. The Esks really need to land someone who can contribute in 2017 with their first pick.

They currently have only 5 Cdn O-lineman under contract so that is likely an area to focus on (unless they think they can get through the whole season injury-free). The sudden retirement of Nate Coehoorn leaves big hole for them in terms of ratio. Last season they started 3 Cdn receivers so they will either need another Cdn receiver to start or adjust the ratio. Moving Cory Greenwood to a starter is an option (though given his health that would require a solid back-up plan). They could also move to starting 4 Cdn OL which would also require adding some depth as a back-up plan. They have just one Cdn D-lineman but I don’t see that being a concern given their intent to play an all American front 4

Whoever is making the picks for the Esks will be looking to distance themselves from the Hervey legacy, and that means picking a player who they can expect in training camp. Given that they aren’t overly concerned about D-lineman, that leaves O-line as the obvious place to use their first pick. A relatively safe pick like Qadr Spooner or Dariusz Bladek would fit that. If by some chance Hamilton passes on Danny Vandervoot at #4 the Esks may be inclined to forgo that strategy based on the Coehoorn departure. Round 2 will see them look to add a Receiver such as Nate Behar or Mitch Picton (provided they didn’t land one in Round 1).

Monday, April 17, 2017

CFL Draft 2017 Team Preview: Ottawa RedBlacks

We start our CFL Draft team previews with the defending champions. Obviously you don’t win the Grey Cup without solid Canadian content and the RedBlacks certainly have that. Offseason departures have given that content a hit, though they are far from being in dire straits.

Picks: 8 picks, first selection is #9

2016 Draft Assessment: Got a big win with their #7 overall pick Jason Lauzon-Seguin who started 12 games as a rookie, primarily at tackle. That alone makes the draft a success. As for the rest of the draft, mostly depth players like Mikael Charland and Randy Beardy, and players like Jamal Kett and Kyle Fraser Audit looking to make the team in year 2. Interesting play to watch is 3rd round pick Mehdi Abdesmad who is still down south. Overall a decent draft for a team with minimal needs.

Potential Pipeline: DL Mehdi Abdesmad (NFL - Tennessee), TE Tyler Digby (lacrosse)

Current Strengths: Very good depth on both sides of the trenches. On the O-line they have guys like Gott, MacMillan, Mateas, Lauzon-Seguin and Albright. On the D-line, Evans has developed into a stud in the middle (guess Ottawa is lucky a short-sighted GM left him unprotected in the expansion draft, not that I'm still bitter about that) and they have Williams and Gascon-Nadon on the end with Marshall and Lattanzio for depth. A bit of a down year for Antoine Pruneau but he’s still starting material. Also have a solid starter in Brad Sinopoli. They could easily start 8 Canadians (and often do).

Current Needs: If they plan on maintaining 4 starting Cdn OL like they did at the end of last season than more depth is needed there (especially given the offseason departure of J’Michael Deane). Not convinced they have the depth needed to replace Pruneau if he goes down, so another playmaking DB/LB would be a good add. Also given that they gave Milo the boot (he reportedly hit the uprights on the way out), there is some uncertainty at kicker. There isn’t necessarily a starting calibre kicker in the draft but likely a late round addition to the kicking competition is in order.

Beyond that, the RedBlacks have the luxury of taking the best player available.

Prediction: I see them going defense in Round 1. I can’t see Eli Ankou still being there at #9 so for D-line possibly  Faith Ekakitie or Kwaku. I think the greater need is an LB/DB depth so most likely they end up with like Christophe Mulumba or Dondre Wright. Round 2 sees them address OL depth. The mid to late rounds will be used to add WR and LB depth as well as the previously mentioned kicker.

Monday Morning Sentimonies: CFL Draft Preview

Today I begin my annual CFL Draft coverage. I would say highly anticipated coverage but "likely anticipated by at least one person" coverage. 

What amazes me every year is the phenomenal growth in interest and coverage surrounding the draft. When I began doing this, I was almost the only person not named Duane Ford or the draftees' parents who cared or even seemed to know this event existed. Now there are more draft profiles and mock drafts than I can count (for any non-Rider fans reading this I will pause here and allow you your mandatory joke about Riders and counting... go on, I'll wait). I think it's awesome for the sport and for the CFL. I mean I'm a pretty smart dude but if the country was still relying solely on me for draft coverage it would be somewhat problematic.

So today I begin my CFL Team Preview series, where we look at the strengths, weaknesess, needs and possible draft strategy for each team. And hopefully we have some fun along the way*.

*Disclaimer: Author cannot guarantee fun.*

Monday, April 10, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Delayed

There will be no sentimonies today. I may have thought it was a good idea to gut my bathroom over the weekend and start the process of redoing it. THe wording in the previous sentence was very deliberate as I no longer think it was a good idea and I am far from being done the process.

I will return next monday when I kick off my highly anticipated... err critically acclaimed... err well my annual CFL Draft coverage.

Wish me luck.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: A New Tradition

As the Riders move from historic Taylor Field (aka old Mosaic) I have been thinking about the opportunity this inaugural season presents to start some new traditions. There are so many cool things going on in the sporting world like the All Blacks' Haka, Wisconsin's Jump Around, even stadiums where fans yell first down in unison. With our new stadium it would be super cool if we could institute a new tradition. What we need is something unique, original like Green is the Colour and the 13th Man (which were totally not just copied from other teams).

So I took it upon myself to come up with a number of suggestions on what that new tradition could be. However, anyone who knows me knows could likely surmise that what I came up with was less plausible/appropriate and more comedic/ridiculous. So they were all summarily rejected by the Riders. And so I present to you

Rider Prophet's Top 7 Reject Ideas For New Traditions

7 - Roman Candles
Fireworks after a scoring play are common practice, but what about taking it to the next level and have 30,000 fans light off Roman Candles after a TD. Obviously there are some minor legal and safety concerns to work though but just think how cool it would look.
6 - Release the Gophers
Instead of having one mascot gopher circle the stadium, this idea involved a trained pack of real gophers doing a lap around the field. The main concern here was the fact that this is Saskatchewan and people would try and shoot them.
5 - Light It Up
This one requires a bit of forward thinking. Given that weed will soon be legal in Canada (and the fact that its not like its uncommon now), we could start a tradition where a puff of smoke 30,000 people strong celebrates a score. It would certainly be popular with the players.
4 - Snowmobile Doing Flips
This one is really self explanatory. Give the people what they want.

3 - Left Shark
Remember the infamous left shark from the Katy Perry halftime? Put that guy in a Rider jersey and its solid gold. (I may have put this one in there purely for my own self interest)


2 - Take It Off
So hear me out on this one. We make it a game day tradition that if the Riders score, the cheerleaders remove an article of clothing. And to ensure we give equal opportunity here, if our opponents score, the make cheerleaders remove an article clothing. What this idea lacks in decency, morality, taste and taking into account the harsh prairie winters it more than makes up for in mass appeal.

1 - Obscure Song
People love to sing along to Sweet Caroline so a sing along is bound to be a crowd pleasure. But in order to make it unique to Saskatchewan we need to pick a song that is a bit off the beaten path (and no I'm not talking about the Last Saskatchewan Pirate). How about I Like to Move It, Thong Song or Tubthumping. As long as we are singing in unison.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Thoughts on Fan Week

Thursday I had the chance to take the family down to check out Mark's Fan Week. I'll admit that my experience as a father taking his boy was very different that it would have been had I gone on my own but I think the CFL was able to deliver something that appealed to everyone from families to childless beer enthusiasts.

For families, there were a ton of kid-friendly, hands on activities, a flag football session and a chance to meet the players who their their eyes are second only in awesomeness to their father (i assume). For adults there was the Grey Cup, the command centre, a "you make the call challenge", beer gardens, and autographs. It was also a great chance for fans from across the league who may only know each other by their on-line monikers to get together. From my perspective it was everything that is great about the CFL (minus the actual football). 

I enjoyed getting to play around with the actual command centre replay equipment. Though admittedly I spent a lot of my time trying to find the button that brought cartoons up in place of the replay angles, as that is the only logical explanation for some of the calls this past season. I also enjoyed seeing a truly CFL moment as Chad Owens and Henoc Mumaba we approach by fans for a photo in front of the Tim Hortons kiosk while clearly trying to quickly grab a bite to eat. They of course happily agreed. I can't see the same level of approachability existing in other sport leagues. 

The other amazing thing is that a photo emerged showing that Chris Jones owns blue jeans. To me this was a shocking revelation. 


As much of a success as this event was (I mean the CFL got a ton pf press in mid-March, something that previously would have only occurred if it involved charges being laid or a franchise in danger of folding). I think there is a lot of room to build and expand on this event. Hopefully the becomes the first in a long line of these events. Its a great way to engage the fans the nurture that strong connection they have with the players that makes this league so special.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Mark's CFL Week

This week the CFL will invade Regina, for Mark's CFL Week. I'd just like to point out that by using the sponsor's name in both the title and opening line of this post I'm helping the Mark's brand reach 8 people who still read this blog... I'll assume my royalty cheque is in the mail.

This week long event is a surprisingly inspired idea from the CFL. Usually the CFL seems to go out of its way to be off the radar during the offseason. The only time it seems to be in the media is reluctantly when a player is charged with something, or when a well intentioned GM inadvertently breaks league rules for like the 8th time. But this week-long event will put the league on the map for all the right reasons. It is a tremendous opportunity to connect with the fans, generate excitement for the season and highlight an event that a few years ago most people didn't know existed, let alone care about (the combine). Hopefully it will become an annual event. Regina a is logical starting point because we will literally throw money at anything involving the Riders and a beer garden. I think it would also be a great success in places like Winnipeg, Ottawa, Hamilton, Edmonton and Calgary. Montreal could probably make it work if the event was held on St Catherine's St, at night (come for the bench press, stay for a lap dance).

Twenty year old me would likely have spent the entire week taking in the festivities (with a heavy emphasis on the beer gardens). Current me has these annoying things called "adult responsibilities" like work and children not to mention laws that prevent me from leaving said children in the care of my dog. Also, my transition to ornery old man is well on its way as I realize with each passing year I like interacting with people less and less (there's a reason I run a blog and not a call in show). So I likely won't make it to much of the festivities but I do plan on getting down there for at least bit. The week of football is a great cure for the offseason blues. Also, let's be honest given your sad attempts at pretending you knew anything about college basketball, your bracket is so busted that you are now back to ignoring the sport like you do the other 51 weeks of the year.

So let's show the CFL and the players and prospects here a good time. I expect you to all be on your best behaviour.  That means keep your pants on until at least 10pm; keeps your jeers to opposing  players and fans PG-13 and not personal; and for the love of god if you feel the need to whack the knee of a player with a blunt object make sure you wear a balaclava and a jersey from a non-Rider team. Also ensure the player is not retired or one of our players. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Vince Young and the state of our QBs

Thursday what started as a misguided pipe dream became reality (the misguided part still applies). Vince Young officially signed with the Riders. It would appear that neither the pittance of a CFL salary nor our lousy Smarch weather could deter him. Young is here, Young is a Rider, Young will be competing for a QB spot in training camp. 

Regular readers will know that I am about as impressed with this turn of events as Young appears to be in the above picture upon arriving in Regina. 

I get the "What's the harm?" view that many of you have adopted. It's a low risk deal with no upfront money and a lot of incentives (i.e. portions of the contract I expect never to be triggered). We lose nothing by bringing him. If he sucks, we move on. If by some alignment of about 11 simultaneous miracles he is awesome then we look like geniuses. So I will concede, yes the risk is minimal, the harm is next to nonexistent... But I still don't like it.

Now I could dwell on all the reasons Young is unlikely to succeed or all the reasons that I oppose this union. But by now you are probably sick of hearing me rant about this. So instead I will take a different path and discuss why this signing is just the latest thing that should cause us a fair bit of concern with respect to our QB situation.

I won't get into the whole Durant thing but as a starting point let's assume that if you are doing to turf your franchise QB you had better be pretty confident in your ability to find the next one. Problem is, nothing this team has done in regards to QBs instills any degree of confidence. What we have seen under this regime is a string of sub-par recruits and a pile of 3rd string QBs jettisoned by other teams. 

Under the Recruits category we had Jacob Huesman who was here for so little time in camp that I barely had time to learn his name. We also had BJ Coleman who lasted a bit longer but accomplished about as much. Mid season we added Vad Lee. I'm not even sure his stay consisted of as many weeks as him name has syllables. The most notable recruit was sadly Phillip Sims, and not because of his play but rather because he looked like he may have ate some of his fellow QB competitors. Four recruits all clearly not up to snuff.

Then we get into the QBs that came from other teams. Early on we picked up Bryant Moniz and GJ Kinne off the Stampeder scrap heap. Moniz cost us a few possessions before mercifully being cut. Kinne looked awful in his lone appearance but is still here. Mitch Gale came from a trade with Toronto. In a change of events he wasn't embarrassingly awful. He was decent but I'm pretty sure we saw his ceiling. Could you win the odd game with him? Sure. Is he a guy to pin a franchise on? No. People are high on Brandon Bridge who we salvaged after Montreal cut him but I have literally seen nothing that leads me to believe he is a legit contender for starter. I have no problem with him in camp but I honestly don't see him coming close to contending for starter. As I've said before, if he weren't Canadian, I'm not sure anyone would care about him. Jake Waters came in a trade from Hamilton. He apparently had the most potential (though I find the Dave Dickenson comparison a bit over-selling him). We will never know as his career consisted of a broken collar bone and retiring to accept a coaching job. Lastly, this season we added former Bomber QB Bryan Bennett. Jury is still out on him.

So in over a year of trying to find the next QB, we have a bunch or terrible recruits and as a result had to turn to a bunch of guys we added from other teams, one of which was mediocre one of which may have possibly had potential. If any of that gives you confidence in our ability to find the next franchise QB, I hope you have a prescription for whatever induces those illusions. Vince Young may be the best QB recruit we've had in a long time but that is a really sad thing.

I staunchly maintain that Kevin Glenn is far and away the best QB on our roster and I fully expect him to out-duel any of the schlubs Jones has assembled to compete with him. My hope is that our mini-camp unearths just one solid recruit at QB to change this sad narrative. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Most Likely To...

I spent a while trying to think of something to write about this morning. Admittedly its not like there is ever a shortage of Rider things to talk about. I mean, hell, in this province I could do an expose on the fast food preferences of team members and it may end up as front page news. But the problem is that most good stories at this point would require a fair bit of research... something I am decidedly too lazy to do at this point. The only thing topical seems to be discussions of Vince Young... and I'll be damned if I'm going to waste any space or time writing about someone who won't amount to jack in the CFL. Either he's not coming up here (my preferred option) or he's coming up here with a full media circus and will eventually flame out in training camp. Either way he's not worth discussing.

So what is a lazy blogger with a decidely anti-Vince Young bias to-do?

Well I went through the team photos and did a high school year book style "Most likely to" feature. What it lacks in depth and content it makes up for in mild forms of entertainment.

Most Likely to still get ID'ed: Dan Clark

Most Likely to still be recovering from the night before: Tyler Crapigna
Most Likely to be mind humping the photographer: Greg Morris

Most Likely to turn out to be a serial killer: Josh Bartel
 Most likely to have responded "I am smiling": Greg Jones
Most likely to QB the Riders in 2017: ..
Just kidding... screw him! I would honestly take a Rocky Butler comeback attempt more seriously.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Monday Evening Sentimonies: What’s Left?

Now that free agency frenzy... err, free agent moderately busy couple days… err, free agent barely noticeable event except amongst football starved CFL die hards who would probably watch a show about a CFL equipment person doing laundry… anyway now that that’s over, the Riders have certainly filled a few holes on the roster. But there are more holes yet to be filled.

Obviously free agency isn’t the be all and end all. There is still the draft and crop of new import recruits (for the record yes, I do still refuse to adopt the new “international” lingo, I’m stubborn like that) to round out the roster. So much like most of my socks, its normal for holes to still be there. With that in mind thought, I thought I’d spend today looking at the remaining roster needs for the Riders and where they might look to address it.

Long Snapper
There is possibly no person on the roster who people care less about than the snapper… at least until he screws up. When they do their job right, you barely notice they are there but one bad snap can change to outcome of  a game so while they aren’t likely to have more than their mom’s lining up for their autograph, they are pretty important. Currently we do not have one on the roster. Unless the plan for 2017 calls for never attempting a kick of any kind, I imagine we plan to change this. Plan A is likely to re-sign Jorgen Hus but he is exploring NFL opportunities so no guarantees there.  You could certainly use a late round pick to draft one which I imagine is plan B. Also, given the importance of the position I wouldn’t be opposed to bringing back Randy Chevrier and letting a new prospect learn under him for a while.

Coverage LB
Replacing a guy like Otha Foster is a tall order and given the degree of difficulty of the assignment you generally only want to put a rookie in there as a last resort. That leaves us pretty thin on options. Tyler Hunter saw spot duty there. I’ve speculated that a guy like Kacy Rodgers could be moved there. I also wouldn’t rule out Brouilette playing there (as he has done previously with the Als) thought that would address one roster hole while creating another. I imagine we will audition some new recruits here but the likely starter is probably currently on our roster.

Defensive Backs
We currently have 8 DBs on the roster. When you consider that 5 of those will start and 1 more is likely to bump up to LB that currently leaves training camp battles looking easier than your mom (sorry I'm sure your mother is a fine person I was just too lazy to think of something wittier). Now you can count on a whole bunch of DBs from our free agent tryouts to be brought to camp. It’s one of Jones’ favourite positions to stock up on. So stay tuned but as for today we are desperately low on DBs.

OL Depth
The status of our OL depth depends entirely on the development of Josiah St John and Dhillon Guy. If they are ready to compete for a roster spot then life is actually not looking to bad. I think Plan A involves starting 3 import OL with King at RG. If we have White, St John, Guy and Vonk for depth then things look alright. If we have White and Vonk then we are one injury away from bubble wrapping Kevin Glenn. Either way I am of the mind that you can never have too much OL depth and if you aren’t drafting at least 2 OL per year then you are asking for trouble. I expect our first or second rounder to be used on an OL and then likely at least one more in later rounds.

Canadian WR
With addition of LaFrance, looks like we will only have 1 starting Canadian WR this year. That being the case we look good with Bagg and Demski. But the depth behind them is concerning. It consists entirely of second year player Joshua Standford (who was not close to ready to be taking offensive snaps last year, even though injuries forced it to happen) and newcomer Kelvin Muamba. I would certainly like to see more additions here, be they draftees or undrafted free agents. It’s not a pressing need but could quickly become one if we don’t start planning ahead.
*** Update: the Riders clearly read this and as a result added Mitchell Baines today, still more is needed***

Defensive Ends
This stems purely from the fact that unlike Chris Jones, I don’t think AC Leonard is that good. My preference would be to complement Jefferson with another solid pass rusher and use Newsome as a rotation guy but as of yet Jones hasn’t requested my input on the matter. I think we are thin on competition there with only Kaelin Burnett being added to the mix. I imagine our tryouts have unearthed a few other hopefuls (I just pray that they are actually D-linemen and not receivers/basketball players/Vince Young/random guy Jones saw running in the park this weekend).

Monday, February 20, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Thoughts on Free Agency

In the days that follow free agency opening, people looking quickly to anoint the "winner" of free agency. I think this is a bit ridiculous for a few reasons. First off, generally the teams that are the most active are the teams that need to be active because they are brutal. So they may improve by adding some big names but they are starting from the bottom. The "good" teams actually tend to be very quiet in free agency opting to retain their own and develop from within to fill holes. So a lot of activity does not correlate with a team becoming good. Second, free agency shopping is a lot like shopping for groceries. Just because you buy the finest ingredients doesn't mean you will be able to turn them into a gourmet meal. Take a tender steak to McDonalds and they are still going to make a Big-Mac. Also,most Rider fans are still conscious of all the high profile moves we made last year and how well that all turned out (now I would argue that where last year we used free agency to build a core, this year we are using it to supplement our core so there is a difference in my mind).

That long winded sermon out of the way, I will say that overall I think the Riders have made some good moves ... as well as a couple really questionable ones. They addressed key areas of weakness, mainly O-line and Canadian depth. Let's go through at our additions (all contract details quoted are as per Justin Dunk).

OL Derrick Dennis (3 yrs, $170K) - Our O-line was beyond brutal last year so I love that the Riders seized on the opportunity to land the reigning best lineman in the league. Dennis will lock down the left tackle spot. I also love the 3 year commitment. This is a huge signing.

RB Kienan LaFrance (2 yrs, $110K) - This signing by far carries the most risk, but the potential reward may be worth it. Simply put if LaFrance can truly be a bona fide starting Canadian RB then we will be getting good value. The risk is that LaFrance has minimal time as a starter. Sure he was a monster in the East Final but even Ryan Dinwiddie had one monster game. I think he has the skill set to succeed but we will have to see if he can reach the potential we see. With Morris (and now Milton) under contract, its obvious we are going Canadian at RB to change our ratio.

OL Ryan White (2yrs, $90-100K) - The market for Canadian OL was close to non-existent so White is a nice add. He's versatile and can play multiple spots along the O-line. He's only 30 (4 years younger than Andrew Jones, who was released as a result of White signing). He likely projects as our 6th OL but regardless, depth at Canadian OL is crucial and White gives us a boost in that regard.

RB Aaron Milton (2 yrs, $70-75K) - Solid depth signing given our move to Canadian RB. Milton can also contribute on special teams. This might be an under the radar addition but quality Canadian depth across the depth chart is paramount so this is an important addition nonetheless. 

S Marc-Olivier Brouilette (2 yrs, $100-110K) - Maybe its just my stereotypical view of French players but I didn't see Brouilette leaving Montreal or at least the East Division... but great pick-up for us. He gives as a proven Canadian starter at safety (he can also play up at LB as well). For team that spent half the season with a converted rookie receiver at safety, this is a very important step in solidifying our secondary. Last year we started guys on defense just because they were Canadian (not because they were good). Guys like Muamba and Brouilette represent a very positive step in the make-up of our Canadian starters.

WR Chad Owens (2 yrs, $110K) - OK Riders, I was digging everything you were doing up until the Owens announcement came down. I have nothing in particular against Owens,I am just really struggling to understand how this makes sense. Owens is old, small, and expensive (relative to a new guy), he is like the complete opposite of everything Chris Jones stands for. Also, receiver is not even close to a need for this team. If we plan on playing 4 import WRs and you correctly assume that Carter and Roosevelt get two of those. That leaves 2 spots for Owens, Holley, Edwards, Collins and Craig. Owens is older and more expensive than any of those. So I guess there is no harm in bringing him to camp (other than the sizable signing bonus he got). I just really don't get the logic.

RB Cameron Marshall - Marshall has been trying his luck down south since 2015 when he totaled close to 1000 yards and 7 TDs as a Bomber. He was a powerful, between the tackles type of runner. Obviously he'll be in tough to crack the roster given our depth at Canadian RB but he certainly worth a look in camp.

LB Glenn Love - LB wasn't a huge need given the presence of Muamba, Jones and Eguavoen but Love is a solid addition nonetheless. He is an extremely talented player on special teams (something we could definitely use) and proved last year that he can step into a starter role where needed. He essentially fills the void left by Knox's departure. He should compete with Eguavoen for the starting outside LB spot.

OL Thaddeus Coleman - Coleman was our most outstanding lineman last year but that's really like having to choose a most outstanding turd when cleaning up your dog's mess in the back yard. Still Coleman strikes me as an adequate RT and I'm okay with bringing him back to compete for his spot in camp. Maybe if we put a better supporting cast around him he'll do better.

WR Bakari Grant - See pretty much everything I said about Owens. I could see Grant being a mid-season pick-up to fill in for an injury but quite frankly if both Owens and Grant make this team it means we are super crappy at recruiting receivers. Honestly, the best case scenario I see for Grant is starting the year on the 6 game and playing only due to injury.

There has been a lot of speculation given our stockpiling of receivers that a trade is forthcoming. The problem with that is that very few teams need receivers. BC, Ottawa and Winnipeg are set. Edmonton has Zylstra and Hazelton so they aren't as needy as people seem to think despite the loss of Walker. Calgary will just keep finding stud receivers like they always do. Even Montreal has Lewis, Jackson and Cunningham so they aren't desperate. Only really needy team is Toronto and unless you want Ray or Willy, I don't see them as a viable trading partner.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Monday Afternoon Sentimonies: Manziel and Free Agency

Apologies for the lateness of this post. I have been very ill. Not in a good, Beastie Boys kind of way... more in a "you're happier not knowing the details" kind of way. At least if my sentimonies are nonsensical this time I can blame it on the vast amounts of over the counter pharmaceuticals I've ingested.

Let's start with the big news of the past week. Johnny freaking Manziel. Sigh. So unless you live under a rock (or in Manitoba where people think the internet is something you fish with)you heard that the Riders allegedly worked out Johnny Manziel sometime around the Senior Bowl. Now this was concerning on two levels. The first revolves around the partying, drugs, domestic violence and washing out of football. I mean I guess this is a step up from Vince Young but not much of one. Tough to have a ton of confidence in our ability to scout the next franchise QB if this is where we are spending our effort. But it is also concerning from a "oh by the way, Hamilton owns his neg rights and if the alleged workout took place is is just the latest in a long line of rule violations by Jones. If we are going to cheat could we at least not cheat for someone better?

But the "alleged" is a key piece to this story. Justin Dunk says it happened. The Riders say it didn't (which apparently was good enough for the League to determine the report was false) as did Manziel's people (known for their high level of conduct). I'll say this, if Dunk reported it, something happened. He just doesn't invent stories. My guess/hope is that whoever was at that workout (err alleged workout) can not be directly linked the Riders. Its the real life version of a "not enough evidence to overturn" challenge review. My gut tells me something happened. Exactly what? We may never know.

Onto free agency...

Last Monday I did a free agency primer, breaking down our needs and potential targets. Rather than rehash that, I will leave you with a few random thoughts on the eve of Free Agency

- I fully expect the Riders to sign a minimum of 1 big name OL and possibly two. Our line was atrocious last year and beefing it up would go a long way to turning us back into contenders. Derrick Dennis is the top target and I expect us to be in the mix. If we truly believe that St John can play tackle then Jeff Perrett is another option to watch. I think we need a big Canadian boost in the form of MacMillan or Deane.

- While I wouldn't put strong odds on this, the fact that we have Greg Morris could open the potential to target Canadian RB Kienan LaFrance. Given that the sample size on him is small, I'm not big on throwing huge money at him but if he values the chance to start, we are currently the best option in the CFL.

- I maintain that we will be making a big push for John Ojo. 

- Other big name guys that should be on our radar: Euclid Cummings, Mic'Hael Brooks, Cleyon Laing, Alan Michael Cash, Drake Nevis (anyone would be a fine DT). Emmanuel Sanders, AJ Jefferson (if we are looking to further build on our secondary)

- Other not so big names on my radar: Brandon Rutley, James Yurichuk, Rob Cote.

I expect us to be active... just not to the extent we were last year. Hopefully this year we don't cut/trade all our acquisitions before the end of the year.

NFL Watch:
Bo Lokombo (BC) – signed with Baltimore
Quincy McDuffie (Win) – signed with Dallas
Bryan Burnham (BC) – worked out with Dallas

CFL Ins and Outs

In: DL Ivan Brown (contract extension), DL Derrick Lott (free agent signing)
Out: DB Fred Bennett, DL Levi Steinhauer (released)

In: WR Marquay McDaniel, DL Micah Johnson, DL Ben D’Aguilar (contract extension)

In: WR Bryan Burnham, OL Hunter Steward, WR Nick Moore, DL Braynt Turner, DB Steven Clarke, DB TJ Lee (contract extension), DB Buddy Jackson, DL Dylan Ainsworth, K Swayze Waters (free agent signing)
Out: LB Bo Lokombo (signed in NFL), OL Tim O’Neil (retired)

In: WR Adarius Bowman, DB Marcel Young, DB Brandyn Thompson, DL Marcus Howard, WR Natey Adjei, LB Blair Smith (contract extension), WR Shamawd Chambers, LB DJ Lalama (free agent signing)

In: LB Jesse Briggs (contract extension), DL Tristan Okpalaugo, DB Robert Porter, WR Alex Chisum, WR Xavier Rush, DB Josh Celerin (free agent signing)
Out: DL Keith Shologan, RB Pascal Lochard (released), WR Quincy McDuffie (signed in NFL)

In: WR Terrence Tolliver (contract extension)LB Nick Shortill (trade with Montreal)
Out: LB Byron Archambault (retired), LB Frederic Plesius (trade with Montreal)

In: WR Greg Ellingson, DB Jerell Gavins, RB William Powell (contract extension), QB Ryan Lindley, LB Darien Harris, DB Corey Tindal (free agent signing)

In: OL Chris Van Zeyl (contract extension), DB Jermaine Gabriel (restructured contract), LB Victor Butler, WR Chuck Jacobs, WR RJ Harris, WR Andre Debose, WR Chandler Worthy, WR Quayshawn Nealy (free agent signing)

In: DL Gabe Knapton, LB Kyries Hebert, WR Kyle Graves (contract extension) DL Keith Shologan, LB Anthony Sarao, DB CJ Moore, DB Kwame Adjei, LB Christopher Johnson (free agent signing), DL Jonathan Ngeleka, RB Ryan Nieuwesteeg (2016 draft pick signing), LB Frederic Plesius (trade with Hamilton)
Out: OL Jeff Perrett, K Anthony Fera, QB Rakeem Cato, OL Michael Bamiro, QB Shane Carden (released), LB Nick Shortill (trade with Hamilton)