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.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: What I Like?

Hard to believe but we are just a few short weeks away from training camp opening. Alleluia! With that in mind I thought today I go through what I like and what I dislike about the current state of our roster. Now obviously my number 1 dislike is that Vince Young is still on the roster but you already knew that so I'll focus on other things today.

Like: Canadian Depth
When I look at the positions we intend to start Canadians at I see legitimate starters, and good depth to either fight for a starting spot or at the least provide depth. At safety: Brouilette, Edem, Hecht. At DL: Steele, Gaydosh, Mrabure. At RB LaFrance, Morris, Milton. We even seem to be rebuilding our OL depth (another Alleluia). We are a ways off of having the top Canadian content in the league but we have definitely improved over recent years.

Dislike: Defensive End
I love Willie Jefferson (feel free to pause her and chuckle at the fact that I said I love Willie) but I do not like AC Leonard and I see Newsome more as a good rotational guy than an impact starter. Unless this Gary Wilkins is all his mini-camp hype is made up to be (and we all know that hype is rarely ever unfounded, especially in camp), I just don't see much in terms of competition to push Leonard and Newsome. Unless we convert another basketball player or something.

Like: Battle at Receiver
Roosevelt, Carter, Owens, Grant, Holley, Edwards, Collins, Craig.... Minimum of 3 of these guys will not make the team and its not due to talent. To make this team as a receiver means you are going to have to play some damn good football at camp/pre-season. The end result can only benefit our offense.

Dislike: Our sad sack attempts at QB recruitment
I'll leave Young out of this for the sake of brevity. Simply put we have yet to recruit a single young QB with potential. Bridge and Bennett came because their former teams let them go. Bennett sounds like he may have potential but thus far our scouting has netted us essentially nothing in the QB department... other than a fine for meeting with Johnny Manziel's publicist to talk about gardening and totally not to talk about that workout that never happened.

Like: Special Teams Play
Its usually not talked about unless its brutal but its tough to be a top end team without great special teams play. With additions like Love and Judge (assuming he signs) we are taking important steps to improve our play on teams. Not since the days of the Hair Force have we really excelled on special teams. This could be about to change.

Dislike: Secondary
It scares me. The loss of Cox was huge. We should be solid at safety. Gainey can cover one spot. But that leaves 3 spots to fill and minimal experience to do so with. Rodgers should take one spot. But we'll need to fill an HB spot (preferably 2 so Gainey can bump out to corner where he plays better). Lots riding on Zavian Bingman to pan out but even if he does we still need more starters, not to mention depth for when injuries hit. It took us half a season to develop a competent secondary and I feel we are only slightly ahead of last year at this point.

We will have to see how founded my concerns are come training camp.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: CFL Draft 2017

Well another CFL Draft has come and gone. All drafted players appear to be still be living so that's a plus. From a Rider perspective, we thus far haven't been fined for anything on draft day, so there's another plus. The only downside was the overt awkwardness of Jim Lawson.

"The (reads car) Winnipeg (reads card) Blue (read card) Bomb (reads card) ers...." 

It would have made my day if TSN cut to the scene from Billy Madison where goes "T-t-t-t-today Junior!"

Though you never really know the value of a draft class on the day of the draft, I though the Riders did well. What I wanted to see with their first 2 picks was a top end O-lineman and defensive player. I probably would have gone in a different order but given how few OL went early, their strategy paid off. Let's take a look a the Rider selections

1st Rd (2) - LB Cameron Judge - We have not drafted an impact defender since Craig Butler. We need to build depth at LB given Muamba being our starter. Lastly, we need to rebuild a strong special teams core. We are lacking impact players there. So based on all that, I think the Judge pick makes a ton of sense.  Sure there's risk as his body of work is small but given how Chris Jones molds former receivers and basket players into defenders, just imagine what he can do with an actual defender.

2nd (11) - OL Dariusz Bladek  - It was so logical for us to take an Ol here that I was almost worried we would overthink it and not do it. Bladek missed a year of football but I still think he will bring much needed depth... I guess I should say quality depth. We were considering him at #2 so to land him in Round 2 is a plus.

4th (30) - TE Anthony Auclair - Now I know what you are thinking. What is a team with questionable Canadian content now, doing using a pick on a future prospect? My preference would be build depth now but even though Auclair signed a priority free agent deal with Tampa, I still think it's worth the risk for a 4th round pick. Tampa drafted a tight end so even though Auclair got some upfront money, he will have his work cut out for him to stick. If he doesn't, his value to us will far exceed the 4th rd cost. We took Oneymata last year in the 4th and he has almost zero chance of coming north. By comparison, Auclair is a more calculated and plausible risk.

4th (32) - OL Eddie Meredith - This is the one pick that concerns me. Meredith was an all-Canadian tackle in 2014 and 2015 at Western. You may be wondering why such a high caliber OL fell this far... well it's because he "hung up his cleats" prior to the 2016 season. Yes, apparently we weren't satisfied with trading for people who then retire, we are know drafting already retired people. Not sure if this pick is a Chris Jones pipe dream or whether he has laid some groundwork behind the scenes for a return to football. Time will tell, but for now this looks like a questionable pick.

5th (37) WR Mitch Picton - A familiar face around these parts. Picton was not among to top tier WRs in this draft, but I think worthy of a chance to compete. We need WR depth so he is a good add.

6th (46) OL Danny Sprukulis -  When in doubt, draft linemen. I honestly can't tell you how long its been since we drafted this many OL. I love it. He has nice size at 6'5 , 315 lbs. He will be part of what will actually be a competition this year, not just people making the team by default because they are all we have for Canadians.Temper your expectations for an OL taken this late but there are  examples of late round OL that panned out great (Shane Bergman, Luc Brodeur-Jourdain).

7th (55) LB Alexandre Chevrier - He has a ton of speed and as I mentioned with respect to Judge, we need to rebuild our special teams. We need a new crop of special teams demons and Chevrier is a good add in that respect.

7th (57) DT Emmauel Adusei - We have good depth at DL but another one in the mix can't hurt. 

8th (64) OL Marc Glaude - Seriously?!? 4 OL? Didn't even think that was legal based on our recent history.

Monday, May 1, 2017

CFL Draft 2017 Team Preview: Saskatchewan Roughriders

We conclude our Team Preview with who else but the Riders.

It’s year two for Chris Jones and he enters the draft with the most picks we’ve had in a long, long time. Also first time since 2012 that we have both a first and second round pick (turns out that it’s not against the rules like some previous GMs seem to have thought). The Riders are in a better spot with respect to Canadians than this time last year but there is still lots of improvement needed. Depressing stat that is telling of Saskatchewan’s recent success in building Cdn content: Just 7 players currently on the roster are Rider draft picks and none of them currently hold a starting role.

Picks: 9 picks, first selection is 2nd overall

2016 Draft Assessment: At this point in time there is no way to assess Jones’ first draft class other than brutal. Their haul included: an OL that held out and didn’t look all that great when he finally showed up, 2 guys in the NFL (one of which is unlikely to come north within the next 5 years), a kicker they didn’t need, a LB they traded away mid-season for a guy no longer on our team, and an OL who didn’t make the team. Honestly the only pick that has panned out at this point in 8th rounder Joshua Stanford who provided some semblance of depth last season (not a star but at least above what you’d expect from an 8th rounder). Now I have confidence that St John can still develop into a quality OL and that Bouka will still sign. That would greatly improve the assessment of this draft… but it doesn’t count until hypothetical turns into reality.

Potential Pipeline: DB Elie Bouka (NFL – Arizona), DL David Oneymata (NFL – New Orleans)

Current Strengths: The team finally has some actual starting calibre Cdns not just Cdns we start by default (cough Kevin Francis, cough Mrabure)… you know for those times we choose to abide by the rules and put enough Cdns on the field :) . The additions of Muamba, Brouilette, Steele give them 3 good starting options on D. They also have depth behind most of them with the likes of Jeff Hecht, Tevaughn Campbell Linden Gaydosh (huge addition IF he can stay healthy), Mrabure and Dillon Grondin (who I liked coming into last year and am eager to see what he can do in year 2). Offensively, if LaBatte is healthy (pauses for impassioned prayer for his health) then we get a huge boost. We are slowly improving our depth here with guys like White, Guy and St John (who we should not give up on). Plan A calls for starting 3 import OL (Dennis, Coleman and King at guard) so we aren’t in bad shape. Though I think the team would love it if a young Cdn played well enough for us to change our mind and start 3 Cdns. LaFrance gives us a starting Cdn RB and we have Morris and Milton to provide depth. Still love Demski and Bagg. Lastly we look pretty rock solid in the kicking game with Crapigna, Bartel and Hus.

Current Needs: I would say we are in a better position than last year but far from being where we need to be. Across the board we just need more quality Canadians. We also need to retain them and develop them so we aren’t continually dipping into free agency to fill our ratio holes. Interior of our OL could stand to keep building (who knows how much longer Labatt will be playing. Need more quality depth at receiver. I would be looking for a quality back-up for Muamba. Honestly other than kicker, we have a need.

Prediction: Two main predictions. The first is that we trade Van Gyslwyk for a mid round pick.  With Bartel and Crapigna locked up longterm, he is an asset we don’t need and could get value from a team who does. As for our actual picks, I see us taking anOL and defender just not sure in what order. My gut says Jones favours the defense, so we take an impact DL (Boateng, Ekakitie) or LB like Mulumba in round 1 and look for a decent OL in round 2. The other scenario see us take an OL like Woods or Bladek and address the D in round 2.

Look I think if we just get out of this draft without a fine, we will all be happy