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