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).