Monday, July 31, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: According To Plan... For Once

Riders 38 - Argos 27

Well I'm glad the Riders won, because if we would have had to sit in heat that I can only assume makes ovens seems refreshing, only to watch the Riders lose, I'm pretty sure that would legally be considered a form of torture. But they didn't lose, for once things went according to plan. The more rested and healthy hometown team took advantage of a depleted team on a short week of rest and won. It seems so obvious but for the better part of the 3 years "according to plan" has been synonymous with "lost" in these parts so you'll forgive our general surprise.

Most people don't like to toot their own horns... but I am not one of them. Toot! Toot! Toot! In my pregame write up I gave 2 primary keys offensively: wear them down with a strong running game and feed Duron the ball.  That was exactly what happened. Marshall got a season high 18 carries (and rewarded the workload with an impressive 6 yard per carry average) and Duron put on an absolute show. It was unreal. He had about 3-4 highlight reel catches but none great than the TD reception that everyone is talking about. That is one of the greatest football plays I have ever seen live. The term mind blown is thrown around rather liberally these days but that play blew my mind. I was in the middle of cursing Kevin Glenn for a poor throw when Duron defied logic and a few rules of physics to haul that TD. Anyway, long story short, I was right and people should listen to me more often. (I'm married so I need to look outside the home for people that will listen to me and believe I'm smart)

While we ended the game strong, we started pretty pitifully. Our defense was... well they were our defense and showed a complete inability to defend the pass. Not sure you'll see that many uncovered men outside of a porno. For a while it seemed like out defensive plan was to hope leaving receivers completely uncovered would confuse and disarm Ricky Ray. It failed. Honestly when I look up and see anyone but #1 in coverage when the ball is thrown, I worry. Jovon Johnson has been a very unheralded defensive player this year. He is far an away the best thing we have going in the secondary (though admittedly the bar is pretty low). There were some good things that happened defensively but make no mistake about it, this was a game that our offense carried our defense... and that's ok.

Kevin Glenn evidently loves the new stadium and hates the road. In 3 home games he has 10 passing TDs and 2 rushing TDs... in 2 road games he has one passing TD, that's it. While we will have to deal with our road woes at some point (like hopefully this week), gotta love the firepower Glenn brings on home turf.

While many will point to the Carter TD (which I'm sure left a few pants soaked in more than just sweat) as the turning point, I say it was that idiotic move by Johnny Sears that really turned things. All he had to do was lean slightly forward and touch Grant who was lying on the ground and we punt the ball back to Toronto with 3 minutes on the clock and only a 3 point lead. Hands up if you have confidence our defense would have stopped them... anyone with their hands up is a liar. It could easily have been a very different outcome. Though who knows, the way Duron was playing we could have scored another TD if we needed to. 

Overall it was a team doing what they needed to emerge with a win and it was great to see. It took until Week 13 last season to get out second win, so this is a pretty good feeling.

Other random thoughts:
- Just another week where Tyler Crapigna puts the "In Ya" in Crapigna. He's proving that the team's confidence in him despite his rocky start was well deserved. 

- I still can't get over how McAdoo actually ran the ball consistently. I love it!

- Kevin Glenn likes Caleb Holley and having him as the fourth option again is a big boost to our offense. 

- Love the onside kick! Not only did it maintain momentum for us (even if it didn't lead to points), its also a tendency breaker as now future teams will be forced to keep an eye out for it. 

- Duron Carter gave the TD ball from THE catch to a 12 year old cancer survivor. For all the circus that follows him on the field, off the field he has been outstanding with the fans. This weekend Jovon Johnson also held a charity BBQ for Lyme disease. We are quick to jump on players for their transgressions, but the vast majority do outstanding things like these all the time in the community that rarely get talked about.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Riders vs. Argos: Time To Rebound

Saturday the 3-2 Argos come to town to tangle with the Riders. My hope is that after laying an egg in Calgary and basically sleeping through the first half, that the team will bounce back and actually play 60 minutes as opposed to spotting our opponents a 30 min and 3 score advantage (or completely giving up in the final minute 30 and blowing a 2 score lead like the Als). The game will feature the return of many familiar faces including former receivers Armanti Edwards and Jeff Fuller, president of the Chris Jones fan club (I assume) Shawn Lemon and last but not least a man whose impact on this team (both positive and negative) were so big that we will never forget his name around these parts… Corey Chamberlin.
Offensively we will be facing a very legit Toronto defense. The additions of guys like Ball, Woods, Laing and Sears has made for a very intimidating defense. That said, the Argos are coming off a short week and will be missing half their D-line starters (Butler and Laing). We need to set a physical tone early. As Corey Chamblin would say (or at least a vaguely recall him saying this while readily admitting I may have fabricated this memory): “Hit them in the mouth!” Our OL needs a bounce back game after an embarrassing first half last week and what better way to do it then to put them on the attack and run it down Toronto’s throat. Use Marshall early and often to wear down the defense. It may not pay off right away but the longer the game goes, the bigger the runs will get.
The following is not a paid advertisement by Duron Carter, but we need to get Duron the ball a lot more. I get that his presence is opening up opportunities for guys like Grant (and Kevin Glenn is a master of taking what the D gives him… even if occasionally what they give him is a chance to throw an INT) but Carter is way too talented to be used solely as a decoy. 16 receptions and 156 yards is criminally underusing him (though admittedly his numbers could be slightly higher if he caught more of his scarce targets). I’m not advocating forcing it into double coverage or blindly throwing streaks to him but any quasi-competent OC could draw up a few plays to move him around the field and get some favourable match-ups and meaningful use.
Toronto has the most takeaways in the league so another offensive key is not giving them that luxury and protecting the ball. We also need to keep Glenn upright. Toronto leads the league in sacks but the loss of Butler and Laing will have a big impact there. Attack early, be physical, control the ball and it could be a very good day for the offense.
Defensively we have to deal with a rejuvenated Ricky Ray. Now, for all the hype around the Trestman/Ray offense here’s the reality… the Argos are an offense that passes for a ton of yards and then kick a ton FGs. They are 3rd worst in terms of offensive points and an absolutely awful 29% in the redzone. So yeah our struggling secondary against the top passing attack is concerning but I see through the hype and see an offense that has its issues. One issue is an underperforming OL. They are giving up a lot of sacks and producing the lowest yards per rushing attempt. Our defensive front was embarrassed in Calgary so this is a great chance for them to bounce back. If Ray has time in the pocket, he will carve up our secondary so we need to get hits on him, or at a minimum get him moving. There will be a lot of pressure on our LBs (please don’t embarrass yourself again Sam Williams) as Ray loves to use his RBs for quick passes and let them run for extra yards. There will also be pressure on whoever is covering SJ Green. AJ Jefferson is a Rider in part due to being lit up by Green in Ottawa. Glad to hear Rodgers is expected back. We need to take away the big plays to Green. That will go a long way to continuing the Argos’ trend of settling for FGs instead of majors.  If we can keep them settling for 3 then we have a solid chance in this game.
If we are being honest with ourselves here (something that is as foreign to many die hard rider fans as bathing is to Blue Bomber fans) we are a 1 win team whose lone win came against the only team in the standings worse than us, so cockiness should not be a thing for us at this point. That said when you factor in the home crowd and a beat up Argo roster on a short week, there is reason for optimism. We have the tools offensively (at least when they decide to show up) and while I have fairly limited confidence in our defense, a struggling Argo O-line, a short week and a thunderous home crowd do sway things somewhat to our favour. I honestly just hope the defense can play half decent and keep the Argos under 25 points and hope that our O can score enough to carry them.
If you are betting money on this game I would encourage you to bet on the Argos because admittedly that is the safer bet. But maybe its just because I have dipped into the Weisers a bit early this week but I’m going with my heart and staying the Riders will somehow steal a win in a very tight game.
Riders by a Crapigna field goal.

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.