It may only be preseason and by the mid-point of the game the quality of play will likely drop lower than the value of my investment portfolio (calling it an investment portfolio makes it sound way classier than a collection of shares obscure pornography sites and an unscratched lotto ticket) but its football and I am pumped.
With this game being so early in camp, we will mostly use it to evaluate the newcomers rather than fine tune the starters. Here's what I will be looking for:
O-line - For me this is the number 1 question surrounding this team. We have offensive play makers, we a qb and a solid back-up. If we can protect them and win the line of scrimmage then we will have a big year. I will be looking specifically to see how the Left tackles do. Vaughn remains the lead guy but Cofield is in the mix. It would really put my mind at ease to see at least one of them have a real solid outing. I will also be looking at our depth guys. By default Bladek and St John are our depth so we need to see if they are progressing (assuming St John is even healthy enough to play). But we also need to see if we have anything else depth-wise to fill the hole Zver left when he retired.
Linebackers - It will be interesting to see how we use the Canadian LBs (Judge, Hurl, Teitz, Grondin, Bartlett, etc..) and how they perform. One of them will be starting and this is their big chance to lock down that opportunity. Given that we currently have no depth at import LB it will also be interesting to see how the newcomers do (Jackson, Robinson, Striker). I love Eguavoen and Moncrief but if one of them were to go down it would be nice to know we have someone ready to step in.
Cornerback - Chris Lyles is apparently having a great camp (much to my chagrin) and appears to be the lead guy in the battle at short side CB. Newcomer Orlandus Harris is also one to watch as is Sam Williams (who I was not the biggest fan of last season, he was also the guy Duron allegedly got in a dust up with).
Canadian Receiver - Jake Harty's injury (a big blow to us) opens a big door for Bailey and Stanford. My guess is Bailey makes the roster now but Stanford has a chance as well. He just needs to show his talent in a game (something he has struggled with in his limited opportunities with the Riders). Also be good to see how Picton stacks up but realistically he is likely headed for a developmental role for now.
Running back - Starting in Game 3 it will be a Thigpen/Messam combo (which by the way would have to be the oldest RB combo I have ever heard of at a combined 65 years), you can bank on that. But we need an RB who can cover games 1 and 2 and be the injury depth (though perhaps Marshall may be back when fully healed). Zac Stacy is the lead guy with Josh McPhearson the only other competition. Need to see most importantly how they block in the pass game. For as little as we ran last season, actual running ability is second to blocking and receiving in our offense.
A few other random names I'll be watching for: DL Chad Geter, DL Gary Wilkins, OL Emmauel Adusei, QB Marquise Williams, WR Jordan Williams-Lambert, WR Shaq Evans and the Rider Prophet endorsed Eric Striker (I mean an LB named Striker? Come on). I would like to apologize to Mr Striker as my endorsement has an unblemished record of ruining people's chances of making this team.
Lastly, the road preseason game is typically where we play the Official Rider Prophet Preseason Drinking game. It used to be fun at the home game but I can't afford it anymore at stadium prices (unless any companies want to sponsor me). I will say that this game is on a Sunday afternoon so play at your own risk. I cannot be held responsible for any consequences that result from you playing this game. The rules are as follows:
1. Every dropped pass or 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 Sisco rule).
OL definitely #1 priority. I heard Bladek is on 2nd team & has struggled. Any thoughts? Riders problems last year were OL, DL & run game, along with knowing we were going for a new QB this year. Jones brought in Collaros along with Hughes, Evans & Messam to address these areas. LB became an issue when Muamba left. A lot has to go right for this team. If the OL, painfully thin on depth, sucks that bodes ill for the run game as well. If Bladek isn't ready, we're looking at Clark, LaBatte & Coleman, part of the same crew who had trouble stopping sacks & pressure late in the season, plus Bond, a slightly bigger version of Dennis & a CFL newcomer. Is that a recipe for improvement considering the incumbents are all over 30? We desperately need some young blood to push these guys. For Zach to be Zach he needs much better protection than we provided last year. Can 2 old RB's give us one more good year? Same goes for the 34 year old Hughes & what about Jovon Johnson? Have they got another year or is this the year they drop off the cliff? With James gone, is Steele to be the answer at DT with Evans? He's solid but I'd like to see him in a depth position instead. Good for Lyles - we have to hope he's better or is he just Jones' type of big guy? QB, RB, OL, WIL, CB - some key positions needing answers. Maybe Sunday a few of them clear up although I don't put much stock in pre-season results.
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