Friday, June 29, 2018

Riders vs. Montreal: S’il vous plait

Saturday the Riders return home to face a winless Alouette team. In a short 2 week span the 2018 season has already been a rollercoaster ride of the wonderful highs of week 1 and the gut wrenching lows of pretty much everything that has followed. Still it could be worse… our opponents on Saturday has experienced nothing but lows. They have missed the playoffs for 3 straight seasons winning a total of 16 games (that’s an average of 4 per year for those that care about math). And they are well on their way to making it 4 straight. So yeah the Als are bad and my only thought all week has been… Please don’t F this up!

I don’t like getting overly dramatic (it’s a long season and a lot can happen) but if we don’t win this game, I think we can pretty safely say that we’re screwed. This is a home game; against a team with quite possibly the least qualified trio of GM, Coach and QB in recent memory; that is playing embarrassingly bad football (I wonder why?). This is a game we have to win if we consider ourselves contenders.

We will have to do so without our starting QB as Collaros is headed to the 6-game to recover from his concussion. An outcome that is not entirely unsurprising when you track how we assembled our O-line. That means Brandon Bridge will get the start. Bridge will be leading an offensive unit, whose recent performance can be called offensive. Just 2 TDs to show over 2 games. Hopefully he’s been working on his cardio condition because based on how our OL blocks he’s going to be on the move a fair bit. The good news is that he faces the worst defense (by far) in the CFL. The Als are averaging 39 points per game allowed and allowing more yards than anyone. They do have talented players in their ranks (Muamba, Westerman, Campbell, White) so they aren’t just going to lay down for us but they are a unit we should be able to move the ball on. Over the first 2 games no one has allowed more rushing yards so that would be a good place to start. I expect to see a heavy dose of Thigpen fresh off his suspension. We just need to be smart with the ball. Montreal’s offense is terrible (read more about that in the next paragraph) so if we limit turnovers even a mediocre offensive showing (mediocre offense? That’s where we’re a viking!) should be enough to win this for us.

Defensively, we need to show up first and foremost. Last week the D looked flat and slow. Need to feed off that home crowd and come out guns a blazin’. We are facing the only O-line more embarrassing than ours so our front four (including the newly acquired Brooks) should have a monster game. As much as it goes against Jones’ philosophy I would be sending pressure all night. Neither Willy nor his O-line can handle the pressure (Winnipeg used a lot of blitzes) and it has the added bonus of helping neutralize Terell Sutton (about the only good thing they have on O… though he gets used less than a McAdoo RB for some reason, most likely based in forensics). They have capable receivers and have proven they can hit the long bomb so we need to eliminate that. But half of Drew Willy’s pass attempts this season have been for 3 yards or less. Cover those quick outlets and send pressure and you eliminate 75% of the Als playbook. This is one Willy that does not perform well under pressure.   Let’s face it… Drew Willy, behind that line, with Sherman coaching should not outduel our defense. They have thus far averaged 10 points a game and I see no reason that should increase.

I think this game will start out closer and more stressful than it should be but it the end we will prevail in a decisive victory

Riders by a Thigpen TD. Gettin' Thiggy It! 

Also, going to predict another Duron pick 6 even though it will only further reinforce the misconceived notion that he is a good DB.

Please, please, please don't F this up!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Guest Article: 4 (IN)FAMOUS FIBS

This article was written by a friend of the blog, Terry Ott -
"Cigarette smoking is no more addictive than coffee, tea or Twinkies."
James Johnston, CEO, RJ Reynolds, later part of a perjury probe, (used as "expert" info by NFL)

"Paul is dead"
Those freaks, according to John Lennon

"Absence of CTE"
Dr. Charles Tator "study"

"The science on CTE is unclear."
Randy  Ambrosie, CFL commishinor

Why do people lie?

Well, according to a piece in the June 2017 issue of National Geographic, for several reasons, really.

In a study partly done by the University of Toronto, it was found that of those aged 45-77, 37% of that group tell one to five lies daily, with an additional 10% fibbing more than 5 times per 24 hours. That, is a lot of deception.

Of those litany of lies, it was further found by Oakland University that 53% of the lies spun in the above group were told to cover up a mistake, to mislead, and gain an economic or personal advantage.

Is this the scenario employed by the CFL, and some others, including a "renown" Canadian doctor when addressing the public health crisis of football concussions and CTE?

Some of the new and updated information may help to understand and flesh out the above possibility.

A prominent Canadian health care professional who has been involved in concussion research and treatment for over 20 years said that the "research" done by Dr. Charles Tator, and his continual questioning of the cause  of CTE, led to the pro's eventual disengagement with Canadian concussion conferences because he believed "the fix is in," and saw no further use in attending.

Speaking on condition of anon due to what he called Tator's overarching influence and media loved reputation and his standing in the Canadian medical community, the health pro said of the Order of Canada member, "many fear going against him. That's been a major factor all along. The man has tentacles all over. He can influence all of them."

The health care professional also said that in 2015, he witnessed "the perpetual smile wiped from (Tator's) face" when a fellow colleague dared question the master's perpetual denying of the concussion related nature of the development of CTE. "He was not amused, that day," said the source.

According to the health pro, Tator has embarked on the deny concussions=CTE cause mainly for professional and legacy and egotistical reasons, looking to make a contrarian name for himself in the face of overwhelming evidence that CTE is the direct-and near only-result of sports concussion injury. 

If it assists the CFL in their denials that would be friendly, accommodating, collateral cooperation, and not much more according to the source, who like some others in the medical community consider the "Absence Of" study to be a made to order job, or at best, a badly misguided farce.

The pro also said that Tator is cozy with Ontario government representatives, advising a cabinet minister on Rowan's Law, put forth in memory of 17 year old soccer player who died from concussion injury.

Tator has this to say on the Rowan's Law site:

“I became a doctor because I wanted to help people. I became a brain and spinal surgeon. I realized that trauma often caused such severe damage to the brain and spinal cord that I could not put the pieces back together. I was frustrated that I could repair skull or spinal fractures, but not the severely injured brain or spinal cord.

I learned that prevention is the only cure”

And virtually every article or broadcast done on concussions in Canada contains a nod or opine from the TSN described, "renown" Tator.As member of the Order of Canada, the doctor appears to be seen as a sort of patriotic medical Dudley Do-Right by most of the  nationalistic Canadian media,in spite of his continuing questioning of CTE cause and despite the world class CTE research done by Boston University which now shows definitively that CTE is the result of sports concussions. And yet, still,uch of the Canadian media appear to be unaware of this fact, ignoring it, or even suppressing it.
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Look, to put it in plain English, most of the Canadian media is in the bag to Tator and remain blissfully unaware of all the obvious discrepancies of what he is preaching. It is a black mark on Canadian journalism, although I doubt the main offenders even give a damn. In the privileged world they inhabit, sucking up to the "renown" is pro forma.

But here is one of the very few-announcing the passing of Rowan's law-that does not have Tater as a spokesperson.

And one of the only sane voices in the Canadian media CTE wilderness comes from the CBC Fifth Estate's Bob McKeown, a former CFL player who says that "common sense" should be enough to link concussions with CTE:

So, even though Tator is very active in Canadian media talking about concussions, the doctor talking about concussions and CTE is another matter. References by Tator to concussions causing CTE, now a world wide accepted premise, are few and far between, and have been since he published his odd "Absence of CTE" study in 2012 with the CFL providing some degree of funding, and accordingly,what Tator described in a 2013 email as the league being "more helpful."

In fact, in this video from 2012, Tator emphasizes how he needs funding-he says it requires "a lot of money"- to investigate concussions and brain disease, as well as "co-operation." And perhaps not coincidentally, around this time, the "Absence Of" study was hatched.

And now the strange and confounding case of the former offensive lineman, turned CFL commissioner, and  CTE denier.

Randy Ambrosie, Winnipeg, Manitoba native, big, genial smiling guy with the perpetual can-do attitude is the national face of CTE denial.

Back in the day he played 9 seasons in the CFL, and won a Grey Cup with the Edmonton Eskimos in his final year in the league in 1993.

Ambrosie then joined the Canadian Football League Players' Association as secretary, and according to a Wikipedia post, was involved in the failed expansion of the CFL into the US which almost destroyed the league, and did wreck it's credibility.

Then Ambrosie replaced the previous CFL commissioner who raised eyebrows in 2015 when he too denied a link between concussions and CTE in the midst of the Arland Bruce III concussion injury lawsuit.

So when Ambrosie took the helm early in the 2017 season, there was some optomosim that he would finally address, honestly, the crisis of concussion injury and CTE in the CFL.

No such luck.

In the beginning of his term, he said some things about concussions and brain disease that seemed rather reasonable and not surprisingly, CFL fan boys like Justin Dunk immediately heaped praise on him.

But when he appeared before the media and the fans prior to the 2017 Grey Cup, it was major eyebrow raising time again.

The media, for a change, actually asked a serious CTE question, and Randy clumsily stickhandled around it, eventually proclaiming the old, "unclear" science nonsense, or even lie and he even gave (another) obtuse answer to a star CFL player, on "player safety."

Then in the fan forum, when one fan finally got round to popping a concussion question 45 minutes into the feel-good gig, even the host looked uncomfortable as she handed off the question to Ambrosie who did a long, unrelated discourse before winding down and finally addressing the concussion/CTE issue as one of again, "unclear" science, which anyone so interested knows is cover your legal ass absurd and disenguenis clap trap. I don't even think.Randy believes it as it is antithetical to (valid) current research and has already been admitted by the NFL-5 years ago!

An even as an offensive lineman, he ain't that dumb.

Randy keeps crowing about "the experts," who not surprisingly include Tator and some of his crew, and of course if he relies solely on those "experts," perhaps some of the CTE denials would make some sort of sense, if not still being obviously morally wrong.

But despite some contradictions to the contrary, the CFL is not that stupid, ether.

They know exactly what is going on, have managed since 2010 with the help of much of the Canadian media to muddy the waters on CTE and still believe what with a nice media hand up they can continue to kick the can down the road until some kind of miracle arrives to exempt them from legal action.This is a completely immoral and unsustainable position to take, and yet, this is Canada...

Historians of the CFL will note that in 1974, the Canadian government was prepared to legislate the upstart World Football League out of Toronto reasoning that it would "destroy" the CFL. When the WFL cried uncle and took off for long distance information Memphis,Tennessee, the ridiculous notion was put in a drawer for, as they used to like to say in the CFL, "future considerations."

It may seem like a paranoid lawyer's bridge too far, but would not such an issue on redux be a vote-getter for a phony politician running in next year's federal election? You know, the party that "saved" the league from those evil, blood thirsty, greedy lawyers relying on  notions  of Trumpian Yanks outta Boston?

Granted, that scenario is pretty much outta left field, but so is a lot of other happenings over the past 10 years in this many times nonsensical "Absence of CTE" league and Johnny Manziel country continuing banal soap opera, so like,stay tuned, eh?

The bottom line on the CTE issue is the CFL, as a league, and Randy Ambrosie as commissioner, and former player and human being, and even Tator-ironically faculty at the University of Toronto that informs on lying- if anyway possible, would do much better to tell the truth, putting the study on lies on the shelf, and then do the right thing.


Monday, June 25, 2018

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Sky Is Falling

Riders 14 - Ottawa 40

Rider Nation is notoriously bi-polar on their view of the team based solely on the result of the last game. The 2018 season has been a perfect example of this. After a week 1 win, we were a super power in the west. I won't go as far as to say people were planning the parade route but I'm sure a few vacation requests for the Monday after Grey Cup were submitted. After Thursday's ass kicking, the sky is undoubtedly falling and many people have given up their season tickets (though if as many people actually gave up their tickets as claimed they were going to each year, attendance at Mosaic would be -5000). As always, the truth lies somewhere in between. The week 1 win covered up some issues on the team and the week 2 loss creates selective amnesia of the good things about the team.

Let's just tell it like it is. That game was an ass kicking. I have seen more appetizing things come out of my dog (either end). Ottawa thoroughly whooped us in every phase of the game. We had like 2 good plays from my count, the fake punt (well called, well executed) and the Williams-Lambert TD (though I'm convinced he ran the wrong route and snagged a pass intended for Roosevelt). Beyond that it was more ugly then when the lights come on in a bar at closing time. 

The Riders are a team who need to rely on the strength of their defense at this point. And what you saw Thursday is what happens when a team built that way has their defense not show up. I don't know if it was the short week, or a product of Ottawa being fresh and having an extra week to plan or if they just crapped the bed on that day (likely some combo thereof) but the D just didn't have it. No pressure from the D-line and an infuriating refusal from Jones to adjust his calls to send more pressure led to a talented offense picking us apart. Overall I'm not too worried. This group is too talented not to bounce back. Aside from the Duron experiment. Look I love his pick 6's as much as anyone but he's simply not a great DB. Decent at best. Playing him at CB is the equivalent of swinging for the fences in baseball. Sure you will hit the odd home run but you will strike out a lot in the process.  As per @DTonSC Carter was targeted 5 times one was a pick, the other 4 - 86 yds and a TD. Add a missed tackle on Powell and his back to back penalties (the second one was pretty chincy). He's admittedly a threat to score on any play but his odds of doing so on offense are way higher than on D. I get that logic isn't always our thing but I little dose of it would help here. 

While I have faith that the D will rebound, I have minimal faith in our O at this point. The original draft of this post had me call our OL the worst in the league... then I watched Montreal play and am now adjusting that to worst OL among non-Kavis ran teams. Game 2 and our franchise QB is already too pummeled to finish a game. I get that Travis Bond may not be a future hall of famer but he was cut in favour of a guy who isn't even good enough to start full time. If we can't block we are screwed. Short of Josiah St John suddenly becoming the second coming of Gene Makowksy, I don't see an answer to this problem in the near future. A run game would help but of the 14 times our RBs ran, only 4 came in the first half. Because running more when you are down big is solid coaching. This "offense" has produced 2 TDs in in 2 games. That is unacceptable. There are Dungeons and Dragon enthusiasts our there who score more frequently. Our freakin' defense has matched that. Even if our D returns to form, we won't get far with an offense this impotent. 

I'm not on the "Fire Jones" train or even burning his effigy (look, burning an all black effigy could have some unintended consequences in case you were considering it). It was 1 game. We are still tied for second in the west (also 5th but let's focus on the positive). Now's not the time to panic, though we do have some major issues to start addressing.

The schedule makers have served up a slow floater over the plate in our next match-up. If the same thing happens Friday, then it may be time to panic. 


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Riders vs. RedBlacks: Thursday Night Football

Thursday the Riders (fresh off a season opening win) will face the RedBlacks (who will be playing their first game of the season after a Week 1 bye). The game is in the capital city which means the Riders get to experience Ottawa... it clearly can't compare to Experience Regina, but hey, what can? The last time these teams met it was in the East Semi and the Riders, thanks in large part to a massive day from Thigpen, ended the RedBlacks' season.  In retrospect that performance may have been powered by vitamin S.

I think people have the impression that the RedBlacks are a better team than they are. Sure they did win a Grey Cup in 2016 but they also haven't finished above .500 in 2 years. Take away a well timed post season hot streak in 2016 and the fact they they play in a weak division and history would likely view the RedBlacks in a very different light. I'm not saying that they can be taken lightly or that they will be a pushover but they have 16 wins in 2 seasons... by comparison the Riders have 15 wins over the same time frame and one season was an abysmal train wreck for the most part.

Ottawa's defense was the main reason they struggled last year. No team forced less turnovers and only two teams allowed more passing yards. Hell their D-Coordinator wasn't smart enough to figure out that not sending pressure at Kevin Glenn was a bad idea. Now he was promptly fired and replaced with a far more competent DC in Noel Thorpe but as much as their coaching will improve, I don't think they have the talent on D. They lost their their only really good DL in Evans. They lost their best LB in Taylor Reed and their best DB in Jerrell Gavins. They have some additions like Josh Johnson, Louchiez Purifoy and Kyries Hebert that will help. But their answer along the DL appears to be Mike Klassen and AC Leonard. I was never a Leonard fan and think he is a product of playing opposite of Jefferson. I see their D-line as weak, their LBs a not bad and their secondary as nothing I'm too worried about. So offensively it starts up front. We need to dominate the line of scrimmage with a heavy emphasis on the run. Collaros should have plenty of time in the pocket so he just needs to make smart decisions, spread the ball around and not turn it over. Could be a big game for Tre Mason (just like Thigpen in the ESF). I could also see a big game for Holley. Collaros seems to trust him and he will get more chances with Duron on D. 

As much as I have belittled Ottawa's record and defense, their offense is legit. Good protection up front. A powerful runner in Powell. A trio of dangerous weapons in Ellingson, Sinopoli and Spencer. And a quality QB directing it all. Their only real offensive weakness is a tendency to turn the ball over. I think we have a talented enough D to handle them I just would be more confident if we weren't starting our best WR at CB against this trio of receivers. Look, Duron is a decent DB but certainly nothing special. Given how clean his first game was I expect a minimum of 2 penalties (just to be safe we should assign someone to ensure he steers clear of Rick Campbell. I would recommend that person bring goggles because for how good a diver Campbell is they may get wet). D-line will need to lead the way again. This will be a tougher test for them than Toronto but I have a hard time believing Hughes, Evans and Jefferson aren't up to it. They have a rookie starting at LG... it would only be right for Hughes to properly welcome him to the pros. I imagine Ottawa will try and establish Powell early to try and take pressure off the OL and Harris. I mean, if I were an OC I would be leaning on the run early if I saw Sam Hurl as one of the primary means my opponent had of stopping it. I think we need to avoiding giving up the big plays. If we can force them to string together long drives it definitely shifts things in our favour. 

I would like to see Christion Jones rip off his first big time return of the year. Special teams could be a deciding factor with deadly returners on both sides. Big pressure on the cover teams. Not a good time for one of our best special team tacklers in Radford to be hurt.

As much as I think Toronto is a better team than Ottawa, I think this will be a tough test none the less. We are traveling, on a short week playing a team who is well rested. I think we will struggle out of the gate but our defense will keep it close and force multiple turnovers. Offense will hit their stride in the second half and we will narrowly escape with another victory in a relatively low scoring game.

Riders by a Shaq Evans TD in his debut.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Monday Morning Sentimonies: WOOO!

Riders 27 - Argos 19

For the first time in 4 years, the Riders are starting the season out on a winning note. They did so by closing out a close game... unlike last season where our first few games were full of late game collapses. A lot of the "oh my god, we're screwed" mentality that had built up since the last preseason game dissipated. Don't get me wrong, we were far from perfect and have things to improve on if we want more of these thing called wins but starting the season out on a winning note it a huge positive.

How about that defense? Expectations were sky high for this unit coming into the season and they did not disappoint.  How great is it to have Charleston Hughes terrorizing other teams and not us anymore? Dude was a monster with 3 sacks in his first half... well 2 sacks and falling on an already down QB but it still counts. At some point I will stop hyping Derrick Moncrief but today is not that day. He is so good. Through 3 quarters the D held James Wilder almost completely in check and allowed just 5 points (3 of which were entirely due to Tre Mason fumbling). The Argos went 2 and out on 6 of their 8 first half drives (that stat courtesy of @TSN_Marsh). They let up a bit in the 4th allowing Ray to mount a comeback but hung in there and snuffed out the comeback attempt with a pick 6 to seal things. I'll just ask that you focus on the nice pick Marshall made and not the tourist hit Gainey was laying out (it was second only to that idiot fan getting de-cleated in BC). D needs to be the strong point of this team and they certainly were on Friday. 

Offense was decent and really if our D keeps playing like this decent is good enough to win. Collaros didn't light it up but certainly looked more comfortable. He really spread the ball around, finding 9 different receivers. He also protected the ball, having zero turnovers on the night. I'm just glad we can finally stop talking about how Collaros hasn't won a game in years. I was mainly praying for anything above train wreck in terms of O-line performance so I was pleasantly surprised. They had their struggles early but straightened things out and finished with a decent night. What surprised me the most was actually seeing us run. We ran 26 times. That's normally like a month's worth of running for McAdoo (as I type this I hope to god this doesn't mean we don't run again for 3 weeks). We also didn't randomly insert a back-up QB. McAdoo is still our OC right? We are going to need to produce more than 1 offensive TD going forward but I think they will improve and this was a good starting point.

Overall it was a performance in line with what we expected. Very strong D leading the way, offense doing enough to get by. This was a good test to start the season as the Argos are a good team.

Other random thoughts:
- I still can't fathom how there were 2 penalties on a play involving Duron and neither went against him. It just doesn't seem right.

- Lauther certainly has the leg strength, if he improves on his consistency he might finally find himself some permanent employment in this league. 

- You know the D is playing good when he barely notice that Sam Hurl is starting.

- Tre Mason has some nice burst to his game. Needs to hold the damn ball but certainly could be exploisve

Friday, June 15, 2018

Riders vs Argos: Home Opener

Friday the Riders open the 2018 season against the same team that ended their 2017 campaign. The defending Grey Cup champs are in town to kick off a new season. If you base things on what we saw in the preseason then the Riders are pretty much screwed. But if you treat preseason results for what they actually are (meaningless) then things suddenly become a lot less bleak. Despite being an East team, the Argos are no pushover.

Offensively a whole lot depends on the performance of our O-line. Toronto has a good D-line with the likes of Lemon, Laing and Beltre. Protecting Collaros has to be priority #1. Time to see if Jones knew what he was doing when he built an O-line with 2 rookies and Dan Clark comprising 60% of it. With Woods and Reed on the 6game IR, there is a hole in the middle of that Argo D that can be exploited. Runs (which we really don't do) and short passes over the middle should be there. I would love to see a heavy dose of Messam and Mason to take pressure off Collaros and the O-line. I would also love a winning lotto ticket and a lifetime supply of whisky but you can't always get what you want. I would work the quick pass game to get the ball out quickly to Carter, Roosevelt, Holley and Williams-Lambert and let them do the work. Lean heavy on Roosevelt because he's dependable and Carter because you want him involved early and often and his head in the game. I don't expect a scoring onslaught but I do expect a mildly competent offensive attack (which will look extraordinary by comparison to the preseason). 

I think early in the season the defense will have to step up and win us a few games. It starts up front where we need to and should dominate in the trenches. We should get good pressure with our front 4 and likely even with 3 (not that we ever rush 3). Priority #1 on D is containing James Wilder. He is so dangerous and such a huge part of of their offense. Can't let him run wild. D-line needs to be disruptive and  LBs need to be sure on their tackles. In the pass game obviously SJ Green is the worry. The rest of their WRs don't concern me much. The key will be pressure from the D-line. If he has time, Ray will carve you up. Need to get him moving and feel uncomfortable. Actually at his age he is more likely to just throw the ball away rather than run. According to the depth chart Hurl is the MLB which is scary given the presence of Wilder (or any decent RB for that matter). I still hope Eguavoen plays middle with Judge outside (fingers crossed). Also need to watch the check down to Declan Cross which is a sneaky good part of the Argo O. I really think our D-line will power a really strong D this year. With Butler and Gainey at HB, this should be the best D since Chris Jones arrived here (to be fair other than the latter half of last season, the D has been generally awful).

Special teams could play a role. On returns expect Christion Jones to make an impact. I'll even go so far as to predict he gets a TD. On kicks it might be a different thing. Lauther was great in preseason but I bet he misses at least one kick.

I expect a close game where the Argos take an early lead but our D will force a key turnover that turns the tide and we will start 2018 with a win.

Riders by a Roosevelt TD.


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Official Predictions 2018

With this being the 12th year of doing predictions (holy crap hey?!?), I figured it was time to change up the format somewhat. It's tough enough being witty in rhyme once let alone repeatedly over a decade. But I didn't want to stray too far from the prediction format that has set me apart from lesser prognosticators since dickety '07 so I think this is a good compromise. 

I'm guessing most of you will figure what I've ripped off... err artistically altered and enhanced I mean. If you don't get it and you're old, ask your children. If you don't get it and you're young, ask your parents. 

Official Predictions 2018

Now this is a story all about how 
I think 2018 will go down
And I'd like to take a minute just sit right there 
I'll tell you how I think the Riders will fare

In the West Division is where we hope to stay
To appear in the playoffs at the end of the day
We will start out strong acting all cool
Powered by a defense making teams look like fools
When a couple of OL will start playing no good
And start making trouble in Zach's neighbourhood
We'll go on one losing slide and fans will get scared
And cry "Fire Chris Jones" plus a whole lot of swears

I'll beg and plead with McAdoo day after day 
To run the ball more to help our O find their way
But he'll think randomly inserting the 3rd QB is the ticket
It will fail and so we might as well kick it

Third place come Labour Day
Beat the Bombers and start a strong second half on the way
Collaros will start slow but then soar to new heights
hmmmm this might be alright

We'll be closing in on second when playoffs come near
But won't get past 3rd place I fear
In the West Semi we'll beat the Stamps, a feat no so rare
but no further for us the Esks will beat us right there

A successful season at 10 and 8
But another Grey Cup will have to wait until later
So good people I'll end this right there
But I'm rarely right so please don't despair


Monday, June 11, 2018

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Thoughts on the game and the roster

I'll keep my thoughts on the game rather brief and get right to breaking down the 2018 roster. My thoughts... 1 - Derrick Moncrief is going to be a freakin' beast. 2 - That PAT attempt by Calgary's back-up kicker may be one of the worst I've ever seen. 3 - Anything else related to that game should be stricken from the record and never discussed again.

Good enough? Moving on.

Since preseason results don't matter anyway (yes I would feel a whole lot better if we had shown anything in that game but there are no bonus points for preseason performance) the more important thing to talk about today is the cuts and more importantly who is left. The easiest part of any coach's job is the cuts... and following Friday's performance I can see that being true for Jones.

I was expecting a relatively uneventful preseason this year. We had our core from last year and just needed a few tweaks here and there. Though I guess I should have know that with Chris Jones you should always expect change (the only exception is with respect to his wardrobe). With Bagg, Owens, Grant and Bond gone there was certainly a ton of chatter across the prairies.

Grant and Owens don't surprise me that much. Sure Grant had a great year but Grant is far from consistent and I think Holley could have put up similar stats in Grant's spot last season.  We are big on Shaq Evans and Jordan Williams-Lambert so not surprising to see old vets who are 3rd WR at best now go. Bagg was a shock. From a purely numbers point of view, I get it. We were paying him a ton of money for a guy producing 300 yards and far from a key part of the O. Still it was a surprise. Bagg is the epitome of perseverance (if you don't know his full story from turning down a roster spot in 2007 to return to school through to becoming a sure fire Plaza of Honour member I suggest you go bone up on it... the story that is, please don't bone up on Rob Bagg). Going to miss him.

Bond was the biggest shock though. He was a prized offseason signing and expected to bring some nastiness and strength to our OL. He also got pretty much every starting rep since the beginning of camp.  I can live with him getting beat out in camp but if you weren't convinced he was the starter then why wasn't someone else getting more starting reps? We essentially wasted all of training camp on building chemistry with an OL combination that won't play when it matters. Not great coaching in my opinion. Our OL is the #1 concern we have going into the season and while I could maybe buy that Bond is not the miracle cure, I certainly did not see anyone else on our roster who could fare any better.

The rest of the cuts were far from surprising. Adusei can't block (or even slightly impede opposing defenders), Daniels can't account for a 12th defender.The only other remote surprise was Rakim Cox. 

So where does that leave our roster?

Well every is pooping their pants over our QB situation following the preseason game but I still have faith in Collaros, who will start Friday. Too early to panic here... Oh wait, this is Riderville... David Watford is the best QB since Rocky Butler and should definitely be starting!! (did I do that right?) Tre Mason should provide a nice change of pace from Messam at RB (until Thigpen returns). Carter, Roosevelt, Holley plus the new guys are still a good set of weapons.  

O-line is still a massive concern. My guess is that Jarvis Harrison starts at guard... at least I pray that's the plan since we have zero Cdn depth if Bladek is pushed into a starting role. Our starting group is far from instilling confidence at this point and lord help us if our depth gets tested. This is the one area that I pray Jones knows what he's doing, despite outward appearances.

Defense will be our strength. The Hughes-Evans-Jefferson trio will wreak havoc. Having Steele as a starter helps our ratio. Love, love,love our D-Line. At LB I have been talking Moncrief up since he debuted last season and Friday you saw why. He is clearly lighter and faster than last season (remember when he ran out of gas trying to return that pick last season?). I expect a huge year from him. Love Equavoen. I'm willing to give Judge a chance. As a rotational guy Hurl is serviceable. Not super sold on our depth if Equavoen or Moncrief get hurt but won't worry about that now. Our secondary will be solid. Marshall is a solid addition. Butler is a stud and Gainey and old man Jovon will be fine. We aren't the strongest at safety but Edem and Brouilette won't likely hurt us. 

Special teams suddenly became more interesting with news that Crapigna needs surgery and will not play this year. Losing a rock solid kicker like him is a big blow. Lauther had a great preseason which is now suddenly very important but he does not yet instill the confidence that Crapigna gave us. He put in the "In Ya" in Crapigna (patent pending on that motto). Still with Bartel punting and Christion Jones on returns we should still be solid on teams.

Overall, I think people's lofty expectations of the Riders this season have taken a bit of nosedive. But I still think they will be competitive in the West. Depth is certainly a concern but I do think we are starting 2018 stronger than we started 2017 and that season turned out OK eventually.