The day is finally here. After seemingly endless football-less months, we get to see football in person once more. Back to Mosaic stadium, back with friends in the stands, back being unmercifully gouged at the concessions.
Not too long ago, a Friday night home preseason game would have meant trouble for me. I mean the game doesn’t matter and no work the next game. It was actually scenarios just like this that led to the development of the Official Rider Prophet Preseason Drinking Game. I played to win. Fast forward a few years and when you factor in way higher booze prices, the fact that I can’t blow all my money on booze (should probably be spent on feeding my kids or not having my mortgage foreclosed), and the fact that I can no longer sleep until noon the next day… it will be relatively tame by comparison. But I’m sure you didn’t come here to hear me lament about getting older and having responsibilities.
For many players this will be a final tune up before the regular season opener next week. For others it will be their last chance to make a big enough impression to remain employed. For still others it will be the last time they appear in Green and White and they will have to endure some jackass from the stands pointing out the exact moment in the game when the decision to cut them was made (I had actually considered making a giant pair of scissors out of bristle board to accentuate my point but given that security wouldn’t let me through with a milk jug last season, I can see it being worth my time).
I’ve already talked a lot about the key positions for us this preseason. So rather than rehash all that I’m going to talk about specific players that I will be watching for.
OL Terran Vaughn – A huge part of our season rests on him being good. No pressure buddy. He seemed to fair ok in the first preseason game. Another good showing in this game would go a long way to easing the minds of Rider Nation… and Zach Collaros.
DB Nick Marshall – The short side CB spot is his to lose. He had a pick last game and reportedly has had a strong camp. He made Chris Lyles expendable so he’s already a winner in my books. Ideally he plays so well that we barely notice him.
LB Cam Judge – My position hasn’t changed that if we are insistent on a Cdn LB starting, we are screwed if that person in not Judge. Need to see 3 things from him: nose for the football, ability to cover the pass, ability not to end up injured (hasn’t exactly proven super durable in his short tenure).
Stanford/Bailey/Picton – For better or worse one of these guys will be playing a significant role in our offense. I actually think long term that Picton has the highest ceiling of the bunch (not just saying that because he’s a local product) but Jones seems to think he needs to develop more so most likely its Bailey vs. Stanford. Given Bailey’s size, I think Stanford will need to have a strong showing to unseat him.
LB Gary Wilkins – Lots of hype on this guy last minicamp and this minicamp. We’ve moved him to LB and just so happen to have a big need for depth at import LB so he has a great opportunity tonight.
Our D-line – Not sure how much actual time the starting 4 will see but man am I pumped to see what Hughes-Evans-Cox-Jefferson can bring.
OL Emmanuel Adusei – With pretty much anything resembling a Cdn OL outside of our starters being hurt, by default Adusei is currently it for depth. He doesn’t need to be outstanding but even just seeing him hold his own (figuratively not literally) would be good.
WR Jordan Williams-Lambert – Was planning to put Shaq Evans in this space but he is not playing so Williams-Lambert because the WR I’ll be watching. Lots of hype coming out of training camp but was barely noticeable in Game 1. With Antwane Grant gone there is an opening for at least one new WR to stick around in some capacity.
RB Zac Stacy/Tre Mason – We evidently like guys with 3 letter first names and 5 letter last names who have played for the Rams. I expect a 60/40 split of reps with Messam and an import. For games 1 and 2 that import will be one of Stacy or Mason (side note, Zac Stacy always makes me think of that song Stacy’s Mom… I bet you are singing that song now. I’m sorry). Preseason games can make an RB’s career (like it did in 2012 for Kory Sheets) or break it (like when Quentin Griffin thought he was too good to expend energy on preseason game in 2008). I’m hoping for a Sheets type thing but a comical story about a player sealing his own fate is a decent consolation prize.
One last note, you’ll note I made zero mention of QBs. Clearly I will be watching them and I’m excited to see Collaros as a Rider for the first time but nothing that happens in the game will change the fact that Collaros is the starter and Bridge the #2 so I don’t think its worth discussing much.
See you in the stands.While I will be calling out from the stands when players have earned themselves a cut, I will not limit my cuts to the players. Too much foam in my beer, cut. Not giving me the winning 50/50 ticket, cut. People who decide to stop at the most inconvenient spot in the concourse, you better believe you're cut.