Monday, July 30, 2018

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Fractions

Riders 22 - Stamps 34

The Riders that we saw on Saturday night can best be described by fractions. Sorry to drop math on you this early in the morning but stick with me because I have some good Michael Bishop lines coming up later. What we saw on Saturday was 2/3's of a football team giving 3/4's of effort. You don't need to be a mathmagician to figure out that that won't cut it against the #1 team in the CFL.  

By 2/3's of a team I am obviously referring to the fact that this team lacks anything remotely resembling an offense (more on that gong show later). Our defense is world class. They got 2 sacks on a great OL, forced 3 turnovers on a team that protects the ball better than anyone and can only really be blamed for 1 of the 3 offensive TDs allowed because 2 times an offensive turnover left them with a short field to defend. Our special teams are pretty good. Our kicker is just booming kicks. Don't think I've ever been so confident in a guy over 45 yards. Our kick returns are dangerous. Our coverage team have allowed 2 punt TDs in 2 weeks but overall have been doing well. Even a mildly competent offense would catapult this team into the top of the division. At this point mildly competent seems like a pipe dream.

By 3/4's of effort I mean that the 1st quarter of that game went about as bad as humanly possible. Turnovers, defensive busts for big plays, punt return TD. But if you look solely at the final 3 quarters we outscored the Stamps 22-10. Granted I think the Stamps would have employed a slightly less conservative offense had they not been way up on us but still. Had we not dug ourselves such a deep hole, we may have been able to hang with them. I say may because truthfully we need on offense to have a legit shot at beating the Stamps but damn if it wouldn't have been close. 

Aside from the crappy start (which was on the whole team), the blame for this loss is being directed at the offense... or at least the members of the team supposedly responsible for offense, and rightly so. Our offense is an utter embarrassment. We have 6 TDs in 6 games (or defense and special teams have 5). I have used a lot of this space to hurl insults at Steve McAdoo and believe me I still think he's a huge part of the problem. His entire game plan was run up the middle a million times and hitch screen to the WR with swing passes to the RB and some really awful QB scrambles mixed in. That's it. That's the whole playbook. I have more plays for my kid's Atom team. And we used people in awful ways. Should we use our big honking RB to run a 3rd down gamble? No. The smaller but still powerful runner? No. The smallest guy we have straight up the middle? Perfect! We have all big tall receivers, should we call plays that utilize their height or size? No. Run quick screens where all their size is useless? Genius! Should we even attempt the stretch the field? No, let's not attempt a pass over 15 yards. I kept thinking that by repeatedly running the same stupid plays we were setting up a wrinkle or deep shot. It's really my fault for believing in them. I see the error of my ways.

But rather than focus on McAdoo today, I'm going to focus on another glaring issue with our offense. I get that this may be an unpopular opinion but Brandon Bridge simply isn't very good. I'm paraphrasing but in the post game comments Coach Jones essentially said that Bridge is not good enough to open the playbook any further than the 4 plays we used on Saturday. Hell he is running a playbook so dumbed down that even Michael Bishop could understand it (and at least he could stretch the field... well that pretty much all he could do). Now if the coaches have that little faith in him it begs the question why they made him the starter but I digress. I have been saying for a while now that if Bridge wasn't Canadian, no one would care about him. People rave about his mobility but the thing is he is an awkward and utterly ineffective scrambler so really by mobile they mean he can move around behind the line of scrimmage which is a great skill only if you can translate that into actually making plays. Which Bridge can't . He can't read a defense. He can't throw accurately even when he has a wide open receiver and he took 2 time counts (one of which was when he came off the bench). You could excuse this as growing pains if he was a young QB but he is a 4 year vet that has been the unquestioned #2 for 2 years and seen significant playing time. He's not getting better. I'm not a fan of rash QB changes but I honestly think its David Watford time. He can run the 4 plays we have for Bridge and would have the added bonus of being a competent scrambler. Plus he still has room to grow where I fear we have seen Bridge's ceiling. He can come in in relief but I just haven't seen anything to lead me to believe he can be a starter. 

What looked to be an early embarrassing beat down turned into a  competitive game and credit the Riders for not giving up. I think they can compete with the Stamps in 2 our of 3 phases. But until we address our offensive futility, the absolute best we can hope for is beating the bottom tier teams and hoping for the cross over. It's a waste of such a good defense but its the best we have right now.

Other random thoughts:
- O-line was better than expected. They still aren't great but I expected them to get murdered by that front 4 and they held their own not bad.

- We miss Moncrief on defense. I few times I saw Elam running around trying to get his assignment. He did not bad for a first start but he's no Moncrief.

- Charleston Hughes is almost inhuman in his pass rushing ability. To play at the highest level for as long as he has is amazing.

- Jerome Messam sucks. I knew we shouldn't have signed him.

- Speaking of sucking, Caleb Holley. Massive disappointment this season. I would gladly take back Bakari, fumbling sleeves and all, in his place at this point. 

- Junior cheerleaders were the half time show and that always reminds me of that infamous game where the junior cheerleaders had to dance around the unconscious corpse of Spergeon Wynn and the awaiting ambulance. A truly classic Mosaic moment (even though it may have still been Taylor Field at that point).

Friday, July 27, 2018

Riders vs. Stampeders: West Division Showdown

Saturday night the undefeated (and universally hated around these parts) Stampeders are in town to face the 3-2 Riders. It will be both teams' first game against a Western opponent this season. The Stamps will be looking to continue their seemingly never ending string of regular season dominance (if only they handed out rings for that). The Riders will be looking to prove they are good enough to contend with the top teams in the West. Its one thing to sweep an East team, its another to beat the top team in the CFL.

I start as I always do with the defense because much like Obi-Wan Kenobi, they are our only hope. Calgary has the number 2 offense and can beat you in a number of ways. They have a strong ground game in Don Jackson and they have 3 receivers who could all be #1 guys if they were on separate teams in Rogers, Jorden and Daniels. Of the 3, Rogers is the biggest threat as he boast damn near a TD per game average over his CFL career. It will start up front with our D-line. This will be the best O-line they've faced to date and getting pressure on Mitchell will be key. I am really hoping that history repeats itself and Charleston Hughes makes Derek Dennis look like a fool, only this time with us on the right side of that. As dangerous as that passing attack can be, our best chance is focusing on eliminating the run and making them one dimensional. That would allow the D-line to pin their ears back and Jones to dial up all his crazy coverage schemes (you just know there is one where Zach Evans ends up in pass coverage 20 yards downfield). Given that 2 offensive TDs is our max (and something I'm not sure we'll manage against the top D in the CFL) our D will need to this under 20 to have a chance. We've only allowed over 23 once this season so it should be doable. Calgary has committed the least turnovers and we will need to muster 1 or 2 of those. The absence of Derrick Moncrief is a big blow to us. Looks like Elam steps in (though who the hell knows, Duron may end up there too).

Side note: you can bet Bo Levi Mitchell will be looking to avenge his pick 6 to Duron last season (Hey Bo, he's still your best receiver). While I fully expect him to get it, I would love nothing more than to see him throw an errant throw and Duron do it again.

Offensively, I'm honestly worried. We played like utter garbage most the first half of the Hamilton game and have needed a defensive or special team TD in every one of ours wins to support our sad sack O. Calgary has allowed just 9.2 points per game, granted its been while pummeling East teams but they have been impressive. Most takeaways, most sacks, least yards. The only real advantage I see for us is that our complete lack of a credible passing attack essential neutralizes the #1 pass defense in the CFL. Take that. We are going to need to stay committed to the run or our O-line will get destroyed by Micah Johnson and Ja'Gared Davis. I'm still somewhat in shock that Messam got double digit carries last game. It would be nice to keep that up. We also need to lean heavy on Thigpen. Outside of Roosevelt, he is really our only other consistent offensive threat. You can bet Calgary will be keying on Roosevelt so we either need to attack using other guys or find ways to get Roosevelt some space (like his TD last game). Roberson on corner and Berger at safety are the weak links in that defense so that is where I would look to attack. While I do think our offense can muster more than the 9.2 points Calgary has been allowing, I don't see a huge night. Best we can hope for is turnover free ball.

Specials teams could be a factor in this as the game features the top 2 punt return units in the CFL. I expect this to be a low scoring game overall (as the teams sit 1 and 2 in offensive TDs allowed) so if a team can break one it could go a long way to determining the outcome.

As much as I would like to tell you that my gut says a major upset is coming, I don't have a good feeling at all about this game. A few plays go a different way (like say Hamilton not attempting the worst onside punt attempt I've ever seen) and we could be 2-3. Calgary is a team that does not make mistakes and is very tough to beat as a result. I think we will keep the game closer than many expect and prove that we will be no pushover in the West but in the end we aren't quite ready to knock off the top team.

Stamps by 8 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Riders vs. Ti-Cats: The Rematch

Thursday the 2-2 Riders are in Hamilton looking to sweep a back to back with the Ti-Cats. Both teams have been on bye since the Riders defeated the Tabbies on July 5th meaning the Ti-Cats have had 2 full weeks to think about how the hell they managed to lose that game. Both teams will be fielding essentially the same roster so the outcome of the game may come down to which coaching staff has made better adjustments from game 1. Back to backs are hard to sweep, the first 2 in the CFL this season were both splits.

Let’s start on defense because if we are being honest with ourselves they are our only legit chance to win this game. We had a great game plan against them in Game 1 but this time around they won’t be caught off guard by it. I highly doubt they game planned for Gainey on corner and Jones’ blitzing constantly. This time around they will have. So the question becomes do with stick with what worked until they prove they can beat it? Or does Jones have something else up his long black sleeve? I think watching the film, the Ti-Cats will realize that they should have ran more. I also expect them to come up with some plays that try and break up our defensive match-ups and get Duron 1 on 1 with Banks. As good as the D played last time they still allowed over 300 yards and I don’t think we can rely on Hughes running for a 57 yard TD or a D-end getting a pick 20 yards downfield every game. I think we need to keep up the pressure. Masoli really didn’t look conformable under duress. We need to be surer tacklers and not give up the run so easy early. And we need to limit big plays. Long, draw out drives favour our defense as they will make a play at some point.

Offense I think has an advantage in terms of game prep… stop laughing and hear me out. While the Ti-Cats offense has the advantage of game film on our defensive plan, their defense will be hard pressed to discern any kind of coherent plan or strategy from the film on our offense. Good luck game planning that mess. Look… I’m under no illusion that our offense suddenly got good over the bye week. We are likely going to need to overcome a mediocre at best performance on O to win this. A few keys if that is going to happen. 1 – Limit turnovers. If we aren’t going to score the least we could do for our D is give them a rest and not give them short fields. We had just the one last week and low and behold we managed not to lose. 2 – Do something Brandon Bridge! Look I’m very sympathetic to a guy who the coaching staff seem to have as much confidence in as I do in the Montreal Canadiens to win another Cup in my lifetime. He also has a garbage O-line. It’s a tough situation. But guess what? It’s not like Bridge has done anything to help his cause: 0 TDs, 3 INTs, 2 Fumbles. Gotta start making plays if he really wants to prove he can be a starter. 3 – Run the damn ball! (if I had a dollar for every time I’ve typed that since McAdoo showed up I’d own my own island by now). Hamilton allows the 5th most rushing yards and the 2nd most yards per rush. And how was our lone TD scored last game? What’s that you say? By running? Go figure! I know it’s too much to ask to pick a lead back let them get in a groove and run all night but it would be nice to at least only randomly rotate 2 guys instead of 3. A heavy dose of Thiggy and Messam would really help our struggling O-line/O in general. 4 – We need a WR not named Roosevelt to step up. Given that Roosevelt seems to be like quadruple covered every play, he is taking some monster hits whenever he’s targeted. That can’t be sustainable for him health-wise. It would also lead me to believe that someone else is open but then again when your O-line sucks and you don’t run, most receivers could conceivably be double covered. Need someone to step up and be a hero.  

Everything about this game would tend to point towards a Rider loss. On the road, second half of a back to back, we didn’t play particularly well despite winning, we only score 1 TD per game (but hey, at least we are consistent on that), the list goes on. The most likely scenario and then one you should be betting on if gambling is your thing is a loss. But for reasons that have nothing to do with logic, I just have this feeling that this will be one of those games where the Riders surprise everyone by playing a complete game. Think Week 8 last year where they stunned BC. Now I don’t think this will be beat down by any stretch of the imagination. But my gut says, logic be damned and Riders sneak out of close victory highlighted by 2 offensive TDs… yes 2, you heard me!

Riders by a Holley TD.

Programming note: As of this morning I am on vacation and headed up north to fish for a week. If the Riders win I will celebrate by drinking and fishing for a week. If they lose, I will drown my sorrows by drinking and fishing for a week. So there will be no sentimonies come Monday. I’ll be back next Friday to cue up the Stampeder game.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Three Faces of Chris Jones

In December of 2015 Chris Jones was named Supreme Overlord in Saskatchewan. He was given full control over pretty much everything except what I put on my game day burger and even then he probably has some sway if he so chooses. I still honestly cannot believe that we are damn near 3 years into his tenure and the black jerseys have yet to be revived. I mean, come one... it's a match made in heaven!

Anyway, with 2+ years of experience in Chris Jones' empire reviews are decidedly mixed. To be fair, Jones' popularity in this province has followed the path of pretty much every coach that has preceded him. Win and they line up to fellate him. Lose and they line up to burn you at the stake. It's what we do and there is literally no middle ground. But because Jones does not possess the warm friendliness or engaging personality of a Ken Miller  or Danny Barrett, the scrutiny is far more intense during times of loss. Also he really has no one else to blame but himself good or bad. 

Today since we are coming off a bye week and there is no game to talk about (other than the epic choke job that Winnipeg put up) I thought I would take a look at how Chris Jones is doing at each of his 3 main roles: Defensive Coordinator, Head Coach and GM. 

Chris Jones the D-Coordinator
For all the knocks against Jones since he arrived in Saskatchewan (and there are many) he remains a damn good defensive coach. He can be stubborn (the 3 man rush is second only to black button up shirts in terms of things he loves) and sometimes takes the whole mad scientist thing a little too far to the mad side of things (Duron the DB, the rookie receiver he made our safety, etc...) but at the end of the day the man gets results. It took him a little over a year to assemble a credible starting 12 on D here but once he did they were rock solid. Last season they finished 2nd only to Calgary in points allowed. The also finished 3rd in turnovers forced. This was quite the feat given that they started the year with a league low 5 turnovers through 6 games and then finished with a league high 35 over the remaining 12 games. D has been and continues to be the strength of our team. Chris Jones the D-Coordinator is doing an outstanding job.

Chris Jones the Head Coach
This is where some kinks start to appear in Jones' black armour (for the record I know that "kinks in the armour" is not the real expression. I just can't bring myself to type the real one. It seems wrong even by my low standards). Wins are the most important stat in this department and Jones sits at 17-23 as a Rider. If you exclude the first 10 weeks of 2016 where he essentially blew up our roster, pissed on the ashes and tried a complete rebuild in a matter of a few months, he's gone 16-14 since. The problem is that 4th is the highest we've finished in the west division. Honestly Jones' biggest flaw as a coach is his unwavering faith in Steve McAdoo. I don't think McAdoo is incompetent but when you look at some of the stuff he is known for (refusal to run, random insertion of 3rd string qb at dumb times) there has to be a bit of concern at some point (particularly this year where we have just 4 TDs all season). Throw in  the QB carousel  and a few other oddities and you get some legit reasons to doubt Jones as a coach. But though he may be unconventional (putting it mildly), the man gets results. He took the Esks from a 4 win season in 2013 to a Grey Cup in two years and was 1 play away from getting the Riders to the Cup two years after inheriting a 3 win team. He has a lot to prove yet this season but all and all I'm still willing to count him as a pretty good head coach.

Chris Jones the GM
GM Jones is by far the face of Jones that draws the most scrutiny... and rightly so. As per the Peter Principle they say people are promoted to their level of incompetence. While I won't call Jones an incompetent GM there is some level of truth to this in his case. There are 3 mains tools a GM has to build a winning team: scouting, drafting and free agency. As a scout Jones is actually fairly decent. He has brought in guys like Kacy Rodgers, Justin Cox, Crezdon Butler, Sam Eguavoen, Derrick Moncrief, Tobi Antigha, Caleb Holley, Jordan-Williams Lambert. Dude can actually find talent. Now its not all rainbows and unicorns. There's some crazy thrown in there: Vince Young, that thing that never happened with Manziel, Khalif Mitchell, pre-practice squad, the basketball player we tried to convert to starting D-line in a matter of weeks and so on. So its not perfect but of the 3 GM roles scouting is the one Jones does best. Drafting that's another story. We currently have as many draft picks in the NFL (4) as we do on our starting roster. With the exception of 2017 where we nabbed Bladek and Judge, Jones' drafting has been nothing short of abject failure. I mean sure St John could suddenly get healthy and become a phenom and change the narrative but at this points that seems about as likely as me praising the strategic genius of shot gun formation on 3rd and 1. 

As bad as drafting has been, free agency has likely been the worst. It's not that we don't sign quality players but we either sign guys who don't last long or we sign guys that we really didn't need in the first place. This is a by no means exhaustive list of high profile FAs who didn't even last a full season here: Shawn Lemon, Justin Cappiccioti, Curtis Steele, Kendial Lawrence, John Chiles. Add in guys like Dennis, Muamba, Chambers, Grant, Owens, LaFrance who lasted just 1 year before we cut them and a concerning pattern emerges. Sure we had success with Jefferson, Gainey, Evans and Duron though I would argue that given his near $200k salary using him at DB is awful cap management. As is paying Jerome Messam 6 figures to not run the ball.  The hope was that having a guy like John Murphy (and to a lesser extent Jeremy O'Day) here that the risk of Supreme Overlord Jones stretching himself too thin was sufficiently mitigated. I don't know if Murphy was just over hyped due to riding Hufnagel's coat tails or if Jones just over rules all his good ideas but we certainly are lacking overall in this department.

This 3rd season will likely be the defining one (good or bad) for all 3 faces of Chris Jones here in Saskatchewan. Remains to be seen which direction this will go.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Friday Thoughts: Assessing The Rest

With the Riders on bye I thought I would take this opportunity to a) experience the joy of not being disappointed by our offense for one week and b) give a random smattering of thoughts on the other 8 teams. Like most of my sentimonies these are in no particular order nor are they well thought out, researched or possibly accurate. It's definitely a mail it in Friday for me.

BC Lions - Not sure if Wally had become the stereotypical "coasting in retirement" guy but that team looks awful and its not due to lack of talent.  Obviously the continued struggles of Jennings set the tone for the whole team. Lulay is being looked to as the saviour. I like the guy but have we all forgotten just how not durable he is? 

Calgary Stampeders - The calendar may change but the dominance of the Stamps doesn't. They are once again the top team in the league. Though I would like to see them play a West team before declaring them West Champs... just not us. Don't really want to see that.

Edmonton Eskimos - Their defense is struggling (though injuries do play a part as 3 starters are currently out) but that offense keeps bailing them out. What I have noticed this year (other than Jason Maas' continued ass-hattery) is that this high powered O is prone to periods of inconsistency that we haven't seen in the past. Still the most potent O in my opinion but they can be corralled. 

Winnipeg Blue Bombers - Feel the need to remind people that the Riders and Bombers have the same record. As much as the Bombers are suddenly the golden child with Nichols back and we are sinking fast. We are currently the same. But I digress... with Bighill on D and Nichols back on O, the Bombers looked pretty solid. Still think that Richie Hall D will cost them when they face better opponents but certainly up there in terms of West contenders... at least if Harris stays healthy (which I'm convinced at some point his workload catches up with him).

Ottawa RedBlacks - The good news for them is that they are done playing Calgary. Their O should carry them through in the East. Still the concern over Trevor Harris' ability to become an elite QB is not quieting down. Remember all that hype about how many combined yards Diontae Spencer would get and what records he could break? That certainly did not pan out.

Hamilton Ti-Cats - While I think the Ti-Cats are an improved team and that Masoli is a damn good player, I think they have maybe been over-hyped thus far. They beat an Edmonton team with a depleted secondary and a Winnipeg team without their starting QB. I think their D has improved from last year but I wonder if other teams have started to figure out the June Jones offense.

Toronto Argos - If I was to pick a team to have a strong second half, it would be Toronto.I think the O will improve the more experience Franklin gets and the D at some point will welcome back Taylor Reed and Bear Woods from injury. It's not how you start, it's how you finish (that's what she said, though she said "how quickly you finish" for some reason). Could be a slow start but I see them as a dangerous team come playoffs

Montreal Alouettes - I still can't believe we lost to them. That one will sting for a while. Their brutal and their only hope is turning things over to Vernon Adams and hoping he's been worth all the hype (dude has been traded more than he's started).

Monday, July 9, 2018

Monday Morning Sentimonies: We Won?

Riders 18 - Ti-Cats 13

Apparently all that's needed for a Rider win is for me to completely give up hope on them. You're welcome. Calls into question my ability to keep calling myself a prophet but my blog, my rules. If you haven't soured on me by this point, I doubt this will be the straw that broke the camel's back.

Thursday's win was certainly unexpected. We just lost to Montreal, Hamilton had just beat 2 west teams. But in the CFL logic tends not to be of much use. For example: we beat Hamilton, who beat Edmonton, who beat Winnipeg, who beat Montreal, who beat us. Good luck sorting that equation out. But logic be damned... we won!!! The win has been characterized as ugly... which I think is an insult to actual ugly things but we are not exactly in a position to be complaining about how the wins come.

The Riders are a team with a split personality. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide Your Face In Embarrassment if you will. Our defense... looked like world beaters. They shut down a very potent offensive attack and unquestionably won us the the game. The offense... looked like a group of people that would struggle to score even if the opponents carried them to the 1 yard line and pushed them in the right direction.

Let's start on a positive note with the defense. For all the knocks on Chris Jones the GM and Head Coach (and there are many), he remains a damn good defensive coordinator. He threw looks at the Ti-Cats that they clearly weren't expecting. Hell I've watched every snap of the Chris Jones tenure and I wasn't expecting it. First they played match-up in the secondary. And not ill-advised ones like killed us against Montreal. We bumped Gainey outside and locked him on Banks. Jovon was moved inside. Duron was moved to cover Tolliver (a way better match-up both in terms of speed and size). Duron is still a serviceable at best DB but we managed to hide that fact with a great game plan. We also sent a ton of pressure. According to Derek Taylor at TSN, we blitzed over 50% of the time, an unheard of rate for Chris Jones. The result was a a ton of pressure on Masoli and a lack of offensive output as a result. Throw in some crazy looks like Duron play centre field and Antigha playing safety (C'mon Maosli! Didn't you account for the D-end playing safety on that INT?) and you have a dominant performance. Sure we gave up a lot of yards but we allowed 0 TDs, got 3 sacks and forced 3 turnovers (one of which went for one of the slowest defensive TDs in recent memory). That was the D we expected to see coming into this year. Great game plan, great execution, high effort on the field.

One thing that really surprised me was seeing Hamilton abandon the run so early. On their first drive they seemed to run at will, with their RBs gaining 42 yards on 6 carries (7 yards per attempt). They handed off just 6 more times in the entire game. Seems an odd strategy given the issues our pressure was giving their passing game but then again its not exactly like a Rider fan should be giving offensive advice to anyone.

As good as our defense was, our offense can best be described as pulling a homer:

It has been a while since I have seen this level of incompetence offensively. I mean say what you will about Nealon Greene and the Prairie Offense at least they had a coherent strategy... even if it was a terrible one. I can't imagine why an offense that rotates 2 QBs and 3 RBs seemingly at random, its having issues getting anything going? I may not be Brandon Bridge's biggest fan but Jones needs to decide definitively whether he can get the job done or not. Either we have faith in him or we don't. I don't understand how a pro team can give a guy the majority of starting reps only to pull him after 2 series. If you don't trust him then just make Watford the starter and be done with it. At this point I don't care, just pick one. You can't even say the ridiculous approach is working. Our offense is non-existent. Just 1 TD in each our our first 4 games and we have yet to play a west team. We have many offensive issues but until we get the coaching aspect of that (both personnel and play calling) addressed, we don't have a hope of getting back to even mediocre offensive play.  An awful offensive performance was mercifully salvaged by an amazing catch by Stanford and an opportunistic run by Thiggy. 

The previous rant notwithstanding, a win is a win and I'm happy the Riders found a way to squeeze out a narrow victory. Hopefully the momentum will carry us into the bye where players can heal up and coaches can re-evaluate things. The next stretch (road game followed by 6 straight western opponents) could be a killer. The hope is that, much the BC win last year, this win is just the first step in a mid-season surge by the Riders.I'll remain skeptical until I see some semblance of an offense but as long as we keep finding ways to win I'll be happy. I would gladly cheer a game winning rouge or game winning "opposing player develops sudden onset amnesia and runs into his own endzone for a safety"

Other random thoughts:
- Sure he missed a PAT but Lauther can sure kick. He can definitely be trusted from long range which is huge considering he's our back-up plan.

-  I've said it before and I'll say it again, Bridge is better when he's forced to react based on instinct than when he has time to think. It makes it all the more weird that we kept him in the pocket while letting Watford roll out.

- How long before Jerome Messam becomes the next Shawn Lemon? They guy we go out and get in free agency then almost immediately decide we have no use for? I thought it was a dumb idea to sign him but we did so we might as well use him.

- Speaking of Messam, he has clearly taken over the "token Canadian who gets a standing O for even the most negligible offensive gain". It used to be the Szarka role, then Foord, then Clermont, then Bagg... now Messam.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Riders vs. Ti-Cats: So You’re Saying There’s A Chance?

The 2-1 Ti-Cats are in town to face the 1-2 Riders for some Thursday Night football. The forecast calls for warm temperatures, sunny skies, and a high probability of us getting our ass kicked. I’m not going to try and BS here, the Riders are not a very good football team right now and they are playing a team that is. Given that we very recently lost to an awful that doesn’t bode well for our chances.

Any hope we have of winning hinges on our defense. They are like 95% really good and 5% praying that pass attempts are just far enough off target for Duron to intercept it. Hamilton leads the league in offensive yards and Jeremiah Masoli is playing at an unreal level right now. They present a unique challenge to our defense because they use max protection so much. According to TSN, they have 7 blockers on the line of scrimmage on over half their plays. The next closest team is under 20%. Given that our base D is rushing 3 that may pose a problem. For me the bigger issue is our secondary having to contend with Tasker, Tolliver, Saunders and Banks. That’s up there with the best receiving groups in the league. I will assume that in doing his film study for this game, June Jones was smart enough to notice that having a short, fast guy run streaks on Duron is a recipe for success. It just so happens he also has a short, fast guy who can run streaks. We need to give Duron some help there. Mix in some more zone coverage, give him safety help over top, something. Right now that’s the glaring weakness in an otherwise strong D. Hamilton has allowed as many sacks as us (surprising given their love of max protection) so our D-line should be able to get to Masoli. They just need to stay balanced in their pass rush as Hamilton has a good run game and with that many blockers it could cause issues if the D-line just pins its ears back and rushes. Realistically our D needs to keep Hamilton under 20 points for us to have a chance in this. Under 15 would be better.

Offensively my expectations have been so diminished that short of them forgetting their shoes in the locker room, there’s pretty much no way for them to disappoint me. I expect nothing of them and am pretty confident they will deliver that. If there was ever a time for McAdoo to earn his pay cheque its right now. All the garbage he has been doing over the past 2 games needs to go out the window and he needs game plan that will highlight the O’s strengths… or at least better hide their weaknesses. I realize that all the failures of last week aren’t on Bridge but he still looked like garbage and better come out with a better performance this week as leader of the O. Even though he was awful last week I would still look to give a big workload to Thigpen. I would also be willing to give Messam some love. He seems just pissed enough about not touching the ball last game to run angry. Clearly Roosevelt is the go to guy in the air but we need one of the other guys to step up and be a true #2. Last year our O worked good because we had a top tier 1-2 and then a guy like Grant could excel as the 3rd receiver. Right now we have Roosevelt and a whole lot of 3rd receivers. I mean we do have another elite receiver but let’s not bemoan that point. Holley or Williams-Lambert need to step up and take pressure of Roosevelt. Notice how Roosevelt gets killed on damn near ever catch he makes? Because the D currently doesn’t respect any other WRs and can focus solely on him. Be nice to throw less INTs than TDs and given that we only throw 1 TD per game that means we better no screw up.

Could we win this game? Sure. Stranger things have happened. People will point to the BC last year when we suddenly went from written off the relevant. I think we have the talent on D to keep the game close. And its not like Bridge hasn’t eked out games before. I just honestly don’t see Thursday being our night. Unlike last year where we were a talented team that just hadn’t hit its stride, we are currently a team with some glaring deficiencies in our roster.

Hamilton by 14

I'll try and help the Riders' cause by betting money against them. They tend to do things to me out of spite.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Officially The Worst

Ric Flair always said "to be the man, you gotta beat the man". Well the reverse also holds true and the Riders proved on Saturday that to be the worst, you gotta lose to the worst. The Als hadn't won a game in close to a calendar year but apparently the cure for that is a game against the Riders (much like it was for the 2003 Ti-Cats). It was a painfully embarrassing game to watch. I mean, we were outcoached by a guy who couldn't figure out how to take off a headset.

The Riders really only have 2 main weaknesses. They lack an actual DB at corner and they lack any semblance of an offense. One would seem to be a fairly simple thing to correct... at least to anyone whose closet includes more than just black.  The other one is considerably more difficult to fix but there are baby steps we could make. 

If you exclude Duron Carter, our defense actually played a really solid game. 3 sacks, 2 turnovers 1 TD allowed. I mean sure it was against the worst offense... err I mean second worst offense but still they did their job. They allowed just 287 yards and 126 of that was given up by Duron to Chris Williams on 2 catches. So the good news is there is more good than bad on D. The bad news is that is all going to waste because Chris Jones stubbornly refuses to end the Duron at DB experiment. Look its bad enough we insist on playing him there but we had him isolated in press man on Williams all night. It failed pretty much every time. Should we give the speedy Williams a cushion? No. Should we provide safety help over top? Only saw it once and Edem was late getting to the ball. Its compounding bad roster management with bad coaching. We stupidly decided that our roster needed 3 running backs, despite the fact that we are a team that avoids the run generally and one RB didn't touch the ball (the guy making $100K that we HAD to have this offseason)... but a DB? No can't see that helping. 

While the defense is 1 player away from being alright, the offense is a few players and some competent coaching away. I mean they are just awful. We have 3 TDs on the season (Mercer Timmis has 4 in 2 games!) The first play bomb to Thigpen was a great call and a great throw (Its a sign of how poor our offense was that an incomplete pass is worth mentioning). Apparently Thiggy should get back on the PEDs because he didn't look so goo. Beyond that first pass Bridge looked awful. He was panicky and making poor decisions. Granted he received little support up front or from his receivers but still this is a guy who thinks he deserves to be a fulltime starter. I would have rather seen us adjust our play calls to help Bridge out and keep him in rather than going to our third stringer in game 3. That said Watford did give a bit of a spark. Its painful watching a team like Winnipeg and seeing LaPo build an offensive game plan around the strengths/weaknesses of his QB and them watch us just seemingly pull crappy plays from a jar. 

It was an embarrassing game, it was an embarrassing result. We couldn't beat the worst team in the CFL at home... next up Hamilton x2, Calgary x 2 and Edmonton. I recommend buying stock in Wisers because this is going to get worse before it gets better.