Saturday the Riders travel to Toronto looking to bounce back after a dismal showing at home that ended their 4 game win streak. The Argos come in to this game 3-8 and 2 games out of a playoff spot. They are starting to hit desperation time in their season as another loss puts them in a massive hole with a trip to Calgary on tap next week. Much has changed since these teams last met in the season opener. Back then Ricky Ray wasn’t sporting a neck brace, McLeod Bethel-Thompson was never expected to touch the field and Duron Carter wasn’t sporting an Argo jersey.
After getting booed on their home turf (something even Zach Collaros admits was deserved) the Riders’ O needs a rebound game. Now keep in mind based on how things have gone this season that a “rebound” by our standards would be 1 TD, 3 FGs and not turning the ball over. The bar is set pretty low. It starts with Steve McAdoo. The reality is, we have 3 guys on offense with a chance of finding the endzone. Thigpen, Roosevelt and Williams-Lambert. That’s it. They have combined for 10 offensive TDs. Yet if you look at our play calling in recent weeks, our O inexplicably seems to revolve around Shaq Evans (who is creeping up my hatred list), Tre Mason and Josh Stanford. Three guys who have combined for 0 TDs and not even come close. We have to find ways to get our real playmakers the ball. I get that some of that falls on Collaros and where he choses to throw but a good OC would find ways to ensure our top guys get the ball. Marcus Thigpen has 4 total offensive touches in the past 2 games. He’s averaging 7.5 per touch incidentally but no please keep feeding the ball to other players because that makes a ton of sense.
The good news is that Toronto is a great match-up for an offensive in need of a pick me up. To put it in terms you may understand, the Argo Defense is worse at defending than the Rider Offense is at scoring. Yeah its that bad. Most points allowed, least turnovers, least sacks (the entire Argo team is currently tied with Charleston Hughes in the sack race), second most yards allowed. The loss of Corey Chamblin really hurt this unit and it had been compounded by not having their best players on the field whether it be because they are hurt (like Marcus Ball) or because they inexplicably traded them away for nothing (like Shawn Lemon). They don’t have good run D so that’s where our O should start with a heavy dose of Thigpen and Mason (in that order). Lean on Roosevelt, keep Moore and Williams-Lambert involved and maybe give some token love to Rob Bagg. If we can’t find the endzone on this defense then we are in a world of trouble.
Our D also needs a bounce-back game after giving up close to 500 yards. Its crazy to imagine much better this D/ Special Teams could be if they had an even mildly competent offense supporting them but I’ve whined enough about our O for a while. What we can’t let happen again is the RB running wild on us like Powell did. Wilder is just as dynamic if given space. He’s accounted for close to a third of the Argos’ total offense which by the way is the second worst in terms of both points and yards. The Argos have a decent O-line but our front 4 need to dominate the trenches, limit the space for Wilder and keep the blockers off our LBs. Neutralize Wilder and “McLeod, I have too many names and none of them are first names” does not scare me. He has talented WRs in Green, Edwards and Carter but if you take away his first game where he threw 4 TDs, all he has done since is go 1-3 while throwing just 4 TDs with 3 INTs. Speaking of Carter, two points I want to make. 1 - For god sake if there was ever a game for Nick Marshall to stop getting beat deep because he bites on short stuff this is it. You know Duron wants to score so give him the underneath stuff and make him work for it rather than giving up the long bombs, not like he is famous for his effort levels. 2 – I would be coaching all me DBs to be up in Duron’s grill yapping all game long. No way Duron doesn’t take at least 2 penalties retaliating. One last note on the Argo offense, you need to be wary of the checkdown to Declan Cross. Its another one of the few things that has been going well for a struggling 0.
Special Teams will play a role in this and it should favour us. We have the second most accurate FG kicker. They have the least accurate kicker. We have 4 kick return TDs this season including 3 in the last 2 games. They are allowing 14 yards per punt return, 3 more than any other team in the league. They also recently traded their star kick returner to Edmonton for reasons I don’t really understand.
Never underestimate a Marc Trestman coached team, especially when coming off a bye week. Two of Toronto’s 3 wins have come against teams with winning records (Edm and Ott) so they can contend with the top teams. That said, this is a game the Riders should win. We should be able to win the defensive and special teams phases provided we show up and despite our offensive struggles (well actually struggles is putting it mildly) against this defense they should be able to do enough to get by.
The Riders never do things the easy way so expect the game to be much closer than it should but in the end…
Riders by a Kyran Moore TD.