Sunday training camps around the CFL opened, Huzah! ... well the almost didn't but then they did and that's the important thing.
The O'Day/Dickenson era is officially underway as 90+ guys are in Saskatoon trying to prove they are worth keeping around for more than a few weeks. It's a very different kind of camp as there really aren't any starting jobs up for grabs. Certainly there's a chance a veteran could get beat out by a young up and comer in a few spots. But I could probably guess our starting 24 right now and get 23 of the right. Despite this there are some interesting battles to watch.
Here's what I will be following closely.
Receiver - This should be the most heavily contested in camp. You have the vets in Roosevelt and a surprisingly healthy Arceneaux. You got the 3 young rookies from last season back for year 2 in Evans, Moore (who I think is in a for a big year) and Cannon (who the team is very high on). Just watching those 5 battle for the starting roles will be fun. Toss the new crop of receivers vying to be the next Moore/Evans/Lambert. Then there is the Canadian side of things where our two big new rookies will have everyone's attention. After what seems like a decade on our practice roster I will be interested to see if Mitch Picton finally gets a chance to step up. Cory Watson is still there but in an ideal world he becomes expendable of suffers an "injury" just before game 1.
O-Line - Cofield and Coleman will man the tackles (and with a chance to play from day 1 I think Cofield will have great year). I can tell you that in some capacity Labatte, Blake, Bladek, Schram, Shepley and Clark (when healthy) will as well. But who the starting 3 are and who the dedicated 6th OL are and up in the air. Looks like Blake-Labatte-Bladek are the starters for now but that could change.
D-line - Five of our 6 man rotation will be Hughes, Johnson, Evans, Leonard, Geter but there is one spot left. Mak Henry is currently in that spot but we have Mafuta, Breton and Dabire in the mix and also could go american there with Edwards or one of the new guys.
QB - Normally the most intriguing part of camp the interest here is pretty minimal (beyond monitoring the Collaros Concussion Count). Collaros will start. Fajardo will back-up the only thing left to decide is whether Isaac Harker can beat out Watford for the 3rd spot. Watford has the edge in terms of experience with it being his 3rd year here. But He's essentially a faster Michael Bishop... strong arm, not strong on the mental aspect of the game. Normally you'd be OK keeping a speedy QB like that around to run your sneaks but Nick Marshall stole that role so if Harker can show any kind of upside in terms of actually being a QB that can do more than run and throw far then you might opt to keep him around and develop him. That said with the amount of hype Harker already has 1 day into main camp I have this sinking feeling he's doomed to flame out gloriously come the pre-season.
DB - Starters are set in Marshall-Gainey-Edem-Purifoy-Butler with Bouka as the depth. But I do believe that if we found another Marshall-type recruit that Butler's spot could be at risk.
We are just 11 days away from preseason action. Get your family time while you still can and start prepping your liver... Rider season is coming.
Monday, May 13, 2019
I was going to try and be like lots of other writers out there an open with a clever pun involving a play on Solomon Elimimian (Better Call Sol is a popular one). But the best I was able to come up with was “Me So Solly” so I gave up on that. Don’t worry, at some point I will bring back Me So Solly.
But enough about the internal monologue of my blog drafting time. The Riders signed Solomon Elimimian last week. It’s a pretty big signing. Yes he’s getting up there in age and yes he’s coming off injury but the fact remains he’s arguably the best middle linebacker in the CFL. 4 time all-star, 2 time defensive player of the year, one time MOP. For as much as take shots at Sam Hurl, he was actually not terrible last season (Judge also showed promise)… but isn’t it nice to able to say something more positive than “he wasn’t terrible” about a key member of your defense. Also, its not like injuries are piling up on Elimimian. He had a knee a few years back and a wrist this season. For a guy who hits people hard 140 times a season, I’d say he’s been pretty durable. I don’t think he’s the same MOP guy he was in 2014 but he’s still miles better than most people. Just look at the middle of our D: Evans, Johnson and Elimimian.
My only concern is the trend regarding our top players. What do Charleston Hughes, Solomon Elimiman, Manny Arceneaux, Naaman Roosevelt, William Powell all have in common? They are old. We are putting a lot of our hopes on people the wrong side of 30. Now we have a lot of young guys too (I seem to remember we had one of the youngest rosters last season but am too lazy to look it up) so adding some strong vets is not a bad idea (worked okay in 2013). Still I wish we had just a bit less riding on guys having one more great season in them.
· The philosophy of our team will be unchanged in 2019. Great D and adequate offense. Our postseason success is based purely on whether Collaros is healthy when playoffs roll around. We are not hiding our strategy. Meet the new Riders, same as the old Riders. But hey… the lack of Brandon Bridge has got to be a plus.
- Dan Clark is lucky to be alive. Seriously. I have been campaigning for a different centre for years now but this is certainly not what I had in mind. Hope for a speedy recovery.
· First Round Pick Justin McInnis was not offered an NFL contract after 2 minicamps. Odds of him being at training camp are trending up.
· I remain confident that despite all the grandstanding on both sides, a deal between the CFLPA and league will occur at the 11th hour.
· If not I’m offering my services as a replacement player. I’m no Shane Falco but can probably smoke a cigarette while kicking.
Monday, May 6, 2019
Thursday the Canadian draft went down. By now you’ve probably forgotten about the German receiver we drafted in the European draft or the 3 amigos we drafted in the Mexican draft (pretty sure one was an O-lineman). But the Canadian Draft is the big one… in that there are currently rules allowing them roster spots and a chance that those drafted will actually see the field this season. (I’m not anti CFL 2.0, actually for it, just realistic about the short term impact of it all).
It was Jeremy O’Day’s first draft as GM and he made 6 selections. Overall I’d say he did well… though as O’Day himself said if you’re a GM and you don’t feel good after the draft then you haven’t done a very good job. Everyone thinks their draft class is awesome at this point. As was widely expected the Riders targeted a receiver in Round 1. What wasn’t expected was them doing the same with their second pick. Though unexpected, given their huge lack of depth at the position, nabbing 2 top end WR prospects is not a bad decision. I’ll break down each pick below but if you know anything about the CFL Draft its that Rounds 1-3 are where you get your top end talent and 4-8 are for depth players and the odd player that actually becomes an impact player (lotto tickets if you will). So while I’m not completely discounting our late round picks, odds are, the success of this draft will be dictated by the success of the top 2 WRs.
Let take a look at the picks:
Round 1 – WR Justin McInnis
At 6’6, McInnis is a big bodied WR who has speed to go along with his size. The Riders haven’t had a top end Cdn WR prospect since they drafted Demksi in 2015 and before that Fantuz in 2006. Sure Jordan Sisco appeared in between there but I’m pretty sure Canadian is the only word that applies to him out of top-end Cdn WR. But back to McInnis. He has mini-camp invites to Indy and Tennessee but well worth the risk, given how few mini-camp invites turn into NFL deals.
Round 2 – WR Brayden Lenius-Dickey
I don’t think many (us included) expected him to fall this far. Like McInnis, he has height (6’5) but at 240 lbs he’s a very different type of player. He’s more like a Lavoie-type who can play receiver but also had the size to play tight end or fullback. He also has a mini-camp invite in San Francisco. Assuming Steve McAdoo can actually figure out how to use a versatile player like Lenius-Dickey (for obvious reasons I will insist on using the second part of his last name) we should be a good add. Let’s all remember that we started Josh Stanford and Devon Bailey last season.
Round 4 – LB Jacob Janke
Projects as a safety in the CFL (where we need more depth) and was coveted because of his strong play on special teams. We already have a solid group of special teams players but in the 4th round this is exactly the type of player you can expect to get.
Round 5 – DL Charbel Dabire
He’s 300 lbs and plays DT… that pretty much covers why we targeted him. Obviously he is a developmental project because players this big who are solid are top round picks. But we need depth behind Evans and Henry so it’s the right position to look for developmental projects. Can’t say I’ve ever seen the name Charbel before. It’s almost enough to make me want to endorse him in training camp… thus cursing him to failure.
Round 6 – OL Vincent Roy
You can’t teach size and at 6’5, 285 Roy has that. Being realistic here as a 6th round pick Roy either ends up on the PR or goes back to school (assuming he still has eligibility) and hopefully develops down the road. The victory will be if he sticks around long enough for us to learn if its pronounced Roy like Roy Romanow or like Patrick Roy.
Round 8 – LB Christopher Judge
I had to make sure I heard right when they said he was the older brother of Cameron. He’ll be 28 when camp starts and hasn’t played in a few years. Apparently he was quite the special teams player in college. Look people may make fun at this pick but honestly he’s as likely to pan out as any other 8th round pick.