Monday the first regular season home game of 2019 goes down at Mosaic as Corey Chamblin (or Chamberlain as I believe he prefers to go by) and the Argonauts come to town. One team will emerge with their first win of 2019 (unless they tie). At first when I heard we opened on Canada day, I was like “right on”! Then upon closer inspection it’s a night game, on a Monday with many having work the next day… so that’ll certainly put a damper on the atmosphere. Fortunately I have Tuesday off so I guess I’ll just have to up my game to compensate for everyone else.
I’m in the awkward position of wishing our opponents hadn’t just got embarrassed in their previous game. I mean, based on what Toronto did last week and what we did, we may find out if the scoreboard gets to triple digits. But then again, this is the Riders and I have seen this scene too many times to be confident… remember that last 2 times Montreal came to town? I believe that Toronto isn’t as bad as they looked last game and I also believe there is no way a McAdoo offense can sustain a 40 point output. Make no mistake about it, this will be a competitive game. The Riders don’t do things the easy way.
Let’s start with the offense for once (since they finally showed signs of life). The Riders scored 25 offensive TDs all of last season… they have 7 already. Last season it took them until game 7 to get their 7th offensive TD. All eyes will be on Cody Fajardo to see if his week 2 performance was a one week aberration (like that time Ryan Dinwiddie threw for over 400 yards) or whether he can actually sustain success. Look for us to scale back the gun-slinging early and go back to our more conservative, run heavy offense. Its great that we can push the ball down field quickly but I see us only doing that if we have to (and based on how Toronto looked game 1, we might not have to). Look for a lot of Powell (who will be looking for a bounce-back performance). Micah Awe got hurt in Game 1 and if he can’t go then Powell is in for a big day. Toronto’s front 4 should be good with Lemon, Beltre, Laing and Antigha but they didn’t show it last week. Toronto’s secondary is nothing special (and will likely be down two starters due to injury) so when needed I think we’ll be able to lean on Evans, Roosevelt and Moore. As much as a conservative game plan makes sense, I would like to see us attack early. If we can get an early lead and get the home crowd revved up, Toronto may just crumble once again.
Defensively, its time to man up after getting embarrassed last week. Fortunately, a Chapdelaine led offense is the cure for what ails you (unless of course you are the Argos). We of course have first hand experience with him. The Argos, have James Wilder, Chris Rainey and the Terrell Sutton for depth… so it makes great sense that they ran 6 times for 12 yards last game. Sure the score pushed them away from the run as the game went on but 6 rushes?!? He also had Derel Walker (his $285k prized receiver) in pass blocking at one point. If our D can’t manage to break our turnover drought this game then we are screwed for the season. Also, given how pass heavy Chapdelaine tends to be, this could be a big game for the front 4. We need to shut down the run early to force them into being a pass happy offense. They have solid WRs in Walker, Edwards and Green so it won’t be easy but I do expect a bounce back game from this unit.
What worries me is special teams. We need to play better there. We are giving up a league worst 18.5 yards per punt return. So great, Ryan can punt 5-10 yards farther than Bartel, we are giving up more than that on the returns. There have been 4 punt returns over 30 yards this season in the CFL… the Riders have allowed 3 of those. Need Ryan to be better on his placement and hang time and we need our coverage guys to tackle when they have the chance. With an arsenal of talented returners (Jones, Thiggy, Moore, Purifoy) its gotta be a matter of time before we break one… home opener is as good a time as any.
Two last keys to the game. First is discipline. We have committed 20 penalties in 2 games. That’s a pace of 180 penalties on the season… 20 more than the woeful Alouettes committed last season (and they were the worst in the league by far I this category). Gotta clean that up. Second is win the turnover battle. We currently have committed 5 turnovers (most the League) and forced 0 (the only team not to do so). I feel the takeaways will eventually come on defense but even just tightening up the offensive giveaways would be a big help.
On paper this is a game we should win… therefore given how the Riders do things, we will win but it will just be in a game where we go down early, struggle more than we should and win in last minute dramatic fashion that takes years off my life.
Riders by a Kyran Moore TD.