Monday, April 19, 2021

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Linebackers

Our ongoing preview of the 2021 Riders moves to by far the most interesting position for the team. In 2019, we had arguably the best linebacking ground in the league. Moncrief was a league all-star at cover LB. Elimiman was a division all-star in the middle. Judge was an impact Canadian starter. All are now gone. Moncrief to the NFL, Judge to Toronto, Elimimian to retirement.

That leaves a massive hole in what was a solid defensive front in 2019. Our ability to replace those 3 positions will have a big impact on how far the Riders go in 2021.

Projected Starters: Seun Idowu, Larry Dean, Lorenzo Jerome

In the mix: Gary Johnson, Justin/Jordan Herdman-Reed, Louchiez Purifoy, LJ McCray, Micah Teitz

The Rest: DeMarquis Gates, Jacob Janke, Nakas Oneyka, Matthew Thomas, Deshaun Davis, Blair Smith, AJ Allen, Kevin Francis, Nigel Harris

The arrival of Larry Dean was extremely important. All the top defenses have a steady rock manning the middle and we needed one more than ever with a complete change of all starters here. He’s the one sure thing. Beyond that there is nothing but options and questions. I have Idowu and Jerome pencilled in but that’s based on nothing more than gut and the fact they both have game experience.

I think there are 3 viable options at Cover LB. Jerome has starting experience at the position in Calgary. It’s limited but beggars can’t be choosers at this point. The other options would be move one of Purifoy or McCray up. Both play their DB spots so well that you’d hate to move them but the need for a solid cover LB is huge. Outside shot you play Edem here but that leaves a hole at safety we can’t really fill.

At outside LB, a lot depends on the ratio. I have a feeling we are going Canadian at wide-side corner (with G Oneyka/Bouka) which would allow us to plan an American here. But if keep McCray there then you need to go Canadian with some combination of the Herdman’s and Teitz. Teitz did get a start at the spot last year and didn’t look out of place. Still “didn’t look out of place” is a far cry from fulltime starter.  

Note: I get the anger over losing Judge but I’m pretty OK with how O’Day handled it. He was in a no win situation. When free agency opened we didn’t not know if Judge was coming back. So O’Day either had to wait and risk getting nothing (which you all would have vilified him for) or move on and use the money to get what he could for sure (which you are vilifying him for). Even if we had waited, I’m not convinced we would have kept Judge. Maybe, but if I’m a GM I take the sure thing (like using the money to get Micah, Dean and E Johnson) rather than risk having money and nothing to spend it on but another ivory back scratcher.

Of the Americans we got a mixture of prospects. Idowu played 15 games for us in 2019. Johnson spent the year on the PR and dressed in 3 games. Thomas and Harris both have a few games of NFL experience. Gates just seems like a guy looking to play football as he has played in the NFL, XFL and AAFL over the past couple years. Davis (who is confusingly is not the DeShawn Davis we had last season) was a 6th Rd NFL pick.

We do have a number of solid Canadian special teamers like Kevin Francis, Blair Smith and Nakas Oneyka. How/if they fit into the roster remains to be seen.  

Prophet’s Players to Watch: Gary Johnson. The Riders are very high on him. He dressed in 2 regular season games and the playoff game. He’s just 24 and will have a huge leg up this time having spent all of last year with the team. Look for him to push for a starting spot.

Wild Possibility (something that may not be likely to happen but is not outside the realm of possibility): I see this a group with bi-polar potential. Chances are equally good that the combo of a new weakside LB, Larry Dean and McCray/Jerome/Purifoy make this a rock solid group that remains among the best the division. There is honestly equal chances that outside of Dean, this group struggles and is the achilles heel of an otherwise solid defense.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more. You put up some options I hadn't thought of, actually. Dean is a monster, a sure tackler who vacuums up everything within a 8-10 yard radius. The cover LB can be filled with a number of options. I agree that Jerome is a likely candidate but I like McCray or Purifoy myself, keeping in mind that it would be nice to keep the current group @ DB intact. Bouka & Onyeka have starts @ wide corner. Onyeka also played some safety in Edmonton. Bottom line, if we're hoping to get All-Star, West MOP performances on either side of Dean that's wishful thinking. We're really in a position where we may be experimenting throughout the season before we settle on something.
I am of the mind though that O'Day screwed up with Judge. He came out & said they had to move on & couldn't wait for Judge just days before Judge signed in Toronto. So was there some miscommunication there? Judge stated afterwards he was surprised the Riders moved on. Secondly, all this talk about the CAP gets me going. We walked away from Hughes, got Micah very cheap, weren't getting Moncrief back. The Argos signed Woods & Muamba, both MLB's, Santos-Knox & Judge, both WIL's. They aren't keeping all of them. It will be sorted out in camp. Signing Judge wouldn't put us over the CAP. Half the teams have over 100 players on the current rosters. If he gets beat out by a younger, cheaper, better guy you let him go. If he's great, you make cuts somewhere else & find a way to keep him. That's your job.
Interesting article on April 2nd - Success & Longevity through the Draft. It took a look at all 9 teams & how many of their original picks are on the current roster. By far the worst club was the Riders with the remaining picks having a combined 7 starts in 2019 (McInnis 3, Bouka, Dabire, Picton & Teitz 1 each). We haven't drafted badly in round 1 - Judge & Shepley would have gone there to anyone, Bladek was more of a reach. But we don't keep them after we spend time developing them (I can omit Shepley as we had no choice there.) It's beyond me why we wouldn't pay up for Judge. As for Bladek, we signed the much injured LaBatte to 3 years. Why not pay him less & give Bladek some assurance of starting after 1 more year of playing behind LaBatte. You have to move on sometime. Much like the Harris, Burris situation. Sorry, but I have a problem with O'Day on the Judge situation in particular. The reigning West Top Cdn you have to keep after you put so much time into making him what he is. In short we now have some serious question marks in that area.

Pantsonfire said...

For what it's worth. LB crews in West.
BC - Pro - Ladler was excellent SAM last stop in league.
Con - Looks like maybe going 2 Nationals out of Lokombo, much injured Konar, high draft Williams & Guzlyk-Messam. Meh.
Rank - 5
Cal - Pro - Thurman returns as does Wall. Greenwood in the middle. Could be very good.
Con - Greenwood will be 36 in June. 40 games on 5 year resume. Wall is 33.
Rank - 2
Edm - Pro - Two returnees in Diggs & Walker. Brown played WIL for Thorpe last 2 years. Diggs is a stud.
Con - Brown hasn't been an everyday starter.
Rank - 3
SK - Pro - Love Dean. A true MLB, great leader.
Con - SAM & WIL yet to be determined. Jerome & Herdman twins?
Rank - 4
Wpg - Pro - Bighill still may be best in league. Wilson pretty good as well.
Con - haven't settled on SAM yet but likely Maston. Can you move him up with Winston Rose & Sayles already gone? Yikes.
Rank - 1
Quick take on Riders. The Riders are not what they were @ LB in 2019. But they're not that bad. I think they go Herdmans @ WIL to keep the ratio. Otherwise you have to go National @ CB or 2 Nationals @ receiver. Bouka & Onyeka will be very good in time. Not sure this is the time. Again, few starts. Play 2 Nationals @ receiver. Time to find out if Lenius, Picton or KIan S-Baker have the goods. Maas will find out quick & he's not patient. Won't play if they can't play. See ya.

Rider Prophet said...

Anon - You are certainly a breath of fresh air on the internet. We agree on some points and disagree on others but its done without hatred and backed by our own reasons. It's a dying art.

Pantsonfire - Agree for the most part. You touched on the loses in the Bombers secondary. That will be something to watch. Calgary getting Thurman back is huge. Dude is a stud.

Anonymous said...

Well, thanks - right back at you. What I like about your comments is they are well thought out &, though you are passionate about the Riders, you give a nuanced view. I have a lot of respect for the work you put in AND the fact that it's not one big lovefest about how great we are. You give us readers lots to chew on.