Monday, August 23, 2021

Monday Morning Sentimonies: As Expected

Riders 23 – RedBlacks 10

Saturday’s game was a lot like watching a rerun of a show you love: predictable, rather uneventful, kinda boring but satisfying in the end. It started a lot slower than I would have liked but slowly but steadily the Riders damn near built up the 14 point margin of victory I predicted. Given that I seem to know nothing about who was going to win the other games I am going to milk the few times I’m right this season for all I can get.

Coming into the game I said Ottawa had a decent defense and awful offense… well that’s exactly what we saw. Their defense kept our offense to our lowest output of the season (rough life when 23 point is a down game) and really made us grind it out. Their offense (if you can call it that) could be marketed as a sleeping aid.

Let’s start with the defense who carried us in that one. Six sacks, 4 turnovers, no run game to speak of. Outside of that one long pass to Harris, they didn’t allow much in the pass game. They were dominant. On that Gainey INT is was clear from the moment that pass went up that it was being picked. Remember that Ottawa intentionally let Nick Arbuckle go so they could have Matt Nichols backed up by Dominque Davis (by far the worst QB room in the league). The only reason Ottawa was able to get their lone TD was because we gifted them 30 yards in penalties on the drive. Penalties remain one of the few negatives to find on the team as we are still taking too many. For all the worry about our D-line coming into the season they have really come to play in the last 2. We are getting great push up the middle and its letting our ends feast. Now take Saturday with a grain of salt because Ottawa doesn’t have a very good OL to begin with and were missing MacMillan (one of their few good linemen) but I love seeing them seize the opportunities they are given. Both Marino and Woodward are making their presence known. I am really interested to see how we fare against Winnipeg. If they can get anywhere close to the pressure we have got in the past 2 games against an OL that good then look out. 4 people in the CFL have 3 or more sacks on the season… 3 of those are Riders. The one negative for me is Micah Teitz. He is clearly the weak link out there. Not awful but weak. So far the strong play of the other 11 is managing to mostly hide it. Better offenses than Ottawa will know how to exploit that.

Offense had to earn it against a decent Ottawa D. But what I like is that they ground it out. Most important thing was zero turnovers. One of the best way to win the games you are supposed to is not give the ball to the weaker team. Yards were harder to come by but we did move the ball. Very few 2 and outs and managing to get points even if it was just field goals on most drives. It didn’t seem like it watching the game but quietly Fajardo managed over 300 yards completing over 85% of his passes. And what makes that even more impressive is how he’s doing it. He’s without his #1 receiver and Lambert went out to injury and he just keeps producing. He hit 8 different receivers. One of the receivers was Kian Schaefer-Baker who made an impressive CFL debut catching 4 passes for 64 including some big important catches. Yet another big bodied receiver for Fajardo to pass to.  Duane Forde raved about Schaefer-Baker in his draft year and we got a glimpse of what he was talking about. Really tough to shut down an offense when we can rely on this many different receivers to make plays. Ground game was a non-factor (except for Fajardo who managed to run a lot smarter and take far fewer hits this week) but we made up for it. Still not completely sold on our OL but they are getting it done for now.

One thing a feel I need to comment on is special teams. Not only has Lauther been automatic on the year. I am also hating Jon Ryan less week by week. And our cover teams played so solid you wouldn’t even have known that 3 regular starters were out with injury and being replaced by practice roster players.

The win surprisingly leaves us alone atop the CFL standings as the only unbeaten team left. We haven’t exactly been dominating teams along the way but we keep finding ways to win and that is a recipe for success going forward. We now get a much needed bye week. Just 3 weeks in and the injuries are piling up quick. Hopefully the bye will allow us to heal up and be rearing to go for the next game… which just happens to be the Labour Day Classic.


Anonymous said...

Fully agree with your comments.
The Good - the young receivers, Woodard & Marino very pleasant surprises. Fajardo has been great. Lauther back in form.
The Bad - penalties. Has to stop because the rough part of the schedule is coming up. Oh, & they have to get Fajardo running less. Last year, as Marshall Ferguson has noted, the Fajardo @ season end was not the QB of the 1st half. Fajardo himself conceded he was badly banged up. So, what's the problem here? Lesson needs to be learned.
Looking Ahead - I expected us to be 2-1 at this point but Hamilton has been awful. Ottawa was picked by EVERYBODY to be the worst team in the league & BC by most to be last in the West. So it's hard to measure the Riders right now. Or any team, for that matter. In most cases the offences haven't caught up to the defences yet.
We should get a good idea, offence wise & particularly the OL, what we have vs the Bombers. I really don't like their offence. But once we get past the next game @ home, we have only 3 home games in the last 10 & that includes the Argos, Elks & Stamps in the midst of a 3 game set with them. I expect that's a far different triplet of opponents @ Mosaic than we've seen so far.
All good. I'm not going to criticize a 3-0 record too much. You gotta win the ones in front of you. Mission accomplished so far.

pantsonfire said...

At the break, the season so far.
My predictions - 1. Edm 2. Cal 3. Wpg 4. Sk 5. BC
Not doing so well. But, Edm should be 2-1. Cal - Mitchell out 6 game. Otherwise, no surprises. Big unknown - does Edm lose 1-0 to COVID? How many games do teams lose this way? Could be big factor. In 4th wave. Top teams could drop.
Rider angle. DID anticipate good start. Ott, BC no surprise. Ham? Not looking good.
Reason I had Riders 4th. These questions.
1. OL - have been good. Are they for real? Not sold yet.
2. Micah - was 2019 outlier or sign of things? Irrelevant with Marino's performance to date. With Woodard, concerns with DL are gone IMO.
3. Powell? At 33 bad age for RB's. See Messam 2018, Cates & Mimbs. Below 4 yd avg to date. Still have concerns.
4. Schedule - as noted above. ​
5. LB talent - 2 out of 3 ain't bad. Under review. Same goes for DB's. After Labour double, may get tested more.
Didn't anticipate - penalties. Needs to be cleaned up. Evans injury. IMO will hurt as opposition gets better.
Sticking with my votes for now. Not much different from experts. If offended, Nye (Rider guy) had them last I believe. No Soph jinx for Fajardo. This run could easily last.
Biggest things - Fajardo can't be running game. Spreading ball around OK but need deep threat to keep D's honest. Same offence Maas had in Edm. Started 2019 & 2018 6-3. Finished badly. Defences figure it out. That's where Evans comes in. May miss him more than they think.

Rider Prophet said...

Anon - I think you nailed it with the "gotta wins the ones in front of you". With a home front loaded schedule and a few projected weaker teams among them it was imperative that we have a winning record in our first 5 home games. JOb is far from done but so far so good.

Pants - I think the west will be more a dog fight than expected. Pros and cons to pretty much every team. Based purely on OL and DL I think Winnipeg is the best team but they will only go as far as Collaros can take then and history has shown that's not a full season. They are in trouble when he goes down. I'm not as high on Edm as you. I think they are too talented to stay down long but there is something going on there with Elizondo and that culture that makes me wonder. Calgary will be good when Bo gets back. If they can play 500 ball without him, look out in the back half. Still have no clue what to think of BC. Not awful but not great. Talent-wise still the lowest in the west. For Ssk. The series with Winnipeg will be telling. Earn a split ad we are sitting good. But we will find out against a "credible" opponent if we are legit good or just good against underperforming teams.

Run game is starting to get a bit concerning. Haven't really seen it other than part of the Hamilton game (but we also didn't try with BC). I don't like Murphy and would be willing to work Morrow in a bit to see what he can do.

Our O will need to continue to evolve. Defenses will take away the short pass game (particularly if we can't run or bomb it).

pantsonfire said...

Thoughts on Edm fluid. Doubts on Elizondo but 2 winningest teams in '19 had rookie HC's. Maas was biggest problem in Edm. Even you said so - back when. Can't blame Maas but new team has same penalty, discipline problems old team had. If Cal game cancelled, or Elk go ahead after 10 days no practice, no weight room etc, Elks could be 1-4 with a 1-0 forfeit. A hill too big to climb. Two more bad injuries, looks like, on Calgary DL. With those factored in, both teams could be in trouble. So, yeah, thoughts on both clubs very fluid. I'm still high on Elks. Thorpe has D playing lights out, talent should come to surface on O. We'll see. Right now, Riders look really good & look to stay on top for awhile. Good jump on rest of West. But, all those road games, Maas record in 2nd half of seasons as OC??? Prone to bone headed moves @ critical times? I think COVID & injuries will continue to dictate results in West.

Anonymous said...

IMO the biggest wild card this season is COVID. One week Boateng sat with COVID, a week later there's 12. 50%, 85%, 99% vac rate, all you need is 1 to cause a ripple down effect. The other COVID related problem may come in October if the Trudeau?? government brings in mandatory proof of vaccination to fly. Maybe you can bus the non-vacs out East for away games, maybe between Calgary & Regina but Sask @ Ham or Mtl?? Any games for BC? Wpg isn't close to anyone but Regina & they don't play them late. Do you leave behind the non-vacs? The only thing maybe holding the feds back is it would have major impacts on the NHL as well. So I doubt it will happen. But.....