Tonight the 3-2 Argos are in town for a match-up with the reeling Riders. Argos will be looking to defeat their 3rd west, the Riders will be looking for something, anything, positive to happen…. Its been a rough couple weeks. The last 2 games told us we are not ready to compete for the top of the division. This game will tell where we rank in mass of teams not named Ottawa at the middle of the standings.
I think we need to be honest with where the Riders are at. The defense has been pretty good all things considered. Room for improvement but good enough to win games. The offense has been awful. I know we all love Fajardo and think highly of Maas but an objective assessment of our offense is that they suck. They have 1 touchdown in the last 13 quarters of football. In fact, if you exclude the 1st half against BC in the opener (clearly an outlier), our offense has found the enzone just 4 times in the last 4 and half games. That means our search for the endzone is only slightly more productive than OJ’s search for the killer… at least in his case the search could be resolved with a mirror. (I had to work in an OJ joke today in honour of the great Norm McDonald).
Ottawa is clearly the measuring stick when it comes to awful offenses. Well, reality check for you, we only have 2 more offensive TDs than that hot mess. We have the same number of passing plays over 30 yards as them. So I repeat, our offense sucks. Now I think we have the talent to get out of this rut and I admit that playing back to back games against the best defense in football will skew the stats but when it comes to offensive firepower we are currently wielding a dollar store water gun and trying to pass it off as a bazooka.
Let’s start on defense because we are all pretty much in agreement that they will need to carry us. We know that Marino (knee), Edem (wrist) and Leonard (stupidity) are out. Purifoy will be back, which is huge. Gainey is getting closer but will not be ready for this game. That’s not great but it could be worse (it has been worse). I think we can work with that. The thing that has caught my eye the most in Toronto is their run game. It’s pretty legit and DJ Foster worries me more than White. Not having Marino for this is far from ideal. The rest of the front 7 will need to step up to shut that down. In the pass games they have the weapons (Daniels, Rogers, Collins) but their weakness is the QB… and the soul sucking eye having coach calling his plays. I think both have potential and have shown flashes but both are still inexperienced and mistake prone (I’m already calling Chris Jones replacing Dinwiddie… its not a matter of if, its when). Arbuckle will make some great plays (the kind of great plays that clearly didn’t fit with Ottawa’s offensive vision). But he will also make mistakes. They have the second most giveaways in the league. Arbuckle is also very Cody-like in that he’s pretty accurate underneath but his completion % over 20 yards trails the rest of the league by a significant margin. If we can limit the run and give Arbuckle some adversity, then he’ll make mistakes. Mistakes we need to capitalize on. Our D-line needs to get some sacks now that they aren’t facing the best OL out there. Argos have been held under 20 points in all but 1 of their games this season… look for that trend to continue.
Offensively I am glad we get this Argo defense when we do. Chris Jones will soon be leading a defense featuring: Judge, McCoil, Muamba, Edwards, Diggs, Hughes, Richardson and Richards. At some point they may even add Law and Nevis. Jones will make an elite D out of that talent. Fortunately, its too soon for him to influence things a whole lot and we get Stubler being an emergency play caller in the interim. That’s good because this struggling O needs all the help it can get.
Fajardo is trending towards playing and this analysis assumes he does. If Harker has to start, I don’t see us winning. If Cody can’t find the enzone, do we really think Harker can? We were all super happy to see a heavy and productive workload for Powell last week. Logic would say we build on that. Reality tells me expect the opposite. Argos actually have the #1 run D in the league (65 yards per game). So even though I don’t like it, I fully expect us to do what we did in the Ottawa game when they tightened up on the run and abandon it completely. Toronto actually gives up the second most long passes so that would be a place to attack them… again not something I see us doing just telling you how I see their D. We are going to try and protect Cody with the quick pass game (I’m sure you are all shocked). That means we need sharp routes, accurate passes and kicks to the groin for anyone brazen enough to drop a pass. I think we need to mix in some different looks. Line up Dupuis/Awachie at TE and have them leak out for a catch. Do 2 back sets with LaFrance and Powell. Mix in a little Morrow. Pump a WR screen and go deep. Our offensive game plan has been pretty static and the whole league could recite it by memory likely so a few tendency breakers could turn into big plays. Argos like to blitz Edwards from the cover LB spot so RBs will need to keep on eye on that.
Two other things to keep an eye on. One is penalties. We have taken 600 yards worth so far in 5 games and at that pace may shatter the record for an 18 game season. I personally would sit Henry for Dabire to send a message but either way we need to find a way to cut down penalties. The other thing is we are terrible finishers. We have 10 total 4th quarters points and average 5.6 points per game in the second half. Translation: if we don’t start hot and get up early, we are in trouble.
We need some good news. We also need a win. A .500 record when you have 6 of your last 8 on the road is not great. Fully healthy I think we would take this at home for sure. Banged up and depleted… its going to be a struggle. I’m confident our D can hold the Argos to their usual 20. That means our hopes of victory hinge on scoring 3 TDs, or more likely 2 TDs and a few FGs. At our current pace, that’s no guarantee. The Argos only 2 loses have come on the road so maybe our crowd can be a difference maker in this one.
Call me overly optimistic. Call me a sucker for punishment. Call me deluded. But while my head is saying we are in trouble in this one. My gut is saying that Craig Dickenson rights the ship just enough to eke out a win at home.
Riders by a Lauther FG