Monday, May 30, 2022

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Preseason Game 1 Preview

Before I start today’s post I would just like to say how nice it will to talk about actual football and not hear the terms bargaining or ratification for another 7 years. It will also be nice to see all the recently self declared labour law experts return to their normal roles as self declared second comings of John Madden.

Its really throwing me off to do a game preview post on a Monday… but here we are.

Look I’ll level with, as much as I am looking forward to the preseason game, please ensure your expectations are super low. This is like the salad that comes before a good meal. Also please be reminded that the Riders are abysmal in the preseason. Since I clearly have nothing better to do with my time (sad) I looked back on our preseason record. Its 0-9-1 in the 5 years where preseason occurred. Yes the best thing that happened in the past 5 preseasons was a tie (i.e. like kissing your sister). You have to go all the way back to 2014 for an actual preseason win. That’s fine because preseason wins count for as much monopoly money. I’m just mentally preparing you for the fact that we will lose... and that's ok.

Also this is our first preseason game and we have another on Friday. So we will be saving our vets for Friday and playing a lot of new guys. By contrast this is Winnipeg’s second game so they’ve made initial cuts and odds are good we see their starters for the first half. It’ll be lopsided and it's a Tuesday night so we can’t even drink this one pretty.  

But that doesn’t mean there’s not some things worth watching. Here’s some of what I’ll have my eye on:

QB – Its Fine vs. Dolegala. Really looking to see who looks poised when the lights are on. Part of me hopes they both suck because I know if Dolegala has a good fourth quarter against the future unemployed people will start calling for him to start.

OL – Big test to see what we have for depth. Never thought losing Josiah St John to injury would cause me concern by here we are. I don’t mind our starters but our depth scares me beyond Jamal Campbell. Looking to see if guys like Bandy and Fry can hold their own.

RB – Preseason game is the chance for RBs. In 2012 Kory Sheets seized the opportunity and made the team. In 2008 Quinten Griffin thought it was below him and was cut before the plane ride home. Be nice to see one of Morrow or Cooper step up and seize the starting role.

WR – With Kyran Moore not back from injury yet there is a starting American job up for grabs. Paul McRoberts’ 18 years on the practice roster have him poised as the lead guy. Though lots of talk about Jester Weah and Dieuly Aristilde who I’m eager to see live. Also curious to see how the draft pick Emilus looks.

On defense, Micah Teitz being out long term has an impact on the ratio that bears monitoring. If we go 3 Cdn OL, 2 Cdn WR and Edem, not having Teitz at LB leaves us short a guy. We have Dabire at DL but no depth. Dean appears to be replacing Teitz. Oneyka can play CB or maybe Lokombo. We could also go Campell of OT or go 3 Cdn receivers. Either way, we need some Canadians to step up.

On DL, I’m looking at depth both at DT and DE as the starters should mostly be set. Nick Coe, Miles Brown and David Kenney are names worth watching.

At LB, again its all about depth and it won’t be easy to crack as returnees like Gary Johnson and Nigel Harris will need to be beat outright for a rookie to make it.

DB is one I will be watching. By the camp reports it sounds like the starting group has been Marshall-Milligan-Edem-Clark-Webb. But guys like Hendy and Reavis have been getting reps. Be nice to finally see Nelson Lokombo on the field. Also be really watching to see how our young Canadians do on special teams. Always nice to see a couple guys step up and be impact players there. Guys like Labelle, Fleury, Dalke, and Bringi will have a chance.

We’re going to lose. It could look pretty ugly at points. But dammit Rider football is back and I’ll be happy just to be back in the stands. It’s also the one game where I don’t even care when stupid people do the wave on offense.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Looking at the Defense

Training camp is in full swing… on some Riders like Dan Marino’s brother took that literally by taking some full swings at Na’ty Rogers. We were supposed to have preseason football today. But I guess we will have to wait a week to go to Mosaic to watch the future unemployed.

For today let’s look at the defense and what needs to be sorted out in training camp.

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: AC Leonard, Anthony Lanier, Garrett Marino, Pete Robertson

In the mix: Charleston Hughes, Keion Adams, Charbel Dabire, Nick Coe, Nicholas Dheilly, Miles Brown, David Kenney, Reece McCormick, Benjamin Davis, Kailon Davis, DeMarcus Christmas, Justin Thomas

Our D-line in 2022 will hinge a large part in how well all those guys we recruited last year progress in year two. When healthy (and not taking 15 yard penalties or getting ejected), Marino was a stud in the middle. Lanier and Robertson both had times where they looked like impact players. Even Adams was a half decent back-up. If those guys can take another step forward in development then our line could be damn good. Lanier and Marino are the most important as we really don’t have much else going on at DT if they don’t pan out. Other question is of course how much does Hughes have left in the tank. I don’t think he’s as bad as 2021 showed but I also don’t think he can be an impact player for a full season any more. Ideal situation is having him as a rotation guy to limit his snaps early in the season. A healthy Hughes come playoffs can still be a difference maker. Bold (or no so bold) prediction, Hughes gets 5 sacks in the first 4 games and then none for like the ten as the wear and tear adds back up. Other thing to watch is that Jonathan Woodard is still sitting out there with no NFL deal. If he ends up back here, then look out. I have nothing against DeMarcus Christmas but I hope he doesn’t make the team just so we can avoid all the stupid plays on words.


Projected Starters: Micah Teitz, Darnell Sankey, Derrick Moncrief

In the mix (and by that I mean in the mix to be back-ups): Larry Dean, Gary Johnson, Alvin Jones, Michael Pinckney, Nigel Harris, Justin Herdman-Reed, Tommy Bringi, Justice Momoka, AJ Allen

What a rollercoaster ride LB has been over the past few season. In 2019 we had an all-star 3 in Judge, Elimimian and Moncrief. The all 3 left and we had no one. 2021 was much better than expected as Teitz came out of nowhere to be an impact starter and Lacey stepped up huge when Dean went down. We filled the cover LB role with an ever changing rotation, it was adequate but not great. Moncrief changes that instantly. Getting him back is huge! Not sure exactly how they’ll deploy both Sankey and Dean but it’s a good problem to have. So camp is all about who is the depth. In theory guys like Harris and Johnson should have the leg up but even though they clearly have the talent, they never seem to stay healthy. Herdman is an adequate Canadian back-up. Would love to see a guy like Jones take a step forward. You will also like see some DBs tried out at LB. Hendy and Oneyka played there last season.

 Defensive Back

Projected Starters: Nick Marshall, Damon Webb, Mike Edem, Jeremy Clark and I legit have no clue on the other spot.

In the mix: Rolan Milligan, Stephen Denmark, Amari Henderson, Vincent Dethier, Josh Nurse, TJ Morrison, Nelson Lokombo, Blace Brown, Godfrey Oneyka, Tristan Fleury, Zach Herzog, Will Sunderland, Levonta Taylor, Brian Cole, CJ Reavis, AJ Hendy, Jayden Dalke, Maceo Beard, Kosi Oneyka, Matt Watson

My kingdom for a halfback! I feel really good about 4 of 5 positions in the secondary (ok, I have some lingering concerns about Marshall but that's beside the point). Webb and Clark were huge finds for us last season, and they should be even better with a season under their belt. Maybe Clark can shift into HB as corner is an easier place to put a rookie than halfback. Say what you want about Gainey but he did pretty good at a very difficult spot to play. Guys I’m most curious in seeing are Nurse, Henderson and Denmark. Also, really want to see what we have in 2021 2nd overall pick Lokombo.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Monday Morning Senitimonies: Training Camp… Kinda

Well rookie camp was held last week and main camp was supposed to open yesterday. But the players are not participating as the ongoing drama surrounding the collective agreement negotiations ramps up.

Look, I could write pages on these negotiations. Human resources is what I do when I’m not wearing a robe (for some reason they frown on that) so I could bore you with the ins and outs of collective bargaining (this is all pretty standard tactics/process). I’ll boil it down to this: Both sides are playing a very obvious game of chicken. Everyone knows that neither side can afford to miss games. Even preseason games with their minimal attendance are a revenue source that the owners will not be passing on. So this will 100% be resolved prior to next Monday when the Riders and Bombers open the preseason. I don’t have the energy to wade into this conversation other than to say: The owners are negotiating like dicks. It’s their right to do so and they honestly hold all the power and know it. But the are still using 60s style bargaining tactics and wondering why the players don’t believe them when they say they want them to be partners. Want to use your power to strong arm a deal (as happens every time), go ahead but just remember that there may be longer term consequences to treating your employees as expendable numbers.

But since I much prefer talking actual football, let’s do that by taking a look at the offensive side of the ball and what we can expect to see in camp (when it does eventually get underway)


Projected starter: Cody Fajardo (honestly felt like typing another name here just to get a rise out of people. Only issue is I know someone would take me seriously and agree).

In the mix: Mason Fine, Jake Dolegala, Troy Williams

The only thing to watch here is Dolegala vs. Fine for back-up QB (or as its more popularly known in Saskatchewan “everyone’s favourite person”). Troy Williams is nothing more than an extra arm in training camp. Fine should have the leg up based on spending last year here and seeing the field but Dolegala will have a chance to unseat him.

Running Back

Projected Starter: Jamal Morrow or Shaq Cooper

In the mix: Trumaine Pope, Frankie Hickson

I was a bit surprised to see both Moreland and Covington released following rookie camp. What started as an open competition is looking more and more like Morrow vs. Cooper and the newcomers are competing for a PR spot. Honestly I think this will boil down more to who pass blocks best. We are a pass-based team so the majority of what the RB will do is block. Cooper has height but Morrow is pretty solid for a smaller guy. My gut says Cooper ends up starting and Morrow is the back-up/returner again. Either way, we won’t know anything about the RBs until preseason games.


Projected starters: Terran Vaughn, Logan Ferland, Dan Clark, Evan Johnson, Jamal Campbell

In the mix: Josiah St John, Logan Bandy, Zach Fry, Diego Alatorre-Montoya (prepare to die), Andrew Lauderdale, Tommy Champion, Na’ty Rogers, Maurice Simba, Noah Johnson, Kooper Richardson

The single most important competition in camp. There are 2 distinct parts to watch. First and foremost, we need to find 2 mildly competent tackles (which would represent a massive upgrade over 2021). Second we need to establish some reliable depth in the interior. At tackle healthy Terran Vaughn will start. Campbell should be the leader for the other one. I see Rogers and Lauderdale as the main competitors as they have experience (though both were on lines that performed terribly last season). Would love one of the new Americans to be awesome but not holding my breath. The retirement of Reilly means that we need to find 2 viable back-ups out of St John, Bandy, Fry and Montoya. Fry (with the ability to play tackle) is the one we really need to pan out. Our Cdn OL depth has taken a hit over the years with the retirements of Reilly, Jake Bennett, Brendan Labatte and Braden Schram and the departure of Shepley to the NFL. We need to start developing the next generation of OL now.


Project Starters: Duke Williams, Shaq Evans, Kyran Moore, Kian Shaefer-Baker, Justin McInnis

In the mix: Paul McRoberts, Xavier Ubosi, Jamal Custis, Jester Weah, Jeremiah Haydel, Jakob Prall, Tevin Jones, Jonathan Johnson, Dieuly Aristilde, Mitch Picton, Jake Harty, Wesley Lewis, Riley Boersma.

Starters are set so this is all about the competition for back-up. At American receiver, we have been searching for a reliable guy for a while. Been through Carlos Henderson, Ricardo, Louis and Paul McRoberts (who is vying to break Mitch Picton’s record for most years spent on the PR) and still looking. Canadian WR won’t really be a competition until 1st round pick Sam Emilus shows up. Picton and Harty are depth, not starters. Honestly don’t see Wesley Lewis doing much here. There is some early hype on Boersma but let’s see if that continues when he’s lining up against veterans and not just guys who have never played the Canadian game before.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Rookie Camp

Note: Today’s post intentionally ignores all the drama and posturing of CFLPA negotiations.  They will get a buzzer beater deal, they always do. So I’m assuming that in the analysis that is contained below.

Note 2: Use of the term “analysis” in the preceding paragraph intentionally glosses over the journalistic and grammatical shortcomings, legally I'm not even sure I can call it analysis.

Rookie camps open this week. Kicking of the start to another CFL season. I’m pretty pumped. My liver, vocal chords and family connections may not be. But I am.

Today we are going to take a look at some of the roster spots were those coming to rookie camp have a legit chance to make an impact.

Normally I would start with QB. In Saskatchewan, affection for the back-up QB falls only behind that for perogies and half tons in the ranking system. Problem is we have exactly 3 qbs on the roster. So the only thing to watch will be if Jake Dolegala can unseat Mason Fine for #2. I assume there will be at least one more QB in camp at some point.

The most wide open spot on the roster is RB. Its an open competition. While Morrow and Cooper certainly have the advantage, rookies like Shamar Moreland, Frankie Hickson and Justin Covington will be given every opportunity. Moreland is the one I’m most interested in. He’s the lightest and presumably the fastest of the bunch.

There will always be opportunity at American receiver. We need depth and last season showed that odds are good those depth guys get called on due to injury at some point. Guys like Paul McRoberts and Ricardo Louis have had moments but failed to lock down the spot with any certainty. The new recruits include Justin Weah, Darvin Kidsy, Xavier Ubosi, Jamal Custis, Jakob Prall, Tevin Jones and Jonathan Jonhson. At 6’4, Jamal Custis out of Syracuse is an intriguing prospect.

Sure be nice to find an offensive tackle or two… honestly half of one would be an improvement over last season. We do have veterans in Vaughn, Na’ty Rogers, Jamal Campbell and a returning Andrew Lauderdale but man would I love to see one Tommy Champion (he has to be good right?), Bryce Hargrove, Ka’John Armstrong (who spent time on the PR last season) or Kooper Richardson be awesome... or serviceable… or occasionally capable of blocking somebody. Also with rumours that Mattland Riley may be retiring, it will be important to see what we have in 2021 pick Logan Bandy and 2022 picks Fry and Aldo Montoya (prepare to die).

D-Line will be tough to crack as we had such a huge 2021 recruiting class with Marino, Robertson, Lanier and Adams. Also (fingers crossed), Jonathan Woodard was recently released by the KC Chiefs. We do need a D-tackle to replace Micah. Based purely on size and pedigree Miles Brown is the most intriguing. But I’m always skeptical when a DL with NFL size ends up here so quickly. Usually a good reason for that. Nick Coe spent some time on the PR so he’s another I have my eye on.

Linebackers should be a tough group to break. We have rock solid starters and guys like Gary Johnson and Nigel Harris looked decent in limited time last season so we should have depth. But both missed a lot of time due to injury so there is room for competition there. Luke Holloway and Jason Momoka (if the Riders are smart they keep this guy around. You can attract a lot of ladies to the game thinking they will be seeing Jason Momoa) are about the only “rookies” (plus our most recent draft picks).

Secondary we have 2 needs and pressing and one that I am speculating. We need a halfback, open competition there. I also wonder, whether the movement of the hashmarks (and the added space on the short side) will impact Nick Marshall at all. Space is not his friend (as evidenced by his that time he was forced to play HB). Might be nothing but its certainly in the back of my mind. Names like Josh Nurse, Amari Henderson, Will Sunderland, Brian Cole, Stephen Denmark, CJ Reavis, TJ Morisson, Levonta Taylor, LeVonte Larry and Jermaine Kelly are the new recruits (though I expect a couple to be move to compete at cover LB). Stephen Denmark is fast and was a late NFL pick, so I’ll be watching him. Josh Nurse is another name on my radar. He was a Stamp recruit in 2021 and Hufnagel seems to know a thing or 2.

Really looking forward to actual football being back. There should really be prop bet on the 2022 Terrence Nunn. For those more recent fans, Terrence Nunn was a training camp phenom who had all the fans raving only to accomplish only slightly more than me in his CFL career. We will hype someone so much that would will think they are a surefire hall of famer, only for them to be cut really early. It’s what we do.

Friday, May 6, 2022

Friday Morning Sentimonies: 2022 Draft Class

After spending a couple months extremely sporadically posting, I’m going the opposite direction and posting twice in the same week. Don’t worry I’m sure I’ll compensate at some point by missing a Monday post. But the season is coming quick and so its time to get serious about this… I mean as serious as a dude in a robe who uses words like sentimonies can get.

The draft went down Thursday both the real one and the Global draft. I won’t say too much about the Global one, other than to say our first round pick LB Jordan Genmark Heath played at Notre Dame and UCLA and has been invited to camp with the KC Chiefs. We might actually me making progress in terms of quality from the glorified paperweight of a Mexican OL we took in the first global draft. I will also give the Riders credit for drafting zero kickers. To be fair, we do have 2 already on the roster but we do appear to be trying. 

In terms of the actual draft, I was not enamoured with our early round strategy. Look, Sam Emilus is a great prospect. He was expected to be a top 4 pick and is one of the top WR in the draft. The issue is not with him, he is a good prospect. The issue is one of need. Our OL was awful last year and other than Mattland Riley, our depth is questionable there. Our D-line had many loses this offseason. We only really have Charbel Dabire there for Canadians. If you aren’t good in the trenches you won’t win, its that simple and we have needs there. Yet we went receiver. A position where we have Baker, McInnis, Picton and Harty. A position that at best will be the #4 target in our offense. Emilus is good but I’m not sure he was so good that we couldn’t chance missing on him.

Obviously anyone who passed on the likes or Clermont or Fantuz thinking they didn’t need a receiver would have the regrets. But here is a list of first round WRs in the last 10 years:

·        Shamawd Chambers,  Devon Bailey, Nic Demski, Brian Jones, Tevaugn Smith, Danny Vandervoot, Nate Behar, Mark Chapman, Justin McInnis, Hergy Mayala, Dejon Brissett

Given that maybe 3 of those are what I would consider impact WRs, the odds would lean towards Emilus not being the next Clermont or Fantuz.

Time will tell if O’Day knows better than me. He did rightly use his 2nd and 3rd round picks on OL. So that was good to see. Zach Fry can play tackle which is a plus. The book on him is great technique, lacking in strength. That’s something that can be developed easier than technique. Diego Altore Montoya (or as I will be saying ad nauseum this season: My name is Diego Montoyo, you sacked my quarterback, prepare to die) is the opposite, strong nasty, maybe not as refined technically. He can play any position on the line which is always a plus.

Rounds 4 -7 were all about potential special teamers: LB Tommy Bringi, B Tristan Fleury, DB Jayden Dalke and DB Zach Herzog. Hopefully one of them can develop into something. A few years back 5th round pick Alex Chevrier became an excellent special teamer. Undrafted Jacob Dearborn managed to be a decent defensive player. So there’s a chance. Rounding out the draft class was Regina Ram WR Riley Boersma. He’s a longshot to make it out of camp, as any 8th rounder would be.

So overall I think we had a good night. We didn’t pull a Chris Jones and use a pick on a guy with one college game to his name. We didn’t overreach for a player. We did build depth. I think we are still lacking quality Canadian defensive depth but it wasn’t a very deep draft defensively.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Monday Morning Sentimonies: CFL Draft Preview 2022

Sorry for the lack of posting over the last few weeks. Life’s been a bit busy and I squeezed a vacation to Vegas in there as well. The fact that I am currently not showing off a diamond encrusted prophet staff tells you everything you need to know about whether I won big while in Sin City.

The CFL Draft goes down tomorrow and it will bring some much needed change to the CFL offseason. I think we are all tired of talking ratio and rules and such. It will be refreshing to talk about actual football players. Now, granted 90% of the players taken tomorrow, you will know nothing about, but it will be fun to discuss them endlessly and make cases for why the Riders 7th round draft pick was a waste of a pick (spoiler alert, all 7th round picks typically end up being a waste of a pick, getting mad over who we do or don’t take there is ridiculous).

I won’t spend any time on the Global Draft. I still think that there is logic to this initiative, it will just take a multiple year commitment to grow. But honestly, I know precious little about the Canadian players. Do you really think anyone is qualified to discus the merits of a Finnish receiver over a Uzbekistani safety? I will say this… I like our choice of Christopher N-Ezeala last year. The trendy thing to do is roster global kickers (which we do) but I think you should try and find guys who can play special teams. Let them take a few hits and bumps away from our Americans and Canadians if you have to roster one.  

Back to the Canadian Draft… Something that I don’t think has happened since I’ve been covering the Riders is set to occur other than 2021 which was a weird year coming off no season (at least until I post this and the Riders render the next sentence incorrect within minutes). The Riders have all their own picks. Between trades and supplemental draft we routinely are short a few of our own picks. This is good because despite a decent showing in 2021, we still have holes to fill.  

Picks: 8 picks, first selection is 7th Overall

Potential Pipeline: DL David Oneymata (New Orleans), TE Anthony Auclair (Houston), DL Neville Gallimore (Dallas), TE Bruno Labelle (free agent, was with Arizona Cardinals)

Current Strengths:

Despite the departure of Lenius (and to a lesser extend Jana), we remain strong at receiver. Schaefer-Baker leads the way (looking to take the next step in year 2) with McInnis and Picton for depth. Technically Harty is there as well but his contribution is on teams only at this point (not that that isn’t important).

I rarely had a positive thing to say about our OL in 2021 but I still believe in that interior. After a year learning the ropes I expect Logan Ferland to be rock solid this coming season. Evan Johnson should bounce back (assuming we have a mildly competent tackle lined up beside him). Clark is not the best centre but he’s been good enough in recent years. Jamal Campbell is a nice addition to the top end Canadian talent. Riley and St John are around for depth.

Defensively we have some impact starters in Edem and Teitz. Still find it weird describing Teitz as an impact starter but here we are. We will hopefully get to see what we have in 2021 2nd overall pick Nelson Lokombo. Godfrey Oneyka is a versatile guy capable of stepping in in multiple positions. I continue to be a founding member of the Charbel Dabire fan club. I also want to see what we have in Cimankinda. Just have a gut feel about him.

Guys like LaFrance, Awachie and Herdman will be unheralded but are important role players. Also no list of Canadian strengths is complete without a mention of Brett F’N Lauther.

Current Needs:

When I look at our roster I can clearly see solid Canadian starters. But outside of receiver, we are an injury away from trouble at most of those spots. Based on last season O’Day would be wise to continue to invest in the OL as we all saw how easily a bad one can sewer an otherwise good team. The other side of the trenches also need a boost. Dabire is a guy I hype but he’s not yet a bonafide starter and there is not much other than him.

In theory Oneyka and Lokombo give you the depth needed for Teitz and Edem but more would be nice.

Honestly, other than receiver and kicker, any pick would address an area of need.


It’s somewhat lazy mock drafting to always assume the Riders will take the hometown offensive lineman… but in this case all those mock drafts that have us taking U of S tackle Noah Zerr are onto something. We need all the help we can get at tackle and there is a reasonable chance Zerr falls to 7. If that happens we won’t let him slide any further. We may still be waiting on Mattland Riley to show his stuff but we’ve had pretty good success overall with linemen from Saskie Universities. If its not Zerr than it could be another OL (like Zach Pelehos or Gregory MacKellar) or a DL (if by some miracle Dionte Knight drops).

Second round will most likely be used on defense. A DB like Tyrell Ford, a DL like Nathan Cherry or a LB like Josiah Shackel. We need some more upper end Canadian defensive talent to boost our ranks and depth. 

Beyond that the Rider will draft the best player available regardless of position. It would really help to get a late round pick that at least develops into a contributor. Schaefer-Baker (4th rd) and Mitch Picton (5th rd) are the only 4th round or later picks in the last few years that I can recall doing anything.