It’s been an eventful few days. Friday we concluded the preseason (extending our improbable preseason winless streak to 7 seasons). Sunday we found out cuts and traded a global punter you’ve probably never heard of for picks in a draft you probably won’t follow. And now its Monday and we are in full prep from the regular season opener on Saturday.
Let’s start with the preseason. I won’t spend much time on it but should at least acknowledge that it occurred. The most important thing is that we were competitive. Fajardo didn’t light the world on fire but he looked poised and made good reads. I mean predictably I have seen more than one person seriously argue that Dolegala should be starting based on preseason but what can you do? I though our starting O-line looked decent. They weren’t great but they gave Fajardo enough time to make throws and kept him from getting killed. Keep in mind that this was against one for the weaker D-lines in the west in a preseason game were you usually play pretty basic D. But its an important first step. I know you all want to see the return of the deep ball and for the most part that didn’t happen… other than that TD toss to Duke that hit the ground (but we still got PI yards out of it). But I was really happy to see us have multiple passing plays over 15 yards. We don’t need to be bombing it deep all day to have a potent passing attack. I also liked how we had very few penalties in the first half (and completely made up for it in the second). There were also very clear signs that we are in midseason form. Marino was in the middle of a fight and Nick Marshall was tackling like a double arm amputee.
None of the cuts were a major surprise. Alvin Jones was about the most surprising name… which should tell you something. A bit surprised by Shaq Cooper but he was clearly #3 behind Hickson and Morrow. Thought he might stick on the PR. The biggest surprise for me was the announcement that 2nd round pick Zach Fry is going back to school. In terms of long-term develop its probably a good thing. But with St John currently injured and outside of Campbell minimal depth, now is not an ideal time to have to wait on a high draft pick. Guess this means Bandy needs to step up.
So where do we sit heading into the season. I would say pretty good (that’s the kind of strong analysis you only get here). Offensively we have the weapons and half decent O-line. Whether Jason Maas can call a non-screen based game plan to utilize this firepower remains to be seen but I still think people don’t fully appreciate how much our crap O-line impacted both Fajardo and the play calling of Maas. Can’t make chicken soup with chicken crap… or if you do, you really shouldn’t eat it.
Defensively we have a young but promising D-line. Studs at LB and a bit of a question mark in the secondary. The presence of Jason Shivers helps my confidence. Look at how good our D was last season despite a constantly rotating cast of characters. Dude is a solid coach.
So with that I present 20 Wild Prophet Predictions for the 2022 season.
1. Riders will start with 3 straight wins.
2. Duke leads the team in receptions and receiving TDs but Evans leads in yards.
3. Cody magically* rediscovers the deep ball. (*gets just enough protection from the OL to actually do his job without running for his life).
4. Cody will still frequently find himself running for his life.
5. Charleston Hughes will start the season with 5 sacks in the first 5 games… and finish with 6.
6. AC Leonard once again leads the CFL in sacks… still does not end up as an all-star.
7. Riders win Labour Day and put everything right in the world again.
8. We don’t get a 1000 yard rusher as Morrow and Hickson split carries.
9. There will be struggles in the secondary until Micah Tietz heals up and we can start 2 American CBs again.
10. We involve our fullbacks on offense a lot more than anyone would expect.
11. Riders will have a losing streak of 4 games this season… during which Rider fans will remain level headed as ever.
12. Darnell Sankey finishes second in the CFL in tackles.
13. AJ Allen leads the team in special teams tackles.
14. Nick Marshall gets benched at some point.
15. Nicholas Dheilly proves to be surprisingly impactful.
16. Garett Marino over under on ejections is set at 1.5 and I’m leaning over.
17. Jeremy Clark leads the team in interceptions.
18. Riders finish at 10-8, good enough for 2nd in the west.
19. The Riders will finally beat the Bombers in the playoffs.
20. The Riders will not win the Grey Cup at home.
Bonus prediction: Some fans will place the blame for #20 on the lack of Jon Ryan and playing time for Jake Dolegala.