Saturday the Riders’ 2022 campaign kicks off as the Ti-Cats come to Mosaic. The Riders will be looking to take the first step on the long road to a home Grey Cup. The Ti-Cats will be looking to do something to end the longest Grey Cup drought in the CFL. I used to feel sorry for Hamilton but ever since they allowed Winnipeg to win not 1 but 2 Grey Cups, they are dead to me and I hope their misery lasts another decade. I’m petty like that.
Riders enter the season with lots of questions. Can Fajardo regain his 2019 form? Can the O-line block something… anything? Will Jason Maas expand his playbook beyond the hitch screen? Can our secondary remain strong despite losing Gainey and Purifoy? Can the second year D-linemen step up to will the void left by Micah and Woodard? Will a ref audibly swear at us? Will the “innovative” marketing tactic of giving away fridge magnets entice droves of fans to the stadium?
Overall I see two fairly evenly matched teams with the same major question mark that will likely dictate the outcome of the game… O-line. Our issues have been discussed ad nauseum. While the new look line held their own against BC in preseason, this game is for real and they will be facing the likes of Howsare, Laurent, Wynn and Micah. Arguably one of the top D-lines in the league.
Hamilton’s O-line has been discussed much less but one look at it should give pause for some concern. Three starters from the Grey Cup game will not dress. Murray is in the NFL. Ciraco is in Ottawa and Woodmansey is hurt. Their lone offseason OL addition was Alex Fontana… who has not played since 2019. Facing Leonard, Marino, Lanier and Hughes it will be interesting to see how well they protect Evans.
Whichever O-line holds up the best (or at least manages to suck less) wins the game.
Offensively for the Riders, if you want to help your O-line then it starts with running (not stupid hitch screens for 2 yards or a loss). I expect Morrow and Hickson to split carries. Even just giving them a few dump passes (something more likely than running with Maas) will help take pressure of the O-line and slow down a very good pass rush. Rush yards will be hard to come by with a strong front 7. Expect Cody to use his legs a fair bit.
There is honestly not a lot of weak spots on that Ti-Cat defense. Very good secondary. 2 out of 3 LBs are rock solid and the aforementioned D-line. So there will not be much margin for error. If Duke and Shaq want to prove they are legit top end WRs they need to win their battles and secure the ball even on the difficult ones. Cody will need to make good decisions. I know you all want to see us unleash a deep passing attack. While we do need to take shots (even though that long pass to Duke in BC was incomplete we still got PI out of it) I would be happy to see us get some 10-20 yard passes. Crossers to Shaq, Schaefer-Baker anywhere, even getting Emilus involved. You don’t always need to bomb it to have a potent passing attack… just occasionally not throwing a screen or 3 yard pass helps.
Defensively, as mentioned we need our D-line to dominate. I still have concerns about our secondary (at least until they start to gel as a unit). Linebackers will be key in this one. They should be an area of strength and will need them to be that in this one. We can’t let the run become a factor. We want Evans dropping back and that O-line trying to pass block. Outside of Addison I see their receivers as good but not great. Lots of young second year players that can make plays but don’t overly scare you. Key will be making them earn it. Can’t give free plays (I’m looking at you Marshall). Dane Evans is good but not super human. Last year he took 16 sacks on 107 pass attempts. By comparison Masoli took 21 on 271. Look for Shivers to give him a lot of different looks. Guys like Leonard, Moncrief and Edem can easily slip into a different position to mix things up. Shivers will use that versatility.
Expect a low scoring game with pretty good Defenses on either side. The battle in the trenches will determine it. I see a lot of confidence out there in the Riders. I think they are a good team but see the outcome as a lot less certain than many.
Riders never do things the easy way. So look for us to go up early, squander that lead and need a miracle fourth quarter drive to steal the win.
Riders by a Fajardo rushing TD.
Let's get loud in the stands!