Monday, August 29, 2022

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Road Win

Riders 23 – Lions 16

In a shocking turn of events, the Riders’ decision to base their offense around running and Schaefer-Baker led to good things. Who could possibly have predicted that? You know, other than pretty much anyone whose name doesn’t rhyme with Mason Boss. I’ll admit I’m still in a bit of shock over the win. I mean, our rock solid defense against a back-up QB (turns out just being Canadian doesn’t make you Rourke 2.0) should have given us great odds for victory. But based on how the past month or so has gone, you’ll forgive me for having my doubts.

Going to change things up a bit and start on offense. I mean who knows when the next time they will play good enough for me to make note of them. After a couple weeks of god awful performances they stepped. I mean they stepped up in a very Rider way by allowing 7 sacks. But they didn’t turn the ball over. They let their RB lead the way and they actually found a way to get their best receiver the ball. Also, gotta give props to Fajardo. For a guy rightly facing all the criticism in the world, he delivered his best performance in a while. The long bomb to Schaefer on the zero blitz was beauty (when was the last time you saw Cody hit a guy in stride?) but for me the better pass was the TD to Jones. He placed that ball perfectly where only his receiver could make a play on it. It was by no means pretty or perfect but it was nice to see Cody step up and prove he can still put up points. I do kinda worry that we use up about a month worth of production in one game and a big dry spell is coming. But for now I will revel in the happiness of a much needed win.

One more comment on Fajardo. For as good as he played, he consistently did what I call “pre-turtling”. That is, I saw him start to turtle in anticipation of getting hit way earlier than he actually needed to on many. Its plainly obvious that this is a guy who just assumes he’s getting hit. I don’t blame him but we need a more fearless Cody. Our line doesn’t give much time to begin with. Can’t waste any of it by pre-turtling.  

Story for you. In my Game Preview I wrote “Or if a sure fire pick bounces off a BC defenders hands over the rest of the defenders and flukily into the hands out our WR who walks in untouched.Minus the walking in untouched that happened on the first long Baker pass. Also, before the game I was chatting with my buddy and doubled down on that prediction adding that it would also take the DB pulling up lame due to injury like happened in the Winnipeg game the night before. That also happened. Look, there’s a reason they call me the Prophet… just ignore the part where I predicted we’d lose.  

One more note on the offense. It wasn’t just big that we ran a lot (15 touches for Hickson) its that we stayed committed to the run consistently. 10 touches came after half. I honestly thought it was against Maas’ religion to run after half. It was so great to see us close out. We got the ball with 2:33 left and did not give the ball back.

Defense did their job. Its helps when your job involves defending O’Connor who completed 40% of his passes and Pipkin, who I remain adamant is not good (though I won’t lie I was worried as hell that the curse of BC third stringers would rear its ugly head and Pipkin would somehow beat us. Seen that happen way too many times over the years). The run game was a complete non-factor, Butler has 18 yards. We held Bryan Burham to 1 catch. You know who we matched up on him most of the time? The ever-reliable Moncrief. Milligan had a sure-fire pick 6 bounce of him because he was already doing his endzone celebration in his head. Rely got to see the closing speed of Jeremy Clark on display. He made a lot of great plays as the ball arrived. The D didn’t allow a TD until 6 minutes left in the game. We will face better QBs than Pipkin/O’Connor but for this week they did their job and shut down the opponents on the road.

That was a much needed win. Both in terms of the standings, and just general confidence. I know they were missing the best player in the league but just proving we can beat a west team not named Elks on the road, gives a much needed boost of confidence heading into 3 games in the next 4 against the best team in the CFL.

Labour Day is up next and lord knows anything can happen on Labour Day… I mean other than our O-line allowing less than 5 sacks.

Other random thoughts:

-        Nice to see Moore back out there. He clearly had some rust to work off but he’ll be a needed weapon in the coming weeks.

-        Hope the injury to Alford is a minor one. Moore is a good returner but there’s very few game changers like Alford.

-        I get why the Sankey hit was a penalty by the book. But I also don’t know what Sankey could do in that spot. If he doesn’t follow through on his tackle then QB could bounce off him or spin off. He was in no man’s land. I get it, I just don’t like it.

-        Did anyone else get sick of how much the announcers went on about the hit and how it may have hurt O’Connor? He hurt his groin. Basic anatomy would tell you that something else other than a hit to the chest was at play. 

-        Does it bother anyone else that Harty wears one solitary baggy sleeve? If it was 2, fine. If it was one of those tight fitting ones fine. But of what value is one baggy sleeve?

Friday, August 26, 2022

Riders vs. Lions: Third Time’s a Charm

Friday the Riders travel to BC looking to salvage at least one win in the 3 game season series against the Lions. Based on how everything has gone this season, a road games against the Lions would normally be as close to guaranteed loss night as you are going to get. But there is a shred of optimism because of the absence of phenom Nathan Rourke. Let’s be honest, if he was playing our chances of winning would be lower than my chances of winning the lottery (note: I don't buy lotto tickets). But his absence presents an opportunity for the struggling Riders.

I hate to be that guy, but I’m going to throw some cold water on that optimism. Here is a list of things that Rourke’s absence does not impact: the quality of our O-line play, the performance of our QB, the health of what little offensive weapons we have, the quality of BC’s defense. To be blunt, even if O’Connor is a trainwreck, we are a team that managed only 10 points at home and now have to go on the road without Duke and Morrow (I mean based on how Maas uses him, the absence of Morrow may have a negligible effect but still). So for me to feel confident about this game I would need to assume that our defense can hold BC to 8 points or less. Our only 2 road victories have come in Edmonton… and those were not exactly confidence inspiring performances. 

I’m not saying we can’t win. I’m just not all buying into the idea that BC is suddenly a very beatable team. We remain firmly underdogs heading into this game.

Defense won’t have Lanier but does get Hughes back and is otherwise healthy. They need to dominate in this game. Even playing well won’t be enough. It has to start up front. Any thought that a 3 man rush is a useful call should be thrown out the window. Our front 4 need to be aggressive and put pressure on O’Connor. Even the odd blitz would be helpful to ensure we get some hits on him. He still has an all-star cast of WRs at his disposal so even if he’s not Rourke, if we give him time I’m sure he’ll figure something out. We can’t make it easy on him. I would be in favour of a Richie Hall-style bend but don’t break philosophy here. We can’t get lazy in coverage or assume that we can play great zone (we can’t) and allow long bombs to the likes of Whitehead. Make O’Connor work hard to string together long drives. With the playmakers we have, odds are at some point they will force a mistake. I don’t feel confident about much in Riderville these days but one thing I am confident in is Shivers’ ability to throw some unexpected looks at an inexperienced QB. O’Connor is not Rourke but I’m willing to bet he plays a decent game. Now if for some reason Pipkin is forced into action, then my confidence would increase (I’ve honestly never understood what people see in him).

Offensively, please for the love of all that is good do something. Anything. The bar is set so low that even a 5 play drive that results in a punt would be welcome news. Here is a list of things the Riders lead the league in taking penalties, giving up sacks, going 2 and out, smallest gains on first downs and least amount of yards gained through the air. Again, Rourke doesn’t play on defense and they may be getting Bo Lokombo back this week. Expect them to play well at home. But Prophet, you ask, is it hopeless? Pretty much yeah. I mean if our defense consistently gives us the ball in FG range we’d be ok. Or if a sure fire pick bounces off a BC defenders hands over the rest of the defenders and flukily into the hands out our WR who walks in untouched. 

Ok. More seriously, if the Riders think they are going to cobble together a mildly competent offense it needs to start with Frankie Hickson. We’ve seen what he can do with his speed and a small crease. He averages 6.7 yards per carry highest among any RB in the league. Long drives aren’t our thing. Hell first downs aren’t are thing. So let’s give him a heavy workload and pray he can break a couple long ones. If I could afford a cameo by Morgan Freeman I would have him interject here as the narrator and say “But Jason Maas did not in fact acknowledge the existence of the RB after the first drive”. Receivers are super thin this week. Normally I’d be pumped about the return of Moore. I flat out love the guy. His ability to break tackles will be a boost but he can’t suddenly reinvigorate this offense by himself. It would be helpful to go back and watch tape of Schaefer-Baker in the first 4 games and maybe remember that in an offense desperately short on playmakers, he can be that guy. Cut back to Mr. Freeman “But Jason Maas did not in fact acknowledge the existence of Mr. Baker.” For me that’s the template to production: Hickson, Baker, Moore in that order.

Realistically for us to win, our defense needs to hold BC under 15 points, our offense needs to produce 10 and then we hope that defense our special teams can produce the difference making TD. Rourke’s absence upgrades our chances from “Michael Bishop getting into the hall of fame” to “Garret Marino getting through a game without a fine, suspension or ejection”. It’s a winnable game… I’m just not betting on it.

BC by 14.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Mnday Mrning Sentimnies: What’s Missing?

Riders 10 – Lions 28

(Note: I wrote this all before finding out about the injuries to Morrow and Duke)

In case you just assumed that the title of this post was a series of spelling errors on my part (a fairly reasonable assumption), its actually quite witty. What’s missing from the title? The O is. Get it? Having to explain jokes is a sign that it’s a very good one I hear.

What was not good was that game on Friday. I’m fairly certain I could just blindly copy and paste the same 4 bullet points and they would cover 90% of Rider games played between 2021 and the end of this season:

·        Defense tried their best but couldn’t do it on their own

·        O-line sucked

·        Abandoned the run

·        No semblance of a passing game

That’s it. That’s the Riders week in and week out. I would say our offense is a joke but we certainly aren’t laughing and even opposing team’s laughs are turning to sad pity. There have been very times over the past 2 decades that I can recall an offense this terrible. Tino Sunseri comes to mind. The Greg Marshall/Doug Berry half season perhaps. I may have repressed others. For all of Michael Bishop’s fault (of which there were many) he at least was a threat to score at some point. For all of Brandon Bridge’s sucktitude (of which there was much) I would take that in a heart beat over whatever the hell the have going on now.

I am an ardent Fajardo supporter but he’s useless right now. He’s so visibly broken both physically and more troublingly mentally. Its not his fault. Two years of being offered zero protection and taking more hits then a punching bag at a boxing club have him looking like he has PTSD in the pocket. I don’t blame him but the call to bench him was correct and should probably extend for a while. Honestly never thought Dickenson would do it. Let alone, mid game. I can see a future where Fajardo goes to a different team and revitalizes his career behind a line that can actually block. 

But let’s not go anointing Fine the saviour of Riderville just yet. He produced one touchdown followed by 30 minutes of futility and the proceeded to narrow his vision on the field such that McInnis and Harty were the only receivers visible to him. With due respect to both those players, if they are your go to guys, then the odds of our offensive production picking up are slim. I like Fine in that he’s still too young and stupid to be scared about all the defenders his line doesn’t block so he stands in there. You gotta roll with him for now and see if he can develop but be in his ear to maybe look for some of our actual good receivers.

Remember when I said that Morrow needed 20 touches in this game? Well he average 5.9 yards per run… exactly the reason I wanted him to have a massive workload. But we ran him just 6 times (and added 4 passes). How can you ignore what is clearly the only good thing we have going on offense week in and week out?!? It honestly looks like Maas bet heavy on the under on Morrow’s season long rushing totals.

Let’s call it like it is. Our offense is pure shit. And with an offense this bad there are only maybe 2 games left on our schedule that are winnable.

Defense didn’t dominate but lord they tried and at least looked like professional level football players. They kept us in the game for the better part of the first half. They offered up turnovers. Hell they held BC under 30 points, which is only the 3rd time all season anyone has done that. My only criticism of the D was the stupid 3 man rush we tried early. We didn’t rush 3 even when we barely had 3 healthy d-linemen to dress. So why on earth once we had our stud 4 back did we rush 3? Give Rourke time and he will carve you up. Plus we aren’t that great in zone at the best of times.  

As much as I’m tired of him tearing us apart, it was still a shame to see Rourke get hurt. You always want the best players in the league (of which he clearly is) to be on the field.

Does Rourke’s absence give us a chance next week? Possibly. Certainly helps our D… but unless they can keep the BC O under 10 points, I still don’t have any confidence our O can score enough to win.

We simply are who we are at this point. A very good team in 2 out of 3 phases being pulled to the bottom by a ginormous anchor that is our offense. We can have all the optimism we want about the upcoming returns of Moore, Evans and Picton but unless one of those 3 recently put on 100 pounds and converted to tackles or get promoted to playcaller, it may not be enough to salvage things based on their current state.

Random bonus thoughts:

-        Was surprised to learn that attempted horse collar is a penalty. I’m glad that does not apply to all penalties because if attempted holding was a thing, lord help Na’ty Rogers.

-        When Wesley Lewis has as many targets as Kian-Schaefer Baker that may be a sign that you have issues.

-        Noticed Clark bump into half and Henderson moved out to corner. Wonder is that was a game specific thing or a more permanent one?

-        Hope the injury to Milligan is nothing to serious.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Riders vs. BC Lions: Round 2

Friday night the Lions are back in town for the second of three meetings this season. You may recall (unless you repress bad memories with whiskey as I have been known to do) that just 3 weeks ago were up 17-4 on the Lions is the first matchup only to allow 28 unanswered points and emphatically lose.  The Riders will be looking for a different outcome. This is the first of 4 straight games against the top 2 teams in the league. Somehow emerging with 2 wins would be a big accomplishment. On our home turf is likely our best chance to steal a victory… and let’s be honest, we are going to need to steal one to emerge victorious.

Given that only one team has beaten the Lions (that being the Bombers), I went back and looked at that game to see what the blueprint is to beat them. Turns out there is no great secret… it’s the most basic things in football: limit the run game, force turnovers, run the ball (Bombers had 141 yards) and don’t commit turnovers. It also helps to return the opening kickoff of the game for a TD.

We start as always on defense, because how else do you think we are going to win? Some big, big news this week. Robertson is ready to go, Marino is off suspension and Leonard is making a surprise return. To say adding three DL of this calibre back is a difference maker is an understatement. Last game we got to Rourke early with 1 starter and a collection of rotation guys. BC has allowed just 9 sacks on the season but 2 of those came from our rag tag group. Now that our D-line is fully stocked with starters, we have a chance to make a real impact. It won’t be easy even with our starting D. This is the best offense in the CFL, led by a young hot shot QB who is fearless even when trailing. Slowing him down starts up front. If the D-line can dominate in the trenches it limits the run and makes life difficult for Rourke. By the 2nd half of last game, he had so much time in the pocket they could have cut to commercial break and been back in time for the pass. Our secondary is good but facing Rhymes, Burnham and Whitehead is tough at the best of times, let alone when the QB has all the time in the world. D needs to stand strong. They will also need to force some turnovers. If this turns into a shootout it would be equivalent of trying to beat an opponent who has an actual gun when all you have is one of the crappy dollar store water guns that breaks the first time you try and use it.

Offensively the big news is that our pleas have been answered and Na’ty Rogers is no longer being paid to take penalties and fail miserably at his job. While we are all happy about that, let’s not kid ourselves. Our line didn’t suddenly become good. We just replaced a guy who definitely sucks, with a guy who may not suck as much. He can’t be worse but until we seen any evidence to contrary, our line remains a massive liability.

If you want something that gives some faint hope I find this stat interesting: at home the BC defense averages 17 points allowed per game. On the road that number balloons to 29. Hell, we put up 17 and we aren’t that good and didn’t bother playing for the final 41 minutes of the game. The BC defense is good but beatable. The only way we are doing that is if Jamal Morrow touches the ball 20 times… and while I should not have to add this caveat, knowing our OC I do, that includes multiple touches in the second half of the game. In back to back games, Morrow has started strong and then we just abandoned him in the latter parts of the game. Morrow has run for 10+ yards on close to 20% of all his runs. So ask yourself, which is a more likely source of a first down? Giving the ball to Morrow? Or relying on the O-line to block long enough, Cody to make the right read and throwing an accurate pass that the receiver does not drop?

It will help that Cody is actually somewhat mobile in this game, as opposed to the first meeting where he displayed all the running ability of senior citizen. But I’m hoping he watched film of last game. As crappy as his line is, there were times where he could have stepped up in the pocket or gone a different direction and made life easier on his blockers. I don’t blame him for not trusting any of them but he needs to do what he can not to make things worse for this struggling unit. We will need Duke to turn in another stud game and we need to keep Schaefer-Baker involved (even if its just designed runs). Most importantly we need sustained drives in the 3rd quarter. That means no turnovers and at least a couple first downs. If we can’t help the defense out by scoring TDs then we could at least give them more than a 30 second breather before punting it away (talk about low expectations).

There was lots of talk going into the Calgary game about the return game being BC’s one glaring weakness. It almost cost them in that game. We just so happen to have a returner who has scored a TD in 26% of regular season games he played. If we are going to steal a victory hear we need a big play on special teams.

For me, here is the telling stat of our season: in 5 wins we are averaging over 10 points scored and only 4.6 points allowed in the 4th quarter. In 4 loses that flips and we are scoring 4.3 points and allowing 11. We need to finish. With all our studs back on defense, I think they are well positioned to put in a full 60 mins. As for the offense… if they can give us a smattering of effort split over 4 quarters, then we have a chance.

Could we win this game? Definitely. When we have all our starters (which we do) this is an elite defense capable of grinding out a win against any opponent. But possibility is not probability. Last week BC overcame a 17 point deficit on the road against a very good team. Last week we had a less than convincing win against a very bad team. Expect a more competitive game than many are expecting but in the end…

BC by a Rhymes TD.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Getting By

Riders 34 – Elks 23

Being a Rider fan is weird. I mean we won and we scored the most points we had all season, but I doubt many feel great about it or went to bed super happy. The best way I can describe the emotion is that its less happy we won and more relieved that we somehow managed not to lose. And believe me, we tried to lose that game. We were just lucky that Edmonton was far more committed to losing and far more experienced at it. We are at a point in the season where we can’t be picky about how we win. We needed that win and we got the job done.

Defensively it was the tale of two halves. We looked uncharacteristically bad on D in the first half. We could not stop the run. RBs were consistently getting big gains and Cornelius was killing us. But man o man did Shivers put in work at half time. Because they came out on fire and dominated up front in the second half. In the first half we gave up 256 yards and 17 points. In the second half it was just 109 and 2 FGs (and one of the FGs was Fajardo’s fault for throwing a terrible pick). Sankey was visibly on another level in the second half. Lanier snagged a share of the lead in sacks. Slow start but the D once again flexed their muscle and willed us to victory.

Offense was also on another level in the second half. Unfortunately that level was the basement of an outhouse. It was the second consecutive game where the offense just didn’t show up in the second half. Here is every second half drive we had:

·        2 plays, -4 yards, punt

·        2 plays, 6 yards, punt (1 penalty)

·        2 plays 10 yards, punt (1 penalty)

·        1 play, 0 yards, INT

·        4 plays, 97 yards, TD (43 yards came off Edmonton penalties)

·        4 plays 21 yards TD (purely because the defense got a pick and Edmonton got a borderline pyramiding penalty)

·        2 plays, 2 yards, punt

For a while I was convinced that our only chance of victory was a mid-game trade for John Ryan and punt single our way to victory. 

There were a few positives. Duke is back. He made some big time catches and realistically should have had one more long TD if Cody could throw. We also found a way to get Baker back involved. Those designed runs work and while he only had 2 catches one of them was a big time catch at a big time moment. Unfortunately that was about it in terms what did not suck on offense.

The ongoing theme remains the same: you can’t pinpoint the issue with our offense because we have so many issues that therapy should be mandated. Its starts with coaching. Yes our O-line is devoid of talent. And yes Cody missed throws. And yes receivers dropped balls. But this is not a one off. Our offense is consistently awful and the coaching staff seems to have no answers going on 2 years. Like we actully pay someone to coach our OL. Seems like that may be a wasted expense at this point. Yet again we abandoned Morrow after a hot start. Yes, Edmonton did adjust to focus on taking the run away but a good coach would find a way to keep your best offensive weapon involved. Maas just appears to be like “well, they took away the run so lets just never go back to that”.   

O-line is to the point where I need to get thesaurus' in 4 other languages in order to not run out of new ways to describe their awfulness. The Elks have just 14 sacks in 9 games. 7 of them have come in 2 games against us. At this point by not at least trying to play Campbell at tackle you are saying that you assume he will commit a felony crime if we do. Clearly penalties are ok. Clearly a complete inability to slow down oncoming pass rushers is OK. So the only logical reason left not to sit Rogers is that there is a risk of his replacement committing a crime that the organization would be partially liable for. 

I’ve made mention in bits an pieces about Fajardo’s performance. It was nice to see Fajardo actually be able to move. Though it would seem that while rehabbing his leg he let his arm atrophy. That INT was underthrown by 15 yards. He had Duke on a long TD but he threw a low straight pass rather than arcing it at it ended up being knocked down. He overthrew a wide open Jones on the convert. 130 yards and 55% completion is not good enough regardless of whether or not your O-line clearly hates you.

You need 2 phases to be working for you to win so fortunately our special teams stepped up. Cover teams were rock solid. So nice to have Gary Johnson back out there (or Gary Johson as he friends call him). He is a stud whose only flaw is constantly being injured. Vedvik kicked well. He actually punted farther and had more singles than John Ryan… by Rider logic I assume that makes him the greatest punter of all time. (Though for the record on that one single, he punted perfectly and just got an unreal bad bounce). Most importantly Mario Alford stepped up and stole momentum back from the Elks right after a go ahead TD with a massive return TD. Alford now has 5 career kick return TDs in 19 games. That’s a pretty good ratio.

Struggling to beat the worst team in the West hardly gives confidence for the upcoming stint of back to backs with both the best teams in the West. But hey, a win is a win and reinforcements are coming next week (i.e Robertson, Marino). So who knows, anything can happen in the wacky CFL. For now enjoy winning for once. It’s been a while.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Riders vs. Elks: Bye Week Bounce Back

Before starting today’s post I just want to pause and acknowledge how utterly satisfying those two missed FGs were last night in Winnipeg. One of the worst kicks I’ve ever seen and then a doink to top it all off. Chef kiss.

Back to your regularly scheduled programming…

Saturday the 4-4 Riders, fresh off a bye, are in Edmonton to face the 2-6 Elks. Both teams are in a need of a win. The Riders to end a 3 game losing streak and keep themselves playoff relevant. The Elks to avoid dropping to 2-7 and essentially being 4 games out of even crossover contention with just 9 games remaining.

I would like to feel confident about facing the Elks. I mean this is a team that is 0-6 vs. the West and averaging just 14 points for and 40 points against in those games. They have yet to score more than 16 point against a western opponent. This is a team that starts Duron Carter at safety and routinely cuts 1 player for each point scored that week. But… you will recall that back in Week 2 a much healthier Rider team really struggled against the same Elks team. Now is not the time to get overconfident.

Defensively we will get a huge boost from the return of Pete Robertson. How important is Robertson? He was leading the league in sacks when he was the victim of a deliberate attack… a month has passed and no one has yet passed him in the sack race. Simply put, when we can rush the passer, we go from a very good defense to a dominant one. Now we still don’t have Leonard and Marino but Robertson will give a much needed boost. And this is exactly the opponent you want when you are looking to rebound. They don’t score, they allow more sacks than anyone not named us, they don’t run. A rested Shivers D should feast in this one. I keep hearing talk about how Cornelius is improving. I have never gotten the positivity on him. He’s not very good. Maybe he improved from super sucky to slightly less sucky but he still is completing less than 60% of his passes and has 3 INTs to 2 TDs. Kenny Lawler is the one thing we need to worrying about. We saw that first hand in the first game. Though I will point out that Manny Arceneaux has more yards and catches than Duke.

Offensively run the damn ball! Morrow had over 150 yards from scrimmage in the last meeting. He’s fresh and since I’m guessing we didn’t suddenly learn to pass block over the bye, running is our best chance. Hickson steps back in as well so let’s make sure he gets some opportunities as well. Edmonton averages 123 rush yards allowed per game. Don’t get cute and overthink it. As off writing this Na’ty Rodgers has missed back to back practices and him starting is in doubt. I don’t wish injury on anyone but if this finally forces us to see if someone else can do better (spoiler alert, they can’t do worse) then seize the opportunity. We will need to pass in this one at some point and Duke is a guy we need to get going. The more you feed him the more he steps up. I know its been a trainwreck of late when we try but the skill is there so we gotta help him push through the mental. I will again point out that Duron is their safety. If you can't bait him into a busted coverage then you should give up offense. I would like point out that the Elks have a league low 11 sacks on the season… but 4 of those came against us in week 2 so we should probably just shut up on that one. The Elks have never held a team under 24 points this season. I bet we try to prove that wrong but still the points should be there. 

This could be a very ugly game. It features the 2 teams with the least offensive yards in the CFL. We need to follow the game 2 blue print and win with defense and running. If we just limit mistakes we should win. And we need to. A win keeps us above .500 and gives us the season series with Edmonton. A loss leaves us just 1 game ahead of the outlandish experiment that is Chris Jones’ year 1 plunge for the bottom. If we can’t win this game then we might as well start planning for next year because it only gets worse from here.

They will try their best to lose and piss me off in the process but I still like the Riders to pull this out.

Riders by a Lauther FG. (Things may not be great in Riderville but at least we can have faith that our kicker won’t screw us over when called upon).

Monday, August 8, 2022

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Bye Week Musings

The week off football hopefully gave players and fans alike the chance to disconnect and recharge. Or at least watch other teams get pounded for a change. The 2022 season started out with a lot of promise but certainly hasn’t played out as many had hoped. We are on a three game losing streak and have already used up most of our East games. Its going to be a tough haul down the stretch. 

Since it is almost mid-season, I thought I take this opportunity to do a bit of a mid-season assessment on the various areas of the team.

Defensive Line

Grade: When fully heathy A+. Right now C.

When all four of our starters are healthy and not violating multiple rules and sense of decency they are the best in the CFL. Look at those first couple games to see how dominant they were and it changed the whole complexion of the defense. Robertson looks to be close to returning which will be a huge boost. Marino is on exile for 1 more game and at some point Leonard will return. Better days are coming here. In the meantime Hughes is still showing he has a bit left in the tank.


Grade: A

I don’t think there is a better trio of LBs in the league. We knew Sankey would be a solid tackling machine. Moncrief has been his old reliable self. The x-factor here has been Larry Dean. He has dialed back the clock and is playing some of the best football of his career. At some point we will add Teitz as a rotation guy. Right now this is the strength of our D and they are holding in games that we otherwise would struggle in.


Grade: B-

Unsurprisingly this group looked like world beaters when the D-line was getting pressure and struggled when they weren’t. I think the thing we need to remember that 3 of the 5 are have less than 15 games starting experience. Clark is solid. Milligan struggles with zone but is an immensely talented tackler and cover guy otherwise. Henderson has his ups and downs. Marshall is playing some of the best football in years. The stupid penalties (which everyone else is taking) and the bad beats are gone. Edem is a versatile playmaker. Expect this group’s performance to start to look better as the D-line reinforcements arise. Depth has been shown to be the one issue here.


Grade: D

I base this on production. He’s handicapped by a bum knee, no protection and questionable play calling so he’s doing the best he can and doesn’t deserve near the criticism he’s gotten but Fajardo has not been getting it done. I’ve been vocal about resting him. The team disagrees. Well if he's "healthy"  enough to play then he should be expected to produce. We have the least passing yards in the CFL. We have the second worst average gain per pass. No one fears our offense but Rider fans.

Running Back

Grade: B

Morrow is a stud, he leads the league in combined yards. Hickson is the perfect change of pace. When we commit to them good things happen. They are limited by an OC that doesn’t always commit to the run and defenses that do not have to respect our passing attack.

Wide Receiver

Grade: C

Evans, Moore and Picton will be back soon and they should boost things. Did you ever think the day would come where Picton would be a key addition? Baker is a stud. Duke has been struggling… both to not get in trouble and to catch the ball. Its obvious him and Cody aren’t on the same page but he’s a talented enough receiver that he should be making the difficult catches and currently struggles with the routine ones sometimes.


Grade: Is there something lower than an F? If not, I’ll get them an F for F’n Embarrassment.

People can talk all they want about missing Dan Clark, but Clark doesn’t play tackle. And that’s where we are an absolute liability. I can’t count the number of 3 man rushes that have resulted in a hit on our QB because both tackles got beat. Evan Johnson has been very underwhelming in his time here. I thought he was good? Ferland is still learning. None of them are getting a Christmas card from the Fajardos. 

Special Teams

Grade: Overall B

Kicking under Lauther has been predictability solid. Oddly enough he never misses the long kicks. Just the medium one. Punting started out bad but has been steadily improving. Coverage started out on par with our pass blocking but has steadily improved. We still aren’t great at blocking. As we’ve seen Mario Alford is a threat to score on any given kick but his aggressiveness can also hurt us.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Monday Morning Sentimonies: What Did You Expect?

Riders 17 – Lions 32

In key western match-up and with a bye week as the reward, the Riders came in fired up and ready to play. Unfortunately, they thought the bye week started 4 minutes into the second quarter. The ensuing 41 minutes of football… well I’m not sure you can call most of what the Riders did during that period “football” was tough to watch. It’s very on brand for the Riders that I went into that game expecting a loss and somehow still left feeling disappointed.

The defense tried. Lord they tried. They were attacking early but eventually ran out of gas and succumbed to fatigue, a very good BC O and zero support from their own offense. If that is what Adams and Hughes and bunch of back-up DTs can do, I would love to see what Leonard, Marino and Robertson could have done. Coming into the game BC had given up 4 total sacks. We put up 2 while missing 75% of our starting line. Brown and Christmas aren’t ready to be fulltime starters yet, but I like both as rotation guys and hope they follow a similar career arc as last year’s D-line recruits (well not the Marino arc, but the others). Amari Henderson had probably the roughest game I’ve seen him play. To be fair the entire secondary had its struggles, particularly in zone. It is certainly not a strength. We can probably get away with sloppy zone assignments when your D-line is the best in the CFL but when the pressure disappears then the deficiencies show up. Given time I think Milligan can improve in that regard, and given his tackling ability alone we can afford to be patient. He’s the best tackling DB I’ve seen around here in a long, long time. Did you see that special teams tackle where he blew through his blocker and made the tackle?!? The D needs some reinforcements… which are on the way. I will add this: Jayden Dalke looks like he could develop into a solid player. You can see the flashes already.

As for the offense… I don’t see anything coming soon that will save us. After an unusually hot start, they didn’t just slow down. They quit completely. Here’s a summary of every drive that occurred after the 2nd TD:

·        -2 net yards, safety (while running was the correct call from the 2, they play design was stupid and basically invited a safety)

·        6 net yards, punt

·        -8 net yards, punt

·        8 net yards, punt

·        2 net yards, punt

·        18 net yards, punt

·        6 net yards, punt

·        31 net yards, interception

·        8 net yards, turnover on downs 

That’s embarrassing. And you can’t even place all the blame on one spot. The O-line was its usual awful self. At this point I don’t know how any sober person can say that Na’ty Rodgers should still be starting. He can’t pass block and given that we only run 1 out of every 4 plays its seems like a pretty big issue. Jamal Campbell can’t be worse unless he mistakenly tackles Cody himself. Jeremy O’Day has done some tremendous recruiting and building but his failure to assemble anything resembling a competent O-line for 2 straight years is undoing all his good work. Even a great QB and great OC would struggle to win with an OL this bad.

But while the problems start there, they certainly don’t end there. Play calling continues to raise questions. After that poorly designed run that resulted in a safety, Jamal Morrow (wildly regarded as our best offensive weapon) received 3 more meaningful touches. Coach can’t control drops and misthrows and there were some perfect calls they were for naught because of execution. But sustained offensive failure like this has to fall on the coach. The offense we started running in the 4th should have shown up in the 3rd. He still hasn’t figured out how to get consistent production. Duke had a terrible game. Sure not all those passes were on the money but we are paying to be a top receiver in the league and WRs like that get paid to make tough catches. He struggles to make even routine catches. It’s all in his head and we need to figure out how to get him past that. Maybe someone should spit on him (allegedly). 

One positive is Tevin Jones. I think he just stole Prall’s roster spot. Prall is reliable but Jones is a playmaker… something currently lacking on this team.

Special teams coverage has markedly improved. Vedvik’s punting has steadily improved. We even added kickoffs to his workload. I wonder if its because he’s good (he did average 68 yards which would be second in the CFL) or because we are just sick of Lauther getting hurt while trying to make tackles on kick returns. The only thing remaining to improve on is blocking (we suck at it). We are starting to see the good and the bad with a returner like Alford. Obviously, he is a threat to break one. But we saw the downside on that missed FG. He could have conceded 1 (probably the correct call) or at least taken an easy path to decent yards. Instead he got too cute trying to go all the way and it ended up in poor field position leading directly to a safety.

We are too banged up and our depth is too depleted to hang with the top teams… or even beat the lowly Argos for that matter. Defense will improve as we start getting healthy. Offense… it will take several miracles in the form of a competent offensive line and a healthy knee for that to improve. But maybe, just maybe getting guys like Clark, Picton, Shaq and Moore back will help make us just competent enough to not hold our D down.

Enjoy the bye week. Its greatly needed around here.