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.