Saturday the Riders are in Cowtown for a battle with the 1-1 Stampeders. The story all week has been injuries. The short week last week did not lead to good results on the field and its really not leading to good things on the injury front. Calgary is dealing with some injury issues of their own as their best receiver Begelton was just placed on the 6-game injury. In a weird reversal of the normal Stampeder fans aren’t feeling great coming off a win while Rider fans seem to be feeling pretty good despite coming off a loss.
The defense will need a bounce back game after looking completely helpless last week. I still think a lot of that had to do with playing on four days rest. We get Marshall and Moncrief back this week. And despite an early week scare it appears both Lanier and Milligan are a go. That means in terms of starters we are really only down Christmas and Dalke (Dalke being a pretty big deal). They get to face a Calgary offense that is struggling to say the least. They are averaging less than 18 points per game offensively. Some of that is on Maier who seems to be a very hot and cold QB. Some of that is on their receivers. With Begelton out its not exactly a lineup that inspires fear. They still run the ball well, despite the absence of Kadeem Carey so they will likely look to lean on that. Not sure if it’s how Dickenson is calling the offense, or just what Maier is deciding to throw but he is living on the short ball. His average depth of pass is 8.8 yards, the lowest on the season of any QB. He’s 2 of 10 with an INT on passes over 20 yards. So we need to limit the run and ideally be strong enough up front to get pressure with a 4 man rush. If we can keep 8 in coverage when all Maier wants to do is look short then its going to make life difficult. It will be nice having Moncrief back out there. I wonder how often we roll him back to safety to help offset having to start a raw rookie in Ford?
What has most surprised me this year about the Stamps is the defense. Not surprising to see an offense struggle with a new QB at the helm but the defense was supposed to be good. Real good. They have looked anything but. I almost hesitated to write this because history has shown that the Riders more often than not can be a cure for underperforming. Stamps do lead the league in takeaways and that front 7 is a strong front. The secondary hasn’t looked great. The Riders will be rolling out 2 new offensive tackles this week. Jerald Hawkins (fresh off dealing with personal issues) and Colin Kelly (fresh off a suspension for juicing). I didn’t think Council and Lofton were bad. They were decidedly adequate (i.e. a massive upgrade from 2022). We have been hyping Hawkins since we signed him and Kelly is a steady vet so hopefully they can at least get us up to mediocre, possibly even ok. I still have very limited faith in our interior. Our run game is next to non-existent and a lot of it is the middle giving us next to no push. Logic would say run Morrow to see if you have some road graders in your new tackles but based on what I saw on Friday, let Harris chuck. He got 400 yards with Bane, Emilus and Jones. No disrespect to those guys but they are far from established producers. I would love to see the run get going and I hope we try. But I am going against my normal logic and saying that if it ain’t working again then let’s focus on what is working.
Our extensive injury list could impact things on a couple fronts. First is on special teams. Our starters are mostly OK but we have lost a lot of the depth guys that play on teams. A small mistake on teams could lead to big plays if someone new is out of position. The other, that concerns me more, is depth. If someone goes down in the game the guys we have left to step in may be guys that arrived in town this week. Save us Brian Harelimana!
Healthy I would feel real confident about our chances. Defense should rebound and offense should be able to produce. I was almost leaning back towards Calgary due to our injuries until I heard Begelton was also out. This strikes me as a game that will be lacking in style points on both sides. Win or lose, its probably going to be a bit ugly at times. Logically I think we should be the Stamps so we will start the opposite and make them look good early. The defense will force a turnover that turns the tide and the Harris-Bane connection will lead us back in the game. Prep your tickers because this one will take a few years off it.
In the end, Riders by a come from behind TD to Jake Wieneke (he’s gotta show up some time right?)