Hope you enjoyed your bye week. I was lucky enough to take in Blink 182 in Edmonton. Pretty freakin’ awesome.
The Riders enjoyed a much needed bye week. While it won’t completely erase our injury issues hopefully it will at least put a dent in things. Optimism is fairly high in Riderville after a 2-1 start. For me personally it’s a cautious optimism as we also started last season 2-1 before turning to what can now be described as “Edmonton-like” incompetence.
For today’s post I thought I’d take a look at 2 things. First, are there any signs that this year’s 2-1 start is more sustainable than last year? Second, of the new recruits where did O’Day nail it and where did he display all the accuracy of the CFL's attempt at stats in 2023.
As to the first question, the stats through 3 games would show that we have reason for some hope offensively.
- Offensive points are up slightly (73 compared 69 in 2022)
- Yards are up (1171 vs. 1081)
- Rush yards are up close to 10% (344 vs. 313)
- Sacks allowed are way down (8 vs. 12)
So that’s good. What’s surprising and a bit concerning is that defense is trending in the opposite direction.
- Points allowed are up (84 vs. 66) though that is somewhat skewed but the Bombers hanging 45 on us.
- Yards allowed are up (1056 vs. 867)
- Sacks are down (15 vs. 6)
I’m choosing to land on the side of optimism based on 2 key stats. First, penalties are way down. Last year at this time we had 35 penalties for 325 yards (keep in mind this is when we were winning). This year we have 18 for 170. Second, we have 2 divisional road wins. In 2022 we were 3-8 in our division and 3-6 on the road. I realize at this point we have to heavily discount the win that came against Edmonton but still, early season division wins are huge, especially when they come on the road.
Now onto the question of the new recruits.
Under the category of “Nailed it” you have to start with Trevor Harris. He’s not even playing that great and is easily in the top 3 of QBs in the league at this point. Remember that at one point both Ottawa and Edmonton deemed him expendable. Are we ever bloody lucky he fell to us. I don’t really chalk this up to a win for O’Day because he didn’t really do anything. He pulled a Homer. Montreal screwed up and Harris feel into our lap. Still I am grateful to have Harris, not only for his play but you can tell he is the leader of this team. We lacked that last season.
I will give O’Day full credit for Shawn Bane. He nailed that one. In a receiving group lacking on depth and high end talent, Bane has stepped up and established himself as a reliable playmaker. I will also give him credit for CJ Reavis. He was a late addition last year but he is stepping up big time at a time when injuries are gutting our defense. Very versatile player. Will also add Deontai Williams to the win list. Small sample size but one thing that jumps off the page with Williams is effort. Lastly, Adam Korsak has been punting pretty damn good. So much so that even a healthy Vedvik will likely not get his starting role back automatically.
But O’Day (much like his placekicker) has had his share of misses. It starts with DL Stefan Banks who didn’t even make the team. And its not like our starting D-line is exactly lighting it up to start the season. To not even be deemed worthy of sticking around O’Day must have greatly overvalued Banks (to be fair, I thought Banks would be good too).
Next up on the miss list is, Jake Wieneke. Now I will preface this by saying, I still want Wieneke on the the team and still think he can be a valuable contributor. But we needed a #1 receiver and were led to believe he could be the guy… he ain’t. I openly speculated before the season whether Wieneke was actually a stud in his own right of just the beneficiary of playing beside Geno Lewis. Turns out it was the latter. Wieneke is a solid #3 but he is not a #1.
Lastly on my list is Zach Fry. Yes, its early and yes he hasn’t really had a chance to play yet but that’s exactly my point. O’Day has been pumping this guy’s tires like he is the second coming of Gene Makowsky since he drafted him. Best feet he’s ever seen. But here’s the reality… he’s a practice roster OL who can’t beat out Evan Johnson (who is brutal) and Logan Bandy who is serviceable at best. At want point does Fry (who is like the only OL that made O’Day go against his staunch, no-OL drafting policy) going to actually do something for this team?
Its hasn't been perfect and it hasn't always been pretty but the 2023 season is trending in a positive direction. if we can play even .500 ball until we start getting some big names like Lenius, Schaefer and Dalke back then we might actually end up playing some meaningful football this fall.