Thursday, July 6, 2023

Riders vs. Elks: Thursday Night Football

I went back into the vault to look at old blog posts about Edmonton. I found this gem that seems a fitting way to start today’s post. Back in ’07 I started a poetic game analysis with this line that rings as true today as it did then:

Ode to the Edmonton Eskimos

A once great team that now really blows.

I actually contemplated remaking that whole poem for today but quickly gave up after trying to rhyme with Elks. Turns out there is a direct correlation between words that rhyme with Elk and wins that said Elks team has. 

Under normal circumstances, confidence in Thursday’s game would be at an all-time high. The winless Elks are in town. Not only are they winless they are bad even by winless team standards. They are averaging just 12 points per game offensively. That is 7 points per game less than last year when they won 4 games. The only thing they lead the league in is QBs they’ve managed to piss off. That and sacks. Man do they give up sacks. I’m sure its only a coincidence that Stephen Sorrels is their current OL coach and they are on pace to give up 72 sacks this season, which would almost match the 77 allowed by the Riders last season… who were coached by Sorrells. Pure coincidence I’m sure.  

But its by no means “normal circumstances” on the prairies. We damn near managed to come out of a bye week more injured than we went into it. At best it’s a saw off. Currently 4 of our 6 best receivers are on the 6 game and we are reworking our OL again. So confidence is not exactly our thing. It’s more a feeling of “well we probably should still win but have all been burned so many times that we can’t rule out the possibility of the Riders choking”.

Let’s start with the defense. Jayden Dalke returns which means we're pretty much starting everyone we want to. Depth is still a concern but the starting 12 have thus far been spared from the rash of early season injuries… at least the major ones. Edmonton will hopefully be the cure for what I would call a struggling unit. Since game 1 when they smothered Edmonton with the exception of a single play to Geno Lewis, they haven’t looked great. It starts up front, we have been getting all the pressure of a half inflated dollar store inner tube. Well, if they can’t pressure on this Elks’ OL then we’re in trouble. They have allowed a league high 16 sacks and now are reduced to starting Brett Boyko at right tackle on 1 week of practice. You might remember Boyko his time in Riderville when he was awful. 

Cornelius was the lucky winner of the random draw to select the starting QB in Edmonton. I fully expect them to try and get him running. Late last season (the only time Cornelius ever looked mildly competent behind centre) he was at his best when he was using his legs. He’s a lot like Daniel Jones, deceptively dangerous when he runs. Priority #1 is for the D Ends to maintain contain. Keep him in the pocket and force him to throw… he ain’t beating us with his arm. We were able to lock down the Edmonton offense when they had Lewis playing. I like our odds of keeping the pass game in check without him. Edmonton has a league high 14 turnovers. Expect that number to grow. 

Offensively, man is Trevor Harris earning his salary. He is second in pass yards per game despite having to start each week by introducing himself to the new set of receivers he will be throwing to. Expect Bane, Emilus and Jones to continue to carry the load. I also have a gut feeling that this is the type of game Mitch Picton ends up in the endzone. Normally I would be concerned that we are starting like 8th string receivers but it seems to work somehow. Its not like losing Wieneke’s production will hurt us that much based on the first 3 games. Now if it were me, I would be making Morrow/Hickson the focal point of everything. Edmonton allows 164 rush yards PER GAME. Makeshift OL + no receivers + really bad run D… let’s not overthink things. My preference would be run off of the Colin Kelly side of the line. We need Harris to just not make bad decisions. Last time we played the Elks he threw 2 picks. Lets not make life difficult on ourselves by giving them the ball. 

One area of the game that does concern me a bit is special teams. Their returner Sims is about the only positive thing happening in Edmonton this season. We can’t let him impact the game. Also, maybe Brett Lauther could use the opportunity of Retro Night to turn back the clock and not suck. At 72% he’s statistically the worst kicker so far on the season. The kicks he missed would have made our 2 wins a hell of a lot less stressful. I have faith that he can pull himself out of this funk but sooner would be preferable to later on that one. 

This is a pretty big early season opportunity. A home game against a struggling team with a chance to win the season series and take essentially a 4 game lead over them in the standings. Getting back to the playoffs starts with winning the games you should. And we should win this game, even in spite of an injury list that will soon be long enough to require its one sperate Appendix on the depth chart.

Its $5 beer before the game, so get their early and prime your vocal chords. I don’t expect a big crowd but those who are there better be loud. Let’s hope retro night means like mid 70s or 2010’s and like the early 80s or 90s. 

Riders by 7 (We will make this way more difficult and stressful than it should be).


pantsonfire said...

The Elks are getting travel weary.
To change their lot of that I'm leery.
The end of 3 games in 11.
A Rider win should be a given.
The Elks are running way off piste
On them right now I trust the least.

Govind said...

I like Picton today too. I like him to take the role of Weineke finding open spots in the zone to move the chains.

Dan said...

Dude! How did you not call this win coming from a surrendered single on a kickoff with 1 minute left. It was soooo obvious!

Rider Prophet said...

I am ashamed to call myself a Prophet Dan. As you say it was obvious that's how we would win

Bryce Taylor said...

There may not be any moral victories in sports, but thanks to Calgary and Edmonton we've already been gifted a pair of amoral ones. God bless the CFL.