Friday, August 4, 2023

Riders vs. RedBlacks: If Not Now Then When?

Sunday Mosaic will play host to a battle of 3-4 teams looking to rebound from losses. As far as early season games against eastern opponents go, this one is pretty darn big for the Riders. We are on a 0-3 skid where touchdowns have been harder to come by “I Love Trudeau” stickers on the prairies. We need a win and if we can’t manage to score points on Ottawa then buckle up because a short week road trip to Montreal followed by BC and back to back with Winnipeg could quickly turn our losing skid into a giant chasm that will be hard to dig ourselves out of.

Fine vs. Dolegala has been all the talk in Riderville this week. Dolegala joins a long and proud tradition of back-up QBs that the fans fall in love with based on minimal evidence. If you are a back-up QB in Saskatchewan who the fans didn’t love then it’s a sign you should probably just retire. Fine will start and I agree with the call. Simply put, behind that O-line, with that play calling and errors being made by WRs and RBs, I don’t think Dolegala does any better over the past 3 games. So I am on Team Fine. Dude just played the #1 and #2 defense in the league in his past 2 games. Let’s see what he can do against an average defense. That said, he has until half to prove he can produce or Dolegala has to finish the game. Ottawa has allowed almost has many TDs and BC and Toronto combined (editor’s note: I wrote this before Winnipeg obliterated BC). If Fine’s play isn’t noticeably better against this D, then it’s time to worry.

Fine is quite the perplexing player. If you looked only at yardage and completion rate, you’d assume he’s some kind of prodigy. But if you look at how many points that has translated into you’d assume he’s some kind of mannequin. We have the top 2 receivers and 3 of the top 13 but yet we can’t buy a point. We need some F’N points and we need them early. Over the last 5 games we are averaging 3.8 first half points. Pretty sure we could beat that by just telling Adam Korsac to impersonate Jon Ryan. I’d say getting Morrow/Hickson and the run game going would help but a) we suck at running blocking and running in general and b) Ottawa has the #1 run D. Not the position I’d like to be in but Fine is going have to pass us to victory. I would like to see Fine use his legs a bit more. I appreciate his commitment to keeping his eyes downfield but the odd time I felt he would have been better off to run. He also looks pretty effective when rolling out. And the way our OL has been playing, moving his launch point occasionally would be helpful. As of writing this Brandon Dandridge is questionable which would be a huge loss for Ottawa. Dude is a stud. Ottawa has allowed the most passing plays over 30 yards so we can’t afraid to push the ball deep. But As Bo Levi so nicely demonstrated, if you suck at throwing that D can make you pay. They are #2 in defensive takeaways. Some competent play calling would help. Let’s not run and 2nd and long. Let’s avoid very scripted backwards passes. You know, the basics. I’m betting Fine throws at least one INT in this but I’m going to give a risky prediction and say that he offsets that with not 1 but 2 offensive TDs. One before halftime.

Defensively this post would have been very different if written a week ago. A week ago, Dustin Crum was a rising star who you could not hold back from marching his team to victory. Then Hamilton came along with the benefit of game film and made him look downright useless. Turns out (and please sit down while reading this as it’s a shocker) when you limit his ability to run and force him to read coverage he looks like a rookie. Hamilton played him perfectly, rush 3 or 4 with an LB spy and drop everyone else into coverage. Like many rookies when his first look isn’t there he panics and when he can’t run his way out of trouble he freezes. This is a team with 3 total passing TDs and averaging a league low 5.8 yards per play. Even Mason Fine finds that pathetic.

They are the #1 rushing O (though a third of that comes from the QB) and #9 passing O. Priority #1 is keep Crum in the pocket. Not only will that force him to throw but odds are good he will take a sack. He has been sacked 21 times and the dude started the season on the practice roster. Only the Riders allow more sacks. D-line needs to have another big game. Ottawa’s receivers get a boost with the return of Addison and Tevaughn Smith. Behar is THE guy Crum looks for when he absolutely needs a play. Here’s hoping some opportunistic DB uses that tendency to get a pick (and equally hoping some astute OC doesn’t use that info to pump fake him into a TD).

In the last 2 weeks this defense has come alive. We held BC (the #3 ranked offense) to 19 points and we held Toronto (the #1 offense by a wide margin) to 17 offensive points. Let’s just say I like their odds against an offense that averages under 20 points per game.

No surprise but Bob Dyce has very solid special teams at his disposal. I mean, we also have a Special Teams Coordinator as a Head Coach yet are struggling but I feel like that happens once a season. I can’t actually research that, not because CFL stats suck, but because I’m lazy. But it seems that every year there is a brief mid-season period where our special teams go to hell briefly for some reason. Be a good time to fix that.

We need this one bad. I have full faith in our defense to keep Ottawa under 20 points. I’m relying on blind faith as a reason to hope our O can inch across that 20 point barrier. Ottawa is a weird team to figure out. If you exclude that impressive win against Winnipeg (which I still don’t understand) their only other 2 wins have come against teams with a combined record of 2 and 13. (Never mind that our wins have also only come against teams with a combined record of 2 and 13). They could not beat a really bad Hamilton team despite getting 5 picks. But Bob Dyce has them believing in themselves. They never give up and every game seems to come down to the last play. Unfortunately for my heart I expect no different on Sunday.

By some miracle I see us escaping with an ugly, ugly win.

Riders by a Lauther FG.


Anonymous said...

Our punt coverage team has been pure awful ths year. That scares me

Govind said...

In Crum's 2 wins he has been helped by a pick 6 too. So don't help him out! The Ottawa secondary had all kinds of holes in the middle of the field last week. Even with 5 picks, I think I counted 2 where the receiver was open and Bo sailed the pass like he was doing the first 2 weeks.

Do you think we might some spirited jawing etc between Marshall and Evans?

Rider Prophet said...

Anon - Yup and blocking has been on the decline. Maybe it will improve if we can get regulars like Ford and Dheilly back.

Gov - You are so right. We don't need to help Ottawa. If Dandridge is really out then that helps our cause but there are still guys who can make plays in that secondary.

I would love Marshall mic'ed up for a game. LIkely half of it wouldn't be fit for TV but still.

pantsonfire said...

What's happenin' in Riderville?
Without Harris they look ill.
The Riders so far don't impress
The REDBLACKS win this I will guess.

Can't get past the fact we barely beat the Elks, maybe had at least one of those games given away by Elks. Also close win vs Calgary which, for the most part, hasn't been good.

Rider Prophet said...

To be fair, the offense wasn't that great even with Harris.