Friday, June 7, 2024

Riders vs. Elks: Regular Season Opener

CFL Football is back! And in a true gift from the football gods it opened in the best way possible… that being the exact way the last season ended. Winnipeg losing. Oh it just warms your soul and I don’t care how petty that makes me. 

Its time for Cory Mace to show his stuff for real. He has been hyped ever since being hired and now its time to see if there is some substance to go with that sizzle. Its time to start answering all the big questions. Can Mace make this team competitive again? Can Mueller be an effective OC? Does old man Harris have another good year left in him? Can our O-line be every remotely not awful? Will this new look Rider defense be rock solid? Can we keep penalties down? Does Chris Jones shock the world and come out in a nice pallet of pastels?

Offensively my eyes will be on the OL. We went out and got a tackle. Blake and Godber are healthy. Its time for them to prove they can win the battles in the trenches. I think the Elks are a good first test. Chris Jones generally has solid D but his front 4 are greener than the jerseys they wear. Pelly will sit due to injury and the guys they are dressing have a combined total of 5 career sacks. In a case of “keep it simple stupid” I expect us to use Ouelette heavily. We went out and got him to establish a physical run game and that’s the best way to help your OL get in a groove. Should be a great battle between Ouellette and Nyles Morgan. Harris will be looking to get the ball out quick when he throws and let his playmakers do the work. Bane, Schaefer and Emilus have all proven they can do that. We need to find the right balance of aggressive but not reckless. We have a lot of vets on our offense. Elks have a pretty young defense. We can’t be afraid to take shots but need to be picky when we do. We don’t want turnovers to ignite the D. We also no longer have the benefit of Steve McAdoo bringing them down with his questionable play calling. 

Defense definitely has a tall task. Edmonton has a great RB in Brown and at WR Eugene Lewis (one of the best in the league) with Mitchell and Gittens as support. They have playmakers. And unlike last year where they shackled those playmakers with the craptastic play of Taylor Cornelius, they now have a pretty sold QB in Bethel-Thompson. He looked all kinds of rusty in preseason but I expect him to be on point on Saturday. I really want to see how our DL will play under Mace. With Lanier, Micah, Carney and Cox there is talent to boot. They underperformed last year but if Mace can get them going, look out! With guys like the ever-steady Thurman and the playmaker Reavis at LB we will be ok there. In the secondary have Milligan back will be huge. But if I’m Edmonton, I attack the other side of the secondary where we will have raw rookie DeMarcus Field and Nelson Lokombo. Big test ahead for those 2. The more disruptive the front 4 can be the easier it will makes things on the backend.

Special teams will play a factor in this one. Edmonton seems to be cursed with big time special team gaffs (Especially against us). Leake is a dangerous returner so there is a legit chance he scores and gives up a TD on returns. Be nice to see Lauther kick off his preseason funk. 

Many think we should win easy. Well I thought the same thing last year and we barely beat a much worse Elks team in a opener so ugly even Helen Keller would have swiped left. So no guarantees. I expect a very close game with mistakes on both sides. (These are 2 of the worst teams in the league over the past 2 seasons). I expect my walls to echo with both curse words and screams of joy. In the end I think Mace ekes out a hard fought first victory.

Riders by a Ouelette TD.

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