EXTRA POINTS AND LUC'S NOTES IN THE MMG
- To all the Dads out there, hope you had a fantastic Father's Day on Sunday. It's the most important full-time job we have! It was great to spend the day with mine.
- We spent Sunday morning at the Do It For Dad's Prostate Cancer Awareness Walk at Wascana Park. This year's honoured walkers were Rider great Wes Cates and his dad, "Big Cates", who's going through a cancer struggle of his own in Columbus, OH. How loved is Wes Cates? There was a record amount of walkers on hand and Wes's former teammates Mike McCullough, Andrew Greene, Gene Makowsky, Belton Johnson and Mike Abou-Mechrek came out to show their support. Over $55,000 was raised!
- Wes Cates will be our featured guest on In The Huddle this week on Access 7 and Shaw. Yes, the Riders' second-leading career rusher has joined our team too.
|DFID Walk with George Reed & K9|
- About Saturday's Rider game (a 21-17 preseason win over Ottawa): I'll get to the football notes in a second but first off we should address the paltry crowd of 13,014. I mentioned on the air that it's "the lowest-attended Rider game since the Trudeau administration" but colour commentator Carm Carteri was quick to point out "But it's an Ottawa home game, not Saskatchewan's, so it doesn't count!"
True dat. But it was a gimmick which failed. I got text messages from CFL types across the land who tuned in on TSN2 only to say, "Where are all the Rider fans?" In truth, there were far too many cons than pros when it came to buying a ticket for this game. The strike threat, the bad weather forecast, three home games in a row and the fact the game was televised all conspired to bring about a flop of a "home game". I'm not going to chastise the Rider Nation for not snapping up tickets to this one. However I will thank the diehards who were there including the pair of Ottawa fans who drove 3500 miles to watch the REDBLACKS' first-ever game.
My Mom, my wife, one of my daughters and both of my brothers go to every home game but did not go on Saturday. I wouldn't call them diehards and they wouldn't be offended by that. In fact I don't know too many of my friends who did go! Who cares. Let's move on.
- One season ticket holder said to me Sunday, "The lack of a sellout in last year's playoff game and 13,000 for this one should be a wakeup call to the Riders". I'm not so sure I agree, but there it is.
- Ottawa looks like they've got a football team. Although their roster looked like a dog's breakfast as I was filling out my play-by-play chart Saturday morning, they played like a well-oiled machine. Kudos to head coach Rick Campbell, offensive coordinator Mike Gibson and defensive coordinator Mark Nelson for having their 70 players ready to play! The 77-yard punt return by Jamill Smith barely two minutes into the game was indeed a wakeup call for the Riders that they were in for a game.
- Henry Burris was better at quarterback in this game than he was for Hamilton in the 2013 Grey Cup. Figure that one out! The Smilin' One left the game with the lead and was 5/6 for 40 yards. They spent their money wisely on Hank, that's for sure.
- If you stack up talent versus talent, you knew Saskatchewan was going to win Saturday's game. You're talking about the defending Grey Cup champion team against an expansion unit so the four point victory was in the bag. It's difficult to know what Rider coach Corey Chamblin and his staff were asking their players to do but he noted going in that his biggest concern would be substitutions and they didn't take one penalty related to subs. That was a victory right there. All in all it was a good game for preseason #1 and it was enjoyable to broadcast.
- Again, Rider players are quick to point out that their four consecutive two-and-outs to open the game with Tino Sunseri at quarterback were not the fault of the man behind centre. So what was the reason? At this point I don't know but we'll investigate. It's easy to draw the conclusion that the ineffective offense was Tino's fault but after a pretty good training camp it's hard to believe he'd flop in the game. But the spark in the offense when Darian Durant came into the game was obvious.
- A quarterback was not among the first round of cuts made late Sunday night by the Riders (although non-import Brandon Lehy was sent back to university). That means the choice for a third-string quarterback must not be an easy one. Back-ups Adam Weber and Seth Doege both performed admirably in Saturday's game and perhaps in the end they'll keep four pivots. There seemed to be some confusion on the sidelines when Weber came into the game to start the second half and two plays later he launched an interception. However he recovered enough to cap a scoring drive with a touchdown pass to Brett Swain on the next series. That was impressive.
- I'm glad I'm not seeing things. Rookie slotback #16 Brett Swain said after the game he had a slow start to training camp but has improved everyday (which was reported on this blog). He really stood out on Saturday as his two receptions for 22 yards both were in the endzone. The Ashville, NC product is proving to be a reliable target for his quarterbacks and he's a safe bet to be in the starting group in Week 1.
- Is the Dewdney ban still on? Swain will be popular with the ladies on the Dewdney stroll if allowed to partake.
- You were all likely anxious to get a look at rookie receiver #81 Chaz Schilens on Saturday. So too were the Riders but he was barely visible. I mean, I saw him jogging on and off the field for offensive plays but once the ball was snapped, I couldn't find him. He did not have a reception and I'm not sure how many plays he was in for. What his status is now is unclear. My guess is he'll be kept around, but he'll need to elevate his play Friday night against Edmonton.
- The Dressler clone, Ryan Smith, didn't jump off the page but he was noticeable. He had two catches for 15 yards and one punt return for seven. Obviously we're pulling for him to make the team and love the fact Weston called Smith prior to training camp for some words of encouragement.
- On defense, linebacker Mortty Ivy was our game star with two tackles, two special teams tackles and a sack. I'm told he's a favourite of Rider team management because he's a stand-up guy whose father is a State trooper. We mentioned in the spring time that Ivy would have a chance to be a starter and he didn't hurt his chances in the Ottawa game.
- You may be interested to know recently-signed defensive back Antonio Fenelus led the club with four tackles on Saturday. Then on Sunday he was cut! Tough crowd. Defensive tackle Trevor Guyton got the team's other sack and interceptions were recorded by Macho Harris and Paul Woldu.
- I thought the Riders' first pick in the Canadian Draft, defensive end Dylan Ainsworth from Western, made some big plays in the second half before going down with injury. The team is looking for a back-up Canadian behind Ricky Foley and he looks to fit the bill.
- The Leader Post's Murray McCormick was right. He said on the SportsCage that Josh Bartel had clearly won the punting battle and on Sunday evening, it was punter Brett Cameron who was cut. That's too bad because I was pulling for the son of CFL legend Bob Cameron. However CFL teams aren't big on storylines, they're big on productivity. Each had five punts on Saturday but Bartel was five yards better on average.
- And the war of attrition at the tailback position was downsized by one. On Sunday night the Riders released Clifton Smith, the former Stampeder and 2008 Pro Bowler with the Buccaneers. I guess he didn't show enough on Saturday in his two carries and two punt returns. I had a hunch last week that Jermaine Thomas would be the team's featured back in Week 1 but right now you'd have to think Anthony Allen and Keith Toston are ahead. We'll see what happens Friday when the Riders host Edmonton.
- Finally for my portion this morning, there's horrible news out of Winnipeg. Former Rider Graig Newman of the Blue Bombers suffered a dislocated/fractured ankle against Calgary Saturday night and will be gone for the season. A Bomber season ticket holder was tragically killed last week while biking to their home preseason game against Toronto. What a tragic start to the season in the Manitoba capital.
NOW, ANOTHER PETER KING-STYLE ENTRY FROM FORMER RIDER LUC MULLINDER:
Nothing Big, Just Some Thoughts
By now we’ve all heard and talked about the good and bad things that were on display this past Saturday.
Rider Nation has consciously inserted Brett Swain into the 42 man roster, and Keith Toston is the hardest running back since Jerome Bettis!!!
Everyone is also putting on their coaching hats and justifying which DB can get cut in order to make room for Marshay Green, and why Anthony Allen is awesome … as you all should be. It’s what makes you guys the greatest fans on the planet (also the hardest to perform in front of). You invest in these guys.
Instead of giving you a gang of scenarios and predictions, I’m going to spend some time talking about a couple of things and players that have stuck in my mind, and maybe illustrate a picture, if you will.
When Doubles left the field after he orchestrated a Rider scoring drive, I wish the announcer would have said, “Darian Durant ladies and gentlemen…Darian Durant…nuff said.” This may very well be a season to remember from #4. Go back and listen to him last year during his interviews, and then take any one of his soundbytes from camp. The difference is astounding in a lot of ways.
The definition of ‘leadership’ has changed in his mind. He knows that legendary status is going to be attained through others, and he’s ready to teach and lead them every step of the way.
Running back and Offensive Line
Now I haven’t seen the film and the assignment grade out, but from the top, it didn’t look like there was a clear winner in the RB department. We all saw that there were guys who took advantage of the limited amount of reps that were available, but I do think, even though there may be a cut or two here, the battle is far from over. They are going to roll hand in hand with the backfield this year. Everyone is always asking, “How are the Riders going to replace Kory Sheets’ production?”
Stop it…Stop it right now! This is a team game, and the Riders have one of the brightest minds in the CFL at their offensive coordinator spots. They also have the best Oline in the league! If they can stay healthy, our guys up front can get any one of the guys we have in camp to 1000 yards, but they might not have to. Remember Rider Nation, it’s all about winning a championship. Would we all be worried about replacing a 1500 yd running back if we didn’t get out of the 1st round??? Not as much.
• Our 1st and 2nd Oline looked great! Good pocket protection for the most part, and opened up some major run lanes. Ottawa had to play with the guys they’re going with all year, so the fact that our new guys played well against the 1&2 deep Ottawa Dline is a huge positive.
• #69 Corey Watman: Not only did he do a good job at the center spot, he was also reporting as a TE with the 1st Oline group during their bigger bodied packages. He demonstrated good hand placement and drive from that spot, and finished his blocks with tenacity. Good to see from the 2nd year man
We spoke on this during the post game show after and I’ll put it in writing. While everyone is trying their best to dub Ryan Smith as “the next Dressler” take a look at the route that Brett Swain ran, and caught his 1st TD on … it was the post corner route that Weston was so money on during his tenure here. I’m also pretty sure that his 2nd TD was also identical to the Red Zone patterns that Cortez dialed up for Dressler last year. #JustSaying
• #77 Alex Pierzchalski: He didn’t have a huge statistical game, it would have been a lot better if Doege (instead of running and getting flipped near our bench) had looked left and dumped the ball to him when he was WIDE OPEN with about 30 yds of green in front of him. I’m really putting him in here cause of the effort I saw out of him on Special Teams. As a young non import, you gotta be able to contribute here to justify a roster spot and his hustle, especially on punt team, was really good to see. He got himself in around a couple of tackles which is something that young guys need to show coaches. The willingness to contribute in any way possible.
Our first unit looked solid. Despite working with a limited variety of play calls, our edge rushers Chick and Foley still managed to come close to sacking the QB with good use of hand work and speed. I can’t wait to see our pass rush package really opened up and our line given the opportunity to use their speed and athleticism during stunts and twists! Our inexperienced depth is still key a concern here though. The Ottawa QB’s tested the discipline of our Ends a few times in the game, and the only ones that really bit on fakes and play actions were our younger more inexperienced guys. They’ll need to get that corrected, and they will, because one mistake out there during a crucial part of a game is the difference between a win and a loss. Trust me, I’ve been on both ends.
• #90 Dylan Ainsworth: I mentioned in the preseason primer that Ainsworth wasn’t quite ready to contribute on the field…I won’t change that opinion now. I will however, tell the fans that this kid is going to be a gamer very soon!
Has everyone has heard the phrase, ‘hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard?’
Good. Apply it to Ainsworth. This dude was in 5th gear every play. Whether it was special teams hustling down field and being one of the first to the ball carrier, or whether it was chasing down guys from behind the play, Ainsworth wants to play. That’s going to get him on the field eventually. You can always teach players, but you can’t put heart in them. Ainsworth was busting his tail … you always have a chance when you start with effort being your edge.
I’m not going to talk about #1 and #29…you’re already doing that. I want to mention Dwight Anderson. If you can’t buy into a guy who has multiple championships, is a hardened vet, and still comes out and plays an exhibition game with as much enthusiasm and character as he did on Saturday, then you’re crazy. DA loves playing the game, it’s evident, and guys feed into that energy on game day. He wasn’t even out there that long, but his presence was seen and heard. Like all great DBs it’s his closing speed that stands out. Just when the QB thinks he’s got an open target, #33 closes the gap and erases the threat of a big play.
That’s why I like the outlook of this team this year and you should too. It’s going to have some talented players LIKE (I'm not predicting final rosters) a Brett Swain or an Anthony Allen who could make a career out of the CFL, instead of bouncing around NFL practice rosters and waiver wires. It (the Riders) will include young, raw, and talented athletes, which Coach Chamblin and his staff can mould into great players.
But most importantly, this team is built on an impressive foundation that “starts up front” led by experienced hard working, and talented, Linemen on both sides of the ball. The foundation also has a collage of veteran talent across the board, that have gone through the assimilation process of the Green and White Culture, and found their individual niches…and finally, it is glued together by a franchise Quarterback that is poised to leave his mark on anyone that stands in the way of the term, LEGENDARY.
So as you get ready for the final pieces of this championship structure to be put together Rider Nation, don’t worry as much about the nuts and bolts being plugged in…This team is being built on a championship slab.
That's all for this week! Hope you enjoyed our efforts. We'll be broadcasting the SportsCage live from the Regina Pats Wickenheiser Golf Classic today at Deer Valley so it'll be great to dust off our Pats clothing and wear it proudly while talking Riders from the golf course!
HAVE A GREAT WEEK,