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Sunday, December 3, 2017

ABOU-MECHREK: LOOKING AHEAD TO THE 2018 ROUGHRIDERS

By: Mike Abou-Mechrek

I appreciate all the great feedback since Rod has opened up this forum for me a few weeks ago. Much of that feedback has to do with next year, and now with the 2017 season officially over  - including the spectacular conclusion to the 105th Grey Cup - I now feel comfortable talking about it.

Like most of you I believe an upgrade to the offensive line is toward the top of the wish list again this off season.

Chris Jones made a huge splash in free agency last offseason landing the biggest tuna out there - 2016 Offensive Lineman of the Year Derek Dennis - but long before Dennis’s name came across Jones’ desk he had traded for Bruce Campbell.

It took awhile for Campbell to get on the field, but once he did he was consistently the Riders' top lineman. His introduction into the starting lineup, in turn, bumped Denis down to Left Guard, and Brendon LaBatte into the center position for the injured Dan Clark. That gave the Riders their most formidable line of the season.

However, unless Chris Jones is considering playing three Americans across the offensive line ... AND Derek Dennis is willing to take a massive pay cut to line up at guard ... I do not see the 2016 lineman of the year in the mix during next season’s training camp.

Right Guard Peter Dykowski came into this year’s training camp to fill an enormous hole on the Rider O-line. Dykowski may have been the Riders most VALUABLE player this season, unfortunately for Peter, the CFL award is for the Most OUTSTANDING player, and that he was not.

It’s tough for me to be so critical of Peter because I am a fan, and I think our playing styles were very similar. I see him in the league next season, perhaps even with the Riders, but I see him as a 6th man where he can fill in for a handful of games if someone gets banged up, and bring veteran leadership to the group. He had a great first half to 2016, but whether it was an unannounced injury, or just father time catching up to this vet, as the season went on he got stiffer in his hips, and began reaching and lunging at opponents rather than throwing his punch which got him in trouble with some quicker pass rush moves.

I’m also interested to see what happens at the center position. I do not see an imminent need to replace Dan Clark, but the Riders recently offered 31-year old Brendan LaBatte a 4-year contract extension which leads me to believe there are plans to move him to center - a somewhat less physical position - in the not too distant future.

Whether it’s one or two guards the Green and White will be looking for this off season, I am sure Dariusz Blazek will get a fair look, but I imagine Jones will look to bring in at least one bigger name Canadian free agent to fill in the position.

Whether it’s Dan or Brendon snapping the ball, the bigger question seems to be to whom he will be snapping it to, and this question seems as big today as it was one year ago.


Kevin Glenn was brought in to win games and to mentor young quarterbacks, and he gets a Gold Star for the yeoman’s work he’s done in both arenas. But I am not convinced he will be back in 2018 - at least not as the unquestioned starter.

I know Jones has gone on the record and said otherwise, but I sometimes wonder what kind of answers we expect out of coaches when the media poses awkward questions. He might not know if KG will be back in 2018 or not, but it takes a special kind of jerk to tell a player through the media that his career might be over. Instead Jones takes the high road and answers the (sometimes unfair) questions as best as he is able to. CJ and KG will work out their direction behind closed doors and not in the media.

That being said, if the CFL version of Rodney Dangerfield (he gets no respect) asked for the contract that he’s worth, Jones and many of the other CFL GMs would look quickly in another direction. I can’t see KG asking to break the bank and if he is back next season it will need to be established early on that he is the back up.

The Riders need to move on and find their QB of the future, which will result in some inconsistencies and the temptation to put Kevin in the game. The team will need to work through these growing pains to ensure they have a battle-tested quarterback going into next year’s playoffs.

So if I have Kevin pencilled in as the back-up that means Brandon Bridge will start, right?

Not exactly.

Bridge is a good quarterback, and the relationship he and Kevin brought from Montreal and continued to build in Saskatchewan worked well for the 2017 Riders. But! I don’t see Bridge as the starter in 2018 as the Riders contend for the Cup.

He grew a lot in the playing time he had this season, but I feel as though he was thrown into the game only when the QB was under siege and he was asked to run around and “make things happen” with his big arm and his all-world receiving corps.

I hope I am not being too critical when I say that there was very little evidence in 2017 that leads me to believe he will have the same success when he’s allowed to sit back in the pocket to read and pick apart opposing defenses like a starting quarterback is supposed to do.

Making it up on the fly worked in 2017, but what happens next season when teams game plan for his skillset instead of Kevin’s and sit back in zone coverage and wait for him to make a mistake?

There were times this season that I wished he’d simply throw the ball into the 3rd row for an incomplete pass rather than run around like a chicken without its head. Sure it’s fun to watch, and it even worked out more often than not, but that’s what we have running backs for. He needs to be the quarterback!

Now of course, it’s not a 2 horse race. Vernon Adams will be in the mix again, but the name that has been very conspicuous by its recent absence in Rideville is James Franklin.

12 months ago folks were so certain of his imminent arrival, and now - as his contract expires - we barely hear his name. Hmmmmm. I’m not a betting man, but I wonder what the odds are of an Edmonton Eskimo quarterback leading the Riders to the 2018 Grey Cup? If anyone finds out let me know at the email below.

I value your feedback at Mike.Abou-Mechrek@igprivatewealth.com

(Mike played 10 seasons in the CFL winning the Grey Cup in 2007 with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. An Economist, Certified Financial Planner, Charter Life Underwriter, and Registered Retirement Consultant Mike runs his practice through IG Private Wealth Management with offices in Moose Jaw and Regina)

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

IF Franklin does stay in the CFL in 2018 and ends up with a team not the Sask Roughriders AND he ends up being the next Ricky Ray then there WILL be hell be pay, mark my word!

Steve Borsa said...

Derrick Dennis agreeing to LARGE pay-cut? wow how 12 months have changed everything. Believe he has 3-year deal. So 2 left. Hmm, guess one never knows what Jones planning. J Franklin could be no 1 (if Jones gets lucky to sign). Believe MTL, Agros (Ray retires) also making bid. Collarus unsung hero in TiCat town, well, he's out of camp in steel town. Argos best odds. Trestman seems to do wonders with aging QBs.

Anonymous said...

Riders will need to trade for Franklin first of all before free agency and another thing to think about is if you want to wait until the middle of season due to his interest in the NFL...if he makes any practice roster you won't see him period.

Anonymous said...

How so...

Anonymous said...

When IFs & ANDs are chocolate and sands we’ll all have a Hawaiian Christmas! Mark your words about what Anon?! It would be YEARS, almost two decades to prove out Franklin could be Ricky Ray so “your words” and the if and ands hold very little water. It’s like predicting that someday the world will end... it may very well happen but so what ? Your post is vacuous and without a stitch of merit or data to support it. Go Riders!!

Dyck Rubnutz said...

Great article Abou. Keep up the good work.

geestewie said...

Consider it marked. I put a note in my phone calendar to bring this up this time next year.

I've got your back pal.

Anonymous said...

You don't trade for a player who's about to become a FA. You let the market dictate the price and what you are willing to pay. I can't see Franklin in the NFL. He barley played a down last year so not a lot of tape to go on. Did some good things but still unproven. They guy could start in the CFL no problem, if he goes to NFL he'll be holding a clipboard for the first few years. Though he would be making more than most starting QB's in the CFL.

Lee-Anne said...

I know my opinion only counts as one in thousands, but I would try and sign Collaros. He's still young, knows the game and should be totally healthy by the time Training Camp starts. He has way more experience that Franklin (I still don't see the attraction with so little tape) or Bridge. Right now Collaros has a high salary but even his agent knows that it may have to drop some because of the last couple of seasons in Hamilton. Maybe offer something close to the same salary, but make it incentive laden like how many games played, wins, TD to INT ratio etc.Make him earn that Hamilton salary back by going back on the field and proving himself again. My thought is that he is close to the same age as the others, and similiar skill set but he has way more game experience than Bridge and Franklin combined. Plus, a motivated Collaros probably has a chip on his shoulder from being #2 last year, so he will want to prove himself again.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mike, I like reading your articles. Sometimes we forget just how truly inept the Riders were the last couple of years and although we beat every team in the league once this year we also played some games completely uninspired, under coached, over confidant and downright ugly. For the most part we are on schedule to compete with every team next year but there are obvious upgrades needed. Toronto won the Grey Cup this year and it could have been the Riders because sometimes we played that good, or Calgary could have embarrassed us with a very lopsided win. This season has been very satisfying to watch if we as fans look at it as a rebuild half completed. 1 or 2 more years and the right guy throwing the ball and we will be celebrating another Grey Cup championship under the leadership of Chris Jones. That guy is pulling it all together and he deserves to be recognized for the job he has done so far. Can't wait until next year!

Anonymous said...

I think teams did scheme for Bridge later in the season. I think he has more raw talent than any of the other guys. I think he just needs experience. I think his size and arm lend themselves to in the pocket, after experience. I think it's a mistake to focus only on cup in '18. I think he has a mix of early Flutie and Burris. That's what I think.

Anonymous said...

Way way too much credit is given to our stars without recognizing those around them. QBs are the best example. BLM is no doubt a gifted QB but I have yet to see him perform behind a porous O line. Same with RBs and receivers. When we judge which QB we want do it relative to those around him.

Anonymous said...

To the Anon wanting the free agency to dictate the Franklin...you want to wait for Franklin then you go right ahead because I would bet Montreal will be willing to trade a draft pick for his rights especially because Hervey is there. Also if I remember right a guy named Hervey was the one who traded a draft pick for the rights of Mike Reilly before free agency hit...just so you know that is the same Hervey and boy did that pay off for Edmonton, best QB in the league...but you go ahead and sit and wait while other teams go for him.

FYI said...

FYI: Franklin will be free to sign with the CFL or NFL team of his choice that wants him most(based on $$ and other factors such as nice new stadium, good receivers, coaches etc) and no mater whether the Eskimos deal away his remaining couple months in his contract or not.

Anonymous said...

Umm, just so U know..Hervey went to BC..not Montreal.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I meant BC where Hervey is lol.

Anonymous said...

Sorry don't get it done Dude.
John Wayne

Anonymous said...

Actually you are incorrect because the teams will come to trade terms based on Franklin signing a contract which will mean at that point the team of interest in Franklin will have permission to talk with Franklin about a signing a contract. This is exactly how the Eskies landed Reilly, they didn't allow a bidding war on him so they could get the QB they wanted and you can bet your ass that if a team wants Franklin they will not allow a bidding war on him and wrap him up.

Anonymous said...

I love how people on here think they are gm's and know what a person who they don't know at all personally and probably have never met but yet think they know what he is going to do. None of you know what Franklin is going to do because none of you are him or the gm going after him. Even of Edmonton trades him he can still hold out on a deal and hit free agency if he wants. Or he can sign or he can wait for an nfl deal quit actin like you know everything.

Anonymous said...

Last anon...you are correct but what I am saying is if the teams want a QB as Franklin they will make a trade based upon him signing a contract or he will try out for NFL teams first and come back to the CFL part way through the year as a free agent...this is pretty obvious. If Franklin stays in the CFL no one will get him through free agency because a team will trade for him period mark my word. Franklin is a class act and is not going to go for a specific team, he is going to go to a team that wants him as a next franchise guy. Sask I am sorry to tell you this but Jones won't give him that spot and work around him like other teams will. Jones should use Bridge because he is a decent QB anyways.

Anonymous said...

Yes but even if he is traded he is still a free agent in february unless the team that trades for him gets a deal done he has all the control and will do what he wants and I'm pretty sure you don't know what he wants because your not him.

Lee-Anne said...

NOBODY MENTIONING COLLAROS? Come on guys....Franklin, Franklin, Franklin. Why the love in? What is on his resume? Way less than Bridge and way, way more less than Collaros. It may take a little more work to get Zack and a contract "restructure", but he is the man for us!
What's up???

Anonymous said...

Thanks tips but any smart GM is going to go for him before free agency...Jones included if he wants him.

Anonymous said...

Wrong...You trade for him before he becomes a free agent so you can negotiate a deal just like the ALs did with Durant. R u new???

Anonymous said...

good bye

Anonymous said...

Collaros is injury prone and over-rated. Pass!

Anonymous said...

Year 3 of the rebuild and still no sign of a plan at qb. Tisk, tisk. Thats kind of an important position, as we saw in the EDF.

Anonymous said...

How do you know there are "no plans" at QB?

What if the plan is to develop Bridge into a starter?

There are 4 QB's that are free agents come February, maybe one of them are the plan.

Riderprider said...

I'm a little confused with everyone's assessment of Bridge. "He runs around too much, doesn't settle into the pocket, makes rushed choices, etc, etc." The only times he was in the game was when the defence chased Glenn out. Any dropback teams we faced, we had Glenn in. The only reason for a lot of Bridge was because he could escape pressure, and then we knock him for it. He is young, and will make mistakes, but I would love to give him the spot, and see how he grows into it.