Monday, November 27, 2017
OUT OF THE TUNNEL: 105TH GREY CUP AND RIDER REPORT CARD
GREY CUP 105: TORONTO 27 CALGARY 24
In case you missed it the 105th Grey Cup was down-right entertaining. Toronto kept pace with the Calgary Stampeders via a pair of 100-yard plays. The first one coming early in the second quarter when Ricky Ray hit DeVier Posey on a 100-yard catch and run and then a 109-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Cassius Vaughn that tied the game at 24 with five minutes remaining in the fourth.
From there, it was shades of the East Final. Ricky Ray drove the Argos down and set up a Lirim Hajrullahu field goal to take the 27-24 lead. The Stampeders were able to drive down the field and were in position to tie the game, but Bo Levi Mitchell took an end zone shot that was intercepted by Matt Black to seal the game for the Argos.
Big congrats to Jim Popp and Marc Trestman on the turnaround for the double-blue and it must feel good for defensive coordinator and former Riders head coach Corey Chamblin.
That puts a wrap on the football season in Canada, now we will have to grind through the winter and wait for training camp 2018 in May.
2017 RIDER REPORT CARD
With the sting of the late 25-21 loss to the Toronto Argonauts in the East Division Final starting to fade away, it gives Out of the Tunnel one final look at what was a very good 2017 Saskatchewan Roughrider season.
The 10-8 record this season was five games better than one year ago. It is one of the top turnaround seasons in franchise history only bested by the 1988 year (11-7 after a 5-12-1 1987) that saw the Riders improve by six wins from the season before and 1981 (9-7 after a 2-14 season) when they were seven games better than the previous season.
To keep a complicated game very simple, it will be an old school report card by position group.
Quarterback – B
September 3rd v. Winnipeg – Kevin Glenn (22-26, 386 yards and 3 touchdowns. Three different receivers had 100-yard games)
Kevin Glenn and Brandon Bridge combined for a great season yardage-wise, but overall it was very average. After Kevin Glenn missed a couple of mid-season games, it was anyone's guess on who would finish a game. Glenn and Bridge rotated in and out of football games and in the East Division Final, it finally caught up to the Rider offence. This is the biggest offseason question mark for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Running Back – C
East Semi-Final at Ottawa – Marcus Thigpen (15 carries for 169 yards, 1 touchdown)
The Riders had a league worst 82.1 yards per game rushing. There are three capable running backs on the roster. Cameron Marshall, Trent Richardson and Marcus Thigpen can all carry the rock, but the first two couldn’t stay healthy which drastically affected the running game. Also, the Riders will need more from one of their key 2017 free agent signings, Kienan LaFrance.
Receiver – A-
October 13th at Ottawa – Duron Carter (11 catches for 231 yards)
Three 1,000 yard receivers (Duron Carter, Naaman Roosevelt and Bakari Grant) and not much else after that. Caleb Holley had a shade over 600 but what was missing was the contribution from a Canadian pass catcher. Rob Bagg picked up 383 yards and one score while Nic Demski was having a solid season before getting hurt during the Labour Day Classic.
Offensive Line – C+
October 27th v. Montreal – Allowed just one sack, three pressures and had 175 total rushing yards.
This unit hit a spate of injuries with Dan Clark, Brendon LaBatte and Derek Dennis all suffering injuries during different parts of the season. The group allowed 44 sacks (third most in the CFL) this season and didn’t go a single game without letting up a sack. Running the ball more would help this group. Like every team in the CFL, Canadian depth is a key need in the offseason.
Defensive Line – B-
July 29th v. Toronto – Willie Jefferson (nine tackles and one sack)
This was Willie Jefferson’s breakout season, finishing with career highs in sacks (8) and tackles (45). This group was second-last in the CFL in sacks with 27 (but did have a mid-pack 106 pressures) but this is more indicative of a constant three-man front. What was missing was the book-end defensive end on the other side of Jefferson. A solid run-stuffer up the middle is also needed, as the defence let up almost 100 yards per game on the ground.
Linebackers – B
East Final at Toronto – Henoc Muamba (10 tackles)
This group had an unsung solid season. Henoc Muamba had his second-best season as a pro and was able to stay relatively healthy as well. Sam Eguavoen bounced back from a devastating knee injury in 2016, Jeff Knox Jr. returned from the NFL and Derrick Moncrief was a pleasant late-season surprise. Add a healthy Otha Foster and Cameron Judge to this group and it may be the strength of the Rider defence in 2018.
Defensive Back – B
August 13th v. B.C. – Ed Gainey (four interceptions, one for a touchdown)
This unit had the most question marks heading into the 2016 season and ended up being one of the surprises. Ed Gainey had an all-world season with 10 interceptions to go along with his 48 tackles (3rd on the team). The flip-side to this, if you take away Gainey’s interceptions, the defensive backs combined for another four (including Duron Carter’s late-season interception in Calgary). There needs to be more depth in this group to take the next step.
Special Teams – A
September 29th at Ottawa – Christion Jones (6 punt returns for 139 yards and one touchdown)
Special Teams Coordinator Craig Dickenson had this unit cooking from day one. Tyler Crapigna was steady (save for the home opener) as was Josh Bartel while Christion Jones was the spark-plug the Rider return game needed. The cover teams were also on-point all season. They allowed just five punt returns of over 30-yards with one going for a score, and only one kickoff return of over 40-yards.
Canadian to watch in the NCAA
Hometown – Brampton, Ont.
Class – Soph.
One of the top defensive backs recruited out of Canada in 2016, Agbeyebe didn’t see any action for the Yale Bulldogs. This season has seen him play spot action in the Bulldog secondary with his best game coming on September 23rd against Cornell. In that game, he had five solo tackles and one knock down.