BY: RODPEDERSEN.COM STAFF
Out of the Tunnel would like to begin with a public service announcement: never get too high, or too low, during the CFL season. Especially this early.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders took a step in the right direction with a Week 1 victory over what looks like a Toronto Argonaut team that will take awhile to get over the Grey Cup doldrums.
A week later, it was a step back on the road in Ottawa. The Redblacks looked great in all facets of the game routing the Green and White 40-17 on Thursday at TD Place Stadium.
So much to talk about but let’s keep things short and sweet.
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- There wasn’t much, but the Riders may have found their best offensive unit (if you add Duron Carter next week) in their only touchdown drive in the first quarter. The best part of it was a heavy Canadian package.
Dariusz Bladek played Right Guard (rotating in for American Jarvis Harrison) for all but one play, where he took a spot at tight end. Jerome Messam was the running back, Dan Clark at centre, Brendan LaBatte at left guard, Spencer Moore and Devon Bailey rotated in and out with Josh Stanford rounding out the unit.
This was when the Riders looked at their best and it may be a unit we see more of with a couple of additions to the roster this weekend (more on that later).
- Seeing the emergence of Spencer Moore in the offence is a great option. The six-year vet is the size and speed of a tight end with good hands and great blocking ability.
His three catches for 30 yards may not look like much, but it was the best receiving game of his career and the McMaster product is already halfway to his season high of catches and yards in a season.
Also, picking up the first down on the fake punt was a high point.
- This is only the second game of the season and the Riders were slow starters a year ago (0-2). Even though the games count in the standings, this team is still figuring out who they are on both sides of the football.
It will come, and a win over the hapless Montreal Alouettes this Saturday night at Mosaic Stadium would help.
- The Riders' brutal night began and ended in the trenches. The Redblacks defensive front looked great shutting down the Rider run game while also feasting all night on both Zach Collaros and Brandon Bridge.
They did a lot damage with just a straight four-man front with no twists or stunts which is the most disturbing thing with the Riders offensive line play.
The other side of the football was just as problematic. The Riders began playing multiple fronts, but as the secondary’s night continued to deteriorate, they had to go with either a three-man front, or a three-man front with Charleston Hughes or Toby Antigha playing a flex lineman/linebacker spot.
Trevor Harris had a lot of time to throw and William Powell averaged five yards per carry.
There were many more little things that went wrong, but if the Riders can cure those two issues, it should be a solid Saturday night against Montreal.
One other thing really stuck out: the strength of the Redblacks Canadians, especially along the offensive line.
Alex Mateas was a first overall pick in 2015 and is the anchor of their line. He took over at centre permanently this season for Jon Gott who is now at right guard with former University of Saskatchewan Huskie Evan Johnson (1st round, 9th overall in 2017) beside him at Right Tackle.
Ottawa's Canadian talent is rounded out with another first rounder at left guard. Mark Korte was the fourth overall pick this past May.
They also have another first rounder on their six-game injured list, Jason Lauzon-Seguin. He played a lot as a rookie in 2017 and was nominated as the Redblacks top rookie a year ago.
Three of the last four Redblack first rounders are starting on their offensive line. If a team drafts well, they win with their Canadians, rather than trying to survive their Canadian talent.
And add two-time all-star Sir Vincent Rogers. He's pretty good too.
Many have said the short week was a big reason why the Riders lost. It was five days, a number that all pro football teams will have to deal with at some time during the season. In the NFL, if you play on the primetime stage of Monday Night Football, you will have just five days rest before your next foe on Sunday.
Five days is enough to prepare and get ready for a game. What will be interesting to see is how the Riders react when they have just a four-day rest period between games. It will happen three times this season:
- Home games on June 30th and July 5th (Montreal/Hamilton).
- July 28th home game against the Stampeders before heading on the road for an August 2nd visit to Edmonton.
- October 8th home game against Edmonton before going on the road in Winnipeg on October 13th.
Back to this past Friday. The Riders had just a five-day rest, but the Redblacks were playing their first game of the season with an offence that has had just a handful of pre-season snaps with Trevor Harris at quarterback. They were at just as much of a disadvantage and were able to overcome their shortcomings.
Finally, the signing of defensive tackle Mic’hael Brooks may mean a change to how the Riders look on both sides of the football.
If Brooks is in shape and able to be inserted into the lineup, he would be the lone American defensive tackle and would be in a rotation with a trio of Canadians (Evans, Steele, and Henry).
This would mean a change with the ratio. With how well Bladek is starting to develop, look for him to take all the snaps at right guard if Brooks is placed in the lineup.
- What a difference a year makes for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. In back-to-back games in Alberta last season, Hamilton dropped both games by a combined score of 93-29. This year, they split their games via a great 38-21 performance in Edmonton on Friday.
Jeremiah Masoli looks great running the offence and the defence was able to stifle two of the best quarterbacks in the CFL. Calgary’s Bo Levi Mitchell and Edmonton’s Mike Reilly combined for 583 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions for a paltry QBR of just 88.
- What was supposed to be a fantastic night for the Toronto Argonauts, quickly turned into a nightmare. In front of a great crowd of almost 17-thousand fans, the Argos laid an egg on Saturday. Calgary rolled up a 41-7 victory with an offence that couldn’t be stopped and a stingy defence.
What made it worse was the unfortunate injury to Ricky Ray near the end of the third quarter where he was carried off the field on a stretcher. It was announced late Sunday that Ray had feeling in all his extremities but remained in hospital.
Let’s all hope one of the greatest of all time makes a complete recovery and makes it back to the field.
Canadian to watch in the NCAA
DB – North Carolina (Jr.)
6’2”, 200 lbs.
High School – Episcopal Maroon (Alexandra, Va.)
The true junior will be starting at corner for the Tar Heels to begin the 2018 season at Cal. He was inserted into the defence as a true freshman in 2016 and in two seasons has started eight of 22 games. Originally from Ottawa, Rene finished his high school career at Episcopal Maroon in Alexandra, Virginia where he was a four-star recruit by Rivals, ESPN and Scout.com.