Monday, July 23, 2018
OUT OF THE TUNNEL: THE NEXT STEP
BY: RODPEDERSEN.COM STAFF
Can one quarter help a team take the next step in the evolution of a season? The Saskatchewan Roughriders are hoping their fantastic 3rd quarter in Thursday's 31-20 victory in Hamilton will.
The Riders had one of their best offensive quarters of the season with 159 yards from scrimmage (92 run/67 pass), forced a turnover that led to a touchdown (the blocked quick kick) and Christion Jones’ first punt return touchdown of the season. When all three phases are playing well this Roughrider team is scary.
The 2018 story arc is playing out very much like the 2017 season. In 2017 the Riders were 2-5 hosting the B.C. Lions in Week 8. The Green and White exploded for 29 first half points en route to a 41-8 victory and that started a streak where they won eight of their last 11 games.
Brandon Bridge was solid and mistake-free in Hamilton, the defensive back shut down a solid receiving core, and there were big plays on offence. These were some of the obvious things that stood out, but two others went under the radar.
The defensive interior of Zack Evans, Mic’hael Brooks and Eddie Steele was great at occupying space allowing the banged-up Rider linebackers to make plays and other than a 21-yard run, John White was held to 3-yards per carry.
The other is something we at Out of the Tunnel love to see; pounding the rock. Even if you take away Marcus Thigpen’s 80-yard scamper, the running back duo of Jereome Messam and Tre Mason rolled up 121 yards at 5.5 yards per carry.
All the above will be needed to knock off the undefeated Calgary Stampeders Saturday night at Mosaic Stadium.
It’s a simple formula on offence; don’t make the big mistake and keep running the ball. The Stampeder defence is the best defence in the CFL in almost all categories, but if the Riders can establish a decent run game, it will make things easy for Brandon Bridge.
More of the same is needed on defence which means create turnovers, lock-down the solid Stampeder receivers and most importantly, get in the face of Bo Levi Mitchell. One of the most resilient (and well protected) quarterbacks has taken some hits this season and will be a bit hobbled as the takes the field.
Most say the CFL season truly begins on Labour Day, but with both Saskatchewan and Calgary both playing West Division teams for the first time on Saturday, the season really begins Saturday night. A home division win will get the Riders to within two points of the Stampeders before heading on the road to Edmonton.
The CFL world was turned on its ear on Sunday night. The Montreal Alouettes were tired of the poor quarterback play and decided to roll the dice and pick up former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
The Als also acquired a pair of offensive lineman in starting left tackle Tony Washington and reserve Canadian guard Landon Rice.
In exchange the Tiger-Cats receive first-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 CFL Drafts (they didn’t have their 2019 as it was given up when selecting Tyler Johnstone in the recent supplemental draft) as well as Canadian defensive end Jamaal Westerman and receiver/returner Chris Williams.
This is an interesting deal with a few questions.
Montreal gave up a lot to get a quarterback that may only play the rest of the 2018 season before looking south for some NFL offers. For this to happen, Manziel has to play well, and if he plays well, that is a good thing for the Alouettes in yet another weak East Division.
Let’s hope with a familiar face in head coach Mike Sherman (who was the head coach at Texas A&M when Manziel redshirted as a freshman in 2011) the tutelage of Kahari Jones and a little time will help Manziel adjust to an incredibly difficult situation in Montreal. If Manziel succeeds on the field and maybe more importantly off, this is nothing but great for all involved.
Montreal also gets the offensive line help they have been looking for. Washington will instantly start at tackle with the Alouettes and Rice will push to start at guard.
For the Tiger Cats, receiving first-round picks is great to either keep stocking their Canadian talent or as assets in future trades. Westerman is another Canadian that will help add depth on a defensive line that already has some strong Canadians.
The interesting one is Chris Williams. The former Ticat returns home to where he had one of the best offensive seasons in CFL history. In 2012 Williams had over 1000 yards receiving with 11 touchdowns and over 1000 yards in punt return yards with five touchdowns. He adds another tool in a banged-up Hamilton receiving core, but once everyone is healthy do they need two incredibly similar players in Williams and Brandon Banks?
This is a headline-making deal in a season that has lacked any true off-field excitement and the fun part is just starting.
Canadian to watch in the NCAA:
WR – Tennessee (So.)
High School – St. Thomas Aquinas (Florida)
Palmer was put in the Volunteer lineup as a true freshman in 2017 playing in all 12 games and starting in five. In 2017 he caught nine passes for 98 yards
2018 will be one of more change for Palmer with a new head coach in Jeremy Pruitt and an offensive coordinator Tyson Helton. He will also have some competition with a trio of juniors starting ahead of him.
Palmer is one of two Canadians on the Volunteer roster. The other is future NFL pick, defensive tackle Jonathan Kongbo.