BY: RODPEDERSEN.COM STAFF
Losing is misery; winning is sweet relief.
After listening to the post-game shows and the Sportscage call-ins as well as sensing the tone of social media posts, this is the feeling that is starting to creep in after the first seven weeks of the season for Rider fans.
That’s the incredible pressure Chris Jones and his staff are under right now. Now midway through his third season of the rebuild, the heat is on in the Wheat Province after back-to-back losses to West Division foes.
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Thursday was one of the best wire-to-wire games in the CFL this season. Big hits, big plays, fantastic individual efforts and solid play across the board.
The Riders and Eskimos are very similar with the exception of one thing: the big plays on offence. The Riders finally had a huge gain on a fantastic play by Duron Carter with an underthrown ball by Zach Collaros that turned into the Riders' longest pass-play for a touchdown this season. Jordan Williams-Lambert picked up 29 yards on a quick pass-play early in the game and Tre Mason had that sparkling 41-yard scamper later in the game.
The Eskimos had five completions of 20+ yards which helped pick up 23 of their 26 points.
But it wasn’t the high-volume yardage plays that were big. It was also the simple plays that turned out to be big.
While Edmonton was able to plow in from short-yardage with ease into the end zone, the Riders needed all three plays to get into the end zone from one-yard out in the first quarter and then were stoned twice on second and third down from the one-yard line late in the third quarter that ended up being the turning point of the game.
Even with these tough losses to divisional foes, there are signs that this team is ready to turn the corner, but the next 11 weeks will be crucial.
- Zach Collaros showed signs that he can lead this team to a possible home-playoff date. The game in Edmonton was his best as a Rider (keeping in mind that was his first game action in over a month!) and if the offence can mix in the odd deep throw and use the middle of the field a bit more, Collaros will return to his 2015 form.
- Even without the interception numbers (just three this season), the Rider defensive backs have been very good. Jovon Johnson is an ageless wonder and has been in lock-down mode for the majority of the season and if Nick Marshall can continue his stellar debut CFL season those interception numbers will come.
- The Riders defensive line might be one of the best in the CFL. They now have 16 sacks this season and with the addition of Mic’hael Brooks, the run defence (along with the great play by Sam Eguavoen) has not allowed a 100-yard rusher all season.
- From game one to game seven, no unit has improved more than the offensive line. They were feeling the heat from the media and fans alike after the first two games of the season. Now…crickets. In Rider Nation, silence is roaring approval. They didn’t allow a sack of Collaros Thursday night.
- One thing that will be tested will be the Riders' depth. They have had a pair of bye weeks in their first nine weeks of the season, and now it will be eleven straight games without a break. Major injuries will happen, and they will happen in key positions. When a player does go down, will that next man up be able to fill in and fill in without impacting other spots on the depth chart?
- The Green & White's next foe will again be the undefeated Calgary Stampeders on Sunday, August 19th at Mosaic Stadium. Both teams will be coming off a bye-week.
After how Calgary has looked the past few weeks and how Saskatchewan played in Edmonton Thursday night, look for the Riders to hand Calgary their first loss of the season.
- Johnny Manziel’s first CFL game may have been one of the more-wretched by a quarterback in recent memory, but he had zero help.
Manziel wasn’t by any means good but he didn’t receive any help from the rest of the offence. He had zero help from his coaching staff and was thrown into the fire by the pressures of a front office looking for a quick buck.
He had all of eleven days between being traded to the Alouettes before being pushed into action (his first ever CFL regular season action and first game action in two years) and it was evident Manziel wasn’t ready. Manziel shouldn’t bear the whole brunt of what happened. It should be spread far and wide on an Alouette organization that is still, from outside appearances, spiralling out of control.
There were also many blaming TSN for pushing the narrative of “Johnny Football”. But if you're a CFL fan you know that this is what TSN does…to a fault.
- TSN has improved their on-screen product in 2018 by adding Henry Burris, Davis Sanchez and Jim Barker to their panel, changing up the play-by-play booth combo’s and even taking a chance with the Thursday Night Football program.
One thing that TSN still has a difficult time doing is adjusting to their in-game and game-to-game narrative. Once their production crew picks the one or two story-lines, they seem to have a difficult time changing on the fly as the game changes.
A lot of it comes down to what pre-packaged video and graphics they have created. But in the booth as games evolve from quarter to quarter, and as an overall product game to game to game, the next step in the CFL on TSN evolution is to not ride-or-die on a handful of season narratives.
- Pro Football Hall of Famer Terrell Owens, at age 44, worked out for the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Sunday in Tennessee. What's the end game here?
Canadian to watch in the CFL
DE – Penn State (Rs. Soph.)
High School – Lake Forest Academy (Illinois)/Brampton Bulldogs (OVFL)
Joseph saw the field for the first time as a redshirt freshman with the Penn State Nittany Lions in 2017. In limited action along the defensive line, he picked up 7.5 total tackles, but more impressively had 2.5 sacks.
He will have to claw for playing time in 2018 on one of the top defences in the Big-10.
Joseph comes from a football family: his brother is former Winnipeg first-rounder and current Montreal Alouette Faith Ekakitie and is the cousin of Calgary Stampeder defensive tackle Ese Mrabure.