Riders Get Lucky

September 27, 2018 - 11:32am

There is a sports cliché that sometimes teams need to win ugly at times if they are going to get to a championship. Not all wins are what would be regarded as aesthetic triumphs, but the 2018 version of the Saskatchewan Roughriders with a good defense that has its lapses, special team’s that have been consistently good with returns for touchdowns and an offense that, when is mediocre, maybe gives the Riders a chance.

The Riders’ 30-29 win gave them a step up on their competition in the west with Montreal coming up this week.

However, the Riders should not make the Winnipeg mistake of thinking they can only do enough to win and pile up enough wins and who knows…maybe they can lose on the last play of the western final this year instead of the eastern final.

The curious case of Zach Collaros continues with a great first half where he looked to finally justify his contract, only to disappear in the second. However, while it is easy to lay blame at his feet, this is increasingly appearing to be a situation where the blame can extend to the relatively inexperienced receiving corps and probably the play selection of offensive coordinator Stephen McAdoo.

Strangely enough, the Riders offensive line, a problem at the start of the season, is now leading the league in protecting the quarterback. So it’s not really fair for armchair coaches and general managers to blame the offensive line.

So the CFL trade deadline appears to be coming up on October 10 and it seems Montreal is looking to jettison players to pick up trade picks in what seems to be a rebuild. Montreal traded a bunch of picks, especially in the Johnny Manziel trade, and with Manziel set to make more money next year, it seems Kavis Reed has thrown in his lot with Manziel but needs to find younger and more importantly cheaper players who can fit under the salary cap.

So the Als traded Tyrell Sutton, who has arguably been one of the most effective offensive players for Montreal to BC who has been arming themselves for a run to the playoffs. Sutton gives BC a more consistent running game, which is interesting considering they have Jeremiah Johnson, but then Travon Vann is on the one game injury list so BC may be considering getting a more reliable ground game, especially as BC makes a run for the playoffs.

There is the possibility Montreal may move more players in an effort to restock the cupboard, and there is the likelihood Montreal will see the retirements of John Bowman and Chip Cox this off-season. If there is a plan, it’s pretty hard to make one out from here.

Meanwhile the BC Lions are making a push for the playoffs, maybe for third place in the west, but definitely looking to secure the crossover spot in the east. The addition of Sutton, combined with the acquisition of DeVone Posey increases the weapon options for the Lions.

The Lions are probably hoping their amazing win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats is an omen of things to come. Jonathon Jennings had one of his better games winning a top performer award and the news out of BC has Travis Lulay throwing the ball in practice, which is impressive considering he injured his shoulder a few weeks back.

BC loading up on talent is not just to push the Lions back into the playoffs in what is expected to be Wally Buono’s last season. It is also meant to compensate for the loss of Emmanuel Arceneaux who underwent knee surgery and has to keep his weight off his leg for the next six weeks or so, effectively eliminating him from regular season play.

Jennings is an interesting study of a quarterback who came in and threw and ran effectively until he got injured and then seemingly lost his confidence. The other explanation is that for the most part, rookie quarterbacks have an initial advantage because there isn’t much film on them. Then as defensive coordinators look at how offensive coordinators utilize their quarterbacks’ initial strengths, they game plan to take those advantages away and if the quarterback is smart or adaptable, they find another way to beat you. If they are not, their career won’t last very long.

The CFL has expanded the practice roster to allow teams to audition players they would like to bring back next year and BC signed Tyler Davis, a receiver; and Keon Lyn, a defensive back and added them to the roster. Presumably if Davis shows potential and if the Lions make the playoffs, Davis may prove useful to the Lions offensive hopes.

The Lions also signed and then released kicker Quinn Van Glyswyk, a former Rider draft pick in an effort to diversify their kicking game. Van Glyswyk then went to Toronto who auditioned him and then declined to sign him. Van Glyswyk was highly regarded coming out of UBC, but he may have to be patient and persistent like Brent Lauther, the Riders kicker, who waited five years for his chance.

The Lions are in fourth and nicely positioned for a playoff run whether it is through the east or west. There are some similarities between this season and 2011 when BC stumbled out the gate and went on to win the Grey Cup. Which means if this season follows that script, Buono will go out on top as a legend.

In Edmonton the Eskimos stumbled against Ottawa and have to be looking at their visit to Regina as a way to get into second place and host a playoff game. The good news is that Edmonton are getting some players back from the injury list like DB Arjen Colquhoun and OL Tommie Draheim and put DB Brandyn Thompson on the practice roster to further rehab a torn Achilles injury They also added five players to their practice roster including LB Taylor Reed who won a Grey Cup with Edmonton in 2016.

A similar story of getting players back from injury is happening in Calgary with the potential return of receiver Eric Rogers from the injury list. In the event he isn’t ready to come back, expect to see receiver Markeith Ambles activated from the practice roster.

In Winnipeg the euphoria over beating Montreal to snap a four game winning streak should make an impending loss to Edmonton in Edmonton all the more painful. Bomber fans must be wondering how they let this season get away from them and while other teams are either getting injured players back, or resting players, the Bombers are facing injury woes of their own.

On the good news front, it seems Andrew Harris is back practicing with the team after presumably taking a vet’s day off this week. However Nic Demski, the Swiss Army knife of football players, hasn’t yet practiced. His place is being taken by Daniel Petermann and receiver Darvin Adams was also held out with an unknown injury.

Of potentially more concern for the Bombers was the status of Adam Bighill, the middle linebacker who was held out but then participated in practices later on in the week. If Bighill is out, that just adds to the options for the Eskimo offense, assuming they found a way to consistently fire on all cylinders without incurring some of their league leading penalty totals – perhaps a reflection of the madcap misadventures of Jason Maas, destroyer of inanimate objects.

The Toronto Argonauts should have beaten the Riders, but inconsistent kicking did them in starting with an apparent injury to kicker Zack Medeiros. Apparently Van Glyswyk was not the answer either, so as the Argos sport a 3-9 record, they need to at least split half of their remaining six games to have a shot at making the playoffs.

The Argos announced that quarterback Ricky Ray was done for the year, stating the obvious for anyone who saw him go down at the start of the season and get taken off the field by stretcher. Adding to the Argo woes is middle linebacker Bear Woods is out, apparently long term. Let’s not forget the Argos go to Calgary for yet another rematch of last year’s Grey Cup this weekend.

On the positive side, the Argos are looking to start Dexter McClusker, a former NFL Pro Bowler who will be asked to spark the Argos return game. He will also back up James Wilder Jr. at running back, which is interesting how considering how Wilder was benched at times during the Argo Rider game.

Then the Argos activated linebacker Jeff Knox Jr. who should be a competent fill-in for Woods in the linebacker corps. They also added kicker Felix Menard-Briere who has been kicking around the CFL starting with getting drafted by Winnipeg.

Toronto also added quarterback Greg McGhee of Howard University to the roster, and when you hear stories of how James Franklin is perhaps not as studious as one might have wanted from a quarterback, it is either Trestman looking for depth or perhaps auditioning potential replacements should the Argos decide to part ways with Franklin.

Those in the Toronto media who are even aware of the Argonauts are speculating with the teams’ record, a housecleaning may come at the end of the season. I see that as somewhat unlikely, perhaps last season was the aberration for the Argos, winning the Grey Cup, considering their record the year before, and this season would be considered the logical extension of the team’s record the year before.

In Hamilton it will be interesting to see the effects of the team’s loss against the BC Lions in a game Hamilton should have won. Perhaps the reality is that Hamilton is like Ottawa, an inconsistent team that sometimes under performs on a regular basis.

The Tiger-Cats made some interesting moves this week, the first being just going with two quarterbacks instead of three on the roster. The move was made for what was described as salary cap reasons, which at first glance might make one think Hamilton is pretty close to being over the salary cap.

The truth is with Hamilton’s injuries in the receiving corps, the team will need room to bring in reinforcements and leave enough room in case there are injuries in other areas of the teams. Receiver Terrence Toliver was put on concussion protocol following the BC game, but Head Coach June Jones indicates that Toliver may be practicing with the team as early as Thursday and would be available for the team in its rematch with the Lions on Saturday.

Another reinforcement will be Brandon Banks who is said to be ready to come back from a groin injury suffered in the Labour Day rematch with Toronto.

There are a couple of cautionary notes on the Hamilton defense with defensive lineman Jamal Westerman listed as day to day with a sprained ankle. Westerman should be ready to go against BC in what might be an important game for the Ti-Cats to make ground on the Ottawa Redblacks. Defensive Lineman Jason Neill will be out with a pulled hamstring.

Meanwhile Ottawa is in first place and enjoying a bye week and Montreal, well, it’s a nice place to visit.

So this week We have Toronto going to Calgary and while Toronto is desperate to stay in the race to stave off the BC Lions, they are running into a Calgary team that is getting various players back and preparing to clinch a playoff spot with a win. While Duron Carter may get some more touches, it’s likely not going to be enough to get Toronto over the hump and so Calgary will win this one 32-21.

On Saturday the Lions go to Hamilton to complete the double bill and the prospects are pretty good for another exciting game. BC is somewhat in the drivers’ seat in the race for fourth spot over Winnipeg, and with the trade for Sutton, have beefed up their running game to deal with the colder conditions in November.

The interesting question is what kind of line-up Hamilton will field with the various questions in their receiving corps. The usual cliché is it’s tough to sweep a home and home series and that seems the right idea as Hamilton wins this one 28-25.

Then we have Winnipeg go to Edmonton and this will be interesting because of Winnipeg’s various question marks around their line-up and the Eskimos coming off a flat performance against Ottawa. On paper it would seem that Edmonton should have the advantage even though Winnipeg is coming off a win over Montreal – which doesn’t mean anything in the larger scheme of things unless you lose like the Riders did to Montreal earlier this season.

So while Edmonton should be favored, Winnipeg will be desperate for a win and with Eskimo players fighting each other in practice, the lack of discipline that has marked the Eskimos all season will likely kick in here. One thing to keep in mind is that BC has a game in hand on Winnipeg, although they each have six wins so Winnipeg needs to do something to salvage their season.

For that reason, Winnipeg wins a close one 28-26 but the true winners are the Eskimo fans who will benefit from reduced concession prices.

Finally on Sunday we have the Riders at Montreal. The Riders are sitting out receiver Naaman Roosevelt as a precautionary measure and will likely activate Kenny Shaw who has been on the practice roster for a month.

The trade of Sutton means the pressure is more on Johnny Manziel as he attempts to show he can still be a viable player. Fortunately for Montreal, the Riders have an offensive almost as offensive as Montreal’s and the deciding factor may well be the special teams unless the Riders defense pick up their collective socks and not treat this as a free space on the bingo card.

The Riders need to win this game to set up the Thanksgiving special with the Edmonton Eskimos. They will win, but it’s highly unlikely they will blow Montreal away – Riders win this one 28-21.

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