2016 CFL Season Preview: Part 2 of 4 – East Division

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For many years, the CFL’s East Division was often referred to as the LEAST Division – especially by yours truly.

But the 2015 season proved to be a season where the word ‘parity’ was tossed around a lot. And for good reason.  Three of the East Division’s four teams finished with better records than three of the West Division’s five teams.  The REDBLACKS had 12 wins, while the Argos and Ti-Cats had 10 wins a piece.  In comparison, only Edmonton and Calgary managed to amass more than 10 wins in 2015.

Weird.  VERY weird.

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Rider Review – Week 2: Close, But Not Quite

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Appearances can be deceiving.

For instance, look at the statistics for the Rider offence in this game:

587 total yards, 477 yards passing, 110 yards rushing,  and 4 TDs

Impressive, not?

Would it surprise you, though, that even with those gaudy numbers, the Riders still managed to lose?

Another stellar effort from the offence was stymied by a defence that could not put pressure on the Arblows’ defensive line, nor figure out how to cover the backfield.  The result?  A 42-40 loss in double OT.

After the game, Coach Chamblin put the blame squarely on the offence.  His comments focused on the Riders’ inability to find the end zone when deep in opposing territory and an ill-timed interception.  As for his defence, though?  A defence that allowed the Arblows to march down the field and score the game-tying TD in the remaining seconds of the game?  Apparently it’s on the right track.

For Coach Chamblin, appearances are deceiving, as he clearly does not see what everyone else does.

Now for Things That Worked and Things That Didn’t.

THINGS THAT WORKED

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1. Passing game: Kevin Glenn, whom I’m now only going to refer to as KG, threw for nearly 500 yards.  When’s the last time a QB threw for that many yards in a loss?  (I don’t know.  Do you?)  He showed resilience after throwing an interception midway through the 4th quarter by leading the offence down field near the end of the game for a go ahead TD.  He also engineered two TD drives in OT.

2. Running game: Jerome Messam had another solid game with nearly 100 yards on the ground.  Dear football gods: You’ve already taken Darian away – please let Jerome stay healthy!  The only mark on the scoresheet was a fumble by Anthony Allen.

3. Ryan Smith: This kid’s gonna be a star.  His amazing somersault of a catch in the 4th quarter brought Mosaic to its feet, and his 8 receptions for 174 yards and a TD put the CFL on notice.

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4. Receiving coreI can’t think of one dropped pass.  Another solid outing by this group.

5. Kicking game: Paul McCallum nailed 4 field goals and Ray Early continued to impress with a punting average of 59 yards (somewhat wind-aided).  No longer do I cringe when the Riders are punting or kicking field goals.

6. Punt/kickoff coverage: A day when Chad Owens doesn’t have a big return is a good day for a coverage team.

THINGS THAT DIDN’T

1. Pass rush: You why it didn’t work?  BECAUSE IT WAS NON-EXISTENT.  A game where John Chick isn’t even mentioned is not a good game.  In the ‘new’ CFL where defenders cannot cover receivers as they once did, a defence requires a pass rush in order to be aggressive.  Otherwise, your secondary is left trying to cover receivers that will undoubtedly either get open or draw a pass interference flag.  The defensive line was supposed to be one of the Riders’ strengths, and through two games it’s been less than ordinary.

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2. Secondary coverage: I don’t like to give Glen Suitor a lot of credit, but I couldn’t help but agree with him later in the game as he continually drew the viewers’ attention to the big hole left in the middle of the secondary because Tyron Brackenridge (TBrack) was playing so far back.  The Arblows attacked that hole over and over again, leading to long drives and TDs, especially in OT.  The soft zone defence that the Riders have been playing over the last two games isn’t so much soft as completely porous.  I don’t know if defenders are scared of drawing flags or what the issue is, but again, there’s no aggressiveness in the secondary, and that was its calling card last year.

3. Time Management: When you have the ball with 1:10 left on the clock and it’s 1st and Goal, you DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT HURRY UP AND SNAP THE BALL.  What do you do instead?  Well, first you line up and get the clock running.  Then you wait until the 20 second clock counts down to 1 and you then you snap the ball and fall forward.  Then you line up and do the same thing again.  Then you line up for a field goal.  You wait until the 20 second clock counts down to 1 again, and you kick the field goal, leaving about 10 seconds left in the game.  Then you kickoff the ball, stop the returner, and then let the opposing team try a Hail Mary, which will more than likely fail. THAT is what you do.

4. Discipline: Two facemasking penalties on the offensive line.  A clipping penalty that warrants supplementary discipline.  Many offsides (TBrack – you need to practice the timing on your safety blitz).  Roughing the passer.  Pass interference.  Too many men.  It’s tough to win football games when you’re negating big plays by taking penalties.

OFFENSIVE STAR: TIE – #5 Kevin Glenn, QB and #2 Ryan Smith, WR

I talked about the great games both of these guys had above.  They’re developing chemistry, and it’ll only get better as the season goes along.  It’s nice to have another speedy threat on the field to bring some of the coverage away from Weston Dressler.

DEFENSIVE STAR: #50 – Jake Doughty, LB

No one on defence really deserve a star, but kudos to the rookie who made an acrobatic catch in order to get his first interception in his first start.

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SPECIAL TEAMS STAR: #15 – Paul McCallum, PK

The 45 year old went 4/4 in his first game action this season, and like usual, it looked effortless.

NEXT UP: @ BC. The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Riders as they travel west to take on the Cowardly Lions.  As both teams heavily rely on their aerial attacks, this game could be a bit of a shoot out.