Coach’s Challenge

It’s Year Three of the Chris Jones Plan, and the goal is to make it to the Grey Cup.

DON HEALY / REGINA LEADER-POST

Of course WINNING the Grey Cup remains the ultimate goal.

Last year the Riders came within 23 seconds of the championship game. In one of the odder East Division finals in recent memory, the Riders scored 18 points in the fourth quarter to storm back and take the lead, only to watch future Hall of Famer Ricky Ray pick the Rider defence apart and drive down the field for the winning touchdown.

Being so close – and yet so far – from the ultimate goal hopefully caused the coaching staff to reflect on its 2017 performance, as the same mistakes cannot be made this year if the Riders want to go through the West Division this season.

It all starts with Rider offensive coordinator Steve McAdoo.

I am not a McAdoo fan. (I think I even called for his firing after the East Final.) His schemes lack all imagination, his plays take too long to develop, and he refuses to use a running game to set up the passing game. As far as I’m concerned, there are far better offensive coordinators out there. But McAdoo has a close relationship with Chris Jones, so he’s not going anywhere.

Some will argue that the Riders’ offence sputtered at times in 2017 because of the guy throwing the ball. Kevin Glenn had a solid, if not great, first half of the season. Then he hurt his hand, missed a few games, and wasn’t the same. Brandon Bridge had a few good performances when he came in to jump start a sputtering offence, but by the end of the season, it was fairly clear that neither Glenn nor Bridge were helped by the lack of a running game.

Don’t believe me?  The Riders finished dead last in rushing in 2017.

Source: CFL Game Notes – Game 94, 2017

With Jerome Messam in the fold this season, McAdoo has zero excuses for not running the ball and creating a more balanced attack. Otherwise, teams will key on the Riders’ receivers and take away the passing game, leaving the Riders in second and long situations more often than not.

One thing McAdoo does not have control over is when the quarterbacks get pulled. The 2017 East Final was a lesson in how NOT to manage quarterbacks, as Jones yanked Kevin Glenn, only to put him back in when Bridge struggled. The two quarterbacks took turns throughout the rest of the game, leaving it difficult for either to his rhythm.  Here’s hoping that new quarterbacks coach Steve Walsh will be able to step in and keep Jones from making the same mistakes this season.

On the defensive side of the ball, Jones’ continual use of two and three man fronts drove many fans crazy last season, as it provided opposing quarterbacks with far too much time to deliver the football.  A revamped defensive line featuring perennial all-star and league sack leader Charleston Hughes opposite Willie Jefferson on the ends, along with Canadian Zach Evans at tackle, should be able to get pressure despite Jones’ tendency to drop linemen into coverage.  Jones is a guy who has a certain system; he finds guys to fit his system rather than tailoring his system to fit the skill sets of his players.  He may now have the players he needs for his system to create the havoc it’s supposed to for offenses.

The other major issue with Jones’ defense was that it was prone to caving in the waning minutes of games, allowing teams to drive the field and score game-winning points.  Remember the Ottawa game where Trevor Harris marched his team down the field for a game-winning field touchdown?  That game foreshadowed what happened in the final minute of the East Division Final.  This propensity is also a symptom of a lack of a pass rush.  In order to compete in the West Division, Jones needs a consistent pass rush in order to keep quarterbacks like Mike Reilly and Bo Levi Mitchell guessing.

Chris Jones’ coaching staff has seen little change over the past three years, which is a rare feat in the CFL.  He and his football operations staff have had carte blanche over the past three years to do whatever it takes to make the Riders successful.  This is the year that fans expect results.

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

east_preview

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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Week 5 Recap

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Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Owen.

Owen who?

0 and 5.

Needless to say, I QUIT.

(Figuratively speaking, of course.)

Not only did I go 1-3 this week, but my beloved Riders are a winless 0-5 and will likely be 0-7 after the next couple of games.It’s so frustrating to watch these Riders. The offence is playing quite well – yesterday aside – but the defence continues to absolutely SUCK.

I counted one Hamilton punt yesterday. One. Hamilton basically scored on nearly every offensive possession. And on three consecutive plays, the Ti Cats ran to the same side of the defence and three times they got big gains.

Yet the Riders were still in it going into the 4th quarter.

Then Kevin Glenn went down, the Riders couldn’t stop the Ti-Cats from marching down the field, and you knew the game was lost.

Is this as bad as 2011? ‘Cause it sure feels like this team has been Greg Marshall-ed.

And here’s a recap of this weekend’s games:

  • I have no idea what to make of these RODBLACKS.  One week they look like worldbeaters, and the next week they look like they’re a junior football team. Jon Cornhole broke his thumb, which means he won’t be able to suck his thumb when he’s having a temper tantrum.  It also means he’ll have to sit out for 6-8 weeks.  No doubt he will be pouting about how he won’t be the rushing king of the CFL this year, nor the Outstanding Canadian.  Boo freaking hoo.  The RODBLACKS finally got their passing game going, and now have a 3-2 record.  I don’t understand what’s happening in this league this year.
  • This game featured what may go down as the comeback of the year.  The Arblows were down 21-0, and yet they managed to not only erase that deficit but win the game.  The Next One (Trevor Harris) appears to be the real deal, which means the Arblows have an interesting situation on their hands: do you stick with The Next One or stay with The Current One (Ricky Ray)?  Or, do you trade one of them?  Hmmm…  (I can see Brendan Taman sitting in his office right now, figuring out which Canadian draft picks he should give away in a trade.)
  • This game was a sloppy mess as the rain poured and got sloppier as the mistakes piled up.  (Did I not say that there would be fumbles/mistakes galore?) When Free (Drew) Willy got hurt early in the second half and went down, so did the Bumblers’ hopes of winning that game.  As for the Schmoes, I still maintain that they’re not as good as their record indicates.  And MATTY ICE got benched in favour of James Franklin.  He’s really not that great of a QB.
  • Where do you even start with the Riders?  Sad Sack Collaros picked their defence apart, CJ Gable ran all ober the middle, and the Ti-Cats won the battle between the league’s best offence and the league’s best defence.  I feel badly for Kevin Glenn, who’d been playing so well up until yesterday.  You could tell something wasn’t quite right given the amount of passes he missed.  So who starts on Friday: Brett Smith or Tino Sunseri?  Oh wow.  I think I might skip watching that game…

Week 1 Recap

That was one of the most bizarre weeks of CFL football that I can recall in some time.

And I’ve watched A LOT of football.

As such, on Saturday night, I just about printed out all of my season previews for the sole purpose of BURNING THEM.

But I didn’t. We’re only one game in, and there’s a lot that can happen over the course of a CFL game, let alone a season.

And in that vein, let’s have a moment of silence for the loss of Darian Durant for the season…

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What devastating news. We wish Darian and Doug, the name I’ve randomly given to his Achilles, all the best in their recovery.

Rider fans, including the writer, are likely still in a state of disbelief this morning. Coach Chamblin swore at a reporter at the post-game news conference. And the team took a number of hits besides the season-ending injury to Durant that will create major ratio issues. The Riders’ depth is going to be tested early, and it won’t be pretty.

I think I may cry.

And I may need to write a new preview. It may be cathartic.

However, we must move forward, although I admit that my enthusiasm for this CFL season has been significantly dampened by what transpired at Mosaic Stadium on Saturday night.

I was a dismal 1-3 with my predictions this week.  Here’s a recap of the weekend’s games:
  • The RODBLACKS surprised everyone by beating Les Alouettes, although let’s be honest – the Als losing both of their QBS – namely Goldilocks Crompton and Fever LeFevour – was a boon for the RODBLACKS. The Als will need to find two QB quick. Does Tino Sunseri get a call?
  • The Kitty Cats nearly did the improbable, beating the Stumps at home. But terrible play calling in the waning minutes of the game allowed the Stumps to kick a 50 yard field goal for the win. Ugh.
  • What the…?? The Arblows absolutely LIT. UP. the Schmoes’ defence for 400+ yards of offence en route to a 26-11 win. No Name Harris threw for over 300 yards and the Schmoes lost Broke Pierce Jr. (Mike Reilly) for a significant amount of time. Major injuries to both the Schmoes’ QB and RB spell trouble.
  • I do not recall the last time I saw such a pathetic display of tackling by the Riders. The Riders made the Bumblers look like Ricky Ray and Charles Roberts in their prime. And I also swore Richie Hall was back with those 10 yard cushions the defence gave to the Bumblers’ receivers.  Major injuries to DD, as mentioned above, and starting Canadians Nic Demski and Shea Emry (both possibly 6-gamed) put the Riders in a whole heap of trouble. Watch for an airlift of QBs and more Canadian players this week.