Didn't want to start a new thread just for this, so am putting it here for interesting early game day reading.
Expecting the Riders' Offence to go after the Cats' new MLB, Luc Mullinder who, during his CFL career, played for both teams, previews today game for fans in Saskatchewan:
BY: Luc Mullinder
It’s about dang time Rider Nation! Week 1!
The 2014 season kicked off hilariously with the Toronto Argos, and the best player in the CFL (according to the absolute geniuses at TSN), getting a mud hole stomped into ‘em by the new look Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Aside from a break down in special teams coverage that led to the Chad Owens TD, the game plan that Mike O’Shea and his staff put together was carried out to the point where the Argos looked like they were still in training camp…the beginning of training camp.
Oh well. The CFL is a marathon, and not a sprint. After a chance to watch the performance on film, I doubt the Argos come out looking like that again during week 2.
Let’s get to our squad though folks. The 2014 Saskatchewan Roughriders are finally primed to get this show on the road, and it starts Sunday vs. the Hamilton Ti-Cats (5:00 pm TSN, CKRM Rider Radio Network)
If you’ve been paying any attention to any of the previous contributions that Rod has so kindly added to his blog, the Riders will field a talented team that is going to have to learn on the fly. Every week, the goal will be to go 1-0, and every week, will require an entire 42 man effort.
Here are some points of interest that you can talk about while tailgating, or whatever it is you do, before the evening’s festivities get underway.
Keys to the Riders Offensive success: Obviously there are going to be a number of things that the Riders need to do to establish dominance offensively. With the new faces in the Roughrider air attack and the learning curve that will come along with that, our boys are going to have to establish the Line Of Scrimmage now and for the duration of the season. The front four of the Ti-Cats are a good group, however the positions behind the trenches, are questionable. The Ti-Cats will have to get guys in the face of #4 in order to quell the vertical threats that Durant has at his disposal, so expect a number of different looks. If Hamilton does come with extra attackers, our slots and backs are going to get plenty of quick targets.
• Ben Heenan and Xavier Fulton
The Ti-Cats have a good defensive front that features two exceptional Canadian DTs in Brian Bulcke and Ted Laurent. Over the course of the game, our hoggies will see a number of twists, stunts and blitzes, and the front five (and whatever RB is in) will have to work in harmony to keep someone from leaking through to our franchise player. The battle lies within those downs where Hamilton isn’t adding a blitzing player or twisting its front.
Our Offensive Tackles have to consistently win the one on one battles against two very solid ends in Brandon Boudreaux and Eric Norwood. Boudreaux isn’t a flashy guy, but he demonstrates a nice mix of speed and power that helped him put up 7 sacks in 11 games last year. The rest of the league noticed him, and he was an Eastern Conference All-Star for his efforts. Eric Norwood, is the smaller of the two Ends, but was a consistent presence in the Ti-Cat lineup last year. He’s more of a threat from a speed point of view, so hopefully, our guys can neutralize that speed by getting hands on him early in his approach, and utilize the exceptional footwork that both Fulton and Heenan have in their toolboxes.
• Challenge Frederic Plesius
Second year Middle Linebacker Frederic Plesius, is going to start…Congrats kid, now we are going to come at you! Now obviously this doesn’t mean the entire game plan is designed to see what Plesius is made out of, but it may be in George Cortez’ head to really test the scope of what the youngster can do.
The Riders boast the most physical O-line in the CFL and they make it no secret that the run game is a crucial part of their success (at least it was last year). I wouldn’t be surprised to see our interior trying to get those chip blocks to the 2nd level quickly or forcing Plesius to make a snap decision regarding his gap fill responsibility. One of the biggest concerns to Hamilton, should probably be the way that their new MLB plays in passing situations. How Frederic reacts to crossing routes and hook to curl combinations could result in huge chunks of yards for the green and white, should he react late, or make a bad decision.
Keys to Defensive Success: This team works on tearing the ball out and creating INTs relentlessly. The task on Sunday will be made easy if the Riders cause the turnovers they work so tirelessly on during practice. 2 (turnovers) they’re in it…4, they win it! But if the turnover battle doesn’t come to fruition, here’s a couple things that will help contribute to a ‘W’.
• Contain Zach Collaros
Right now, as Coach Chamblin alluded to during interviews this week, it’s hard to envision the way Hamilton plans to use the first year starter. There’s no film, so it’s kind of frustrating from a scheme standpoint. All there is to go with, is a theoretical value system that Kent Austin uses, and a defined skillset that Collaros has put on display during his previous outings. The good thing is that Richie Hall's defensive scheme is designed around making a team one dimensional. Zach Collaros is a creator. He has the ability to extend a play with his athleticism and arm, so the Riders have to ensure that they keep him in the pocket. This means disciplined vision on zone run reads, and an emphasis on not getting wheeled to high as a pass rusher.
If their QB is able to break out underneath a high pass rush, with no QB spy, it will make for a looong day, and put our 2nd level guys in the position of having to stay with their responsibilities or pursue the ball. Keeping Collaros in the pocket and forcing him to make ‘pocket QB’ decisions will favour our side heavily. There will be some opportunities out there for INTs if the Riders efficiently go about their business...
• Force Collaros to think fast
Granted, Collaros has played a fair amount of snaps in his young career, it behooves our defensive staff to continually put pressure on the young man. The Riders may throw a healthy number of extra defenders at the franchise, and it will be up to Collaros to prove that he can calmly check down, or hit the hot read consistently in order to gain the respect of an aggressive defence, and make them back off. It’s week 1, force the kids hand…Welcome to Rider Nation, there’s going to be someone coming at you until you give us a reason not to send them.
• Win 1st down
The Riders have the distinct advantage in the battle of the trenches. The Hamilton O-line has looked slow, old and lethargic during their pre-season games. They starters played pretty much all game during their last tilt, and allowed 9 sacks. Hamilton does, however, boast an all around threat at the RB spot, in CJ Gable. He is going to be a load to handle if the Riders can’t sniff out screens and draws early in the game, and realistically, their Oline is built more towards the run if anything. Ricky Foley and company need to continually put the Ti-Cats in 2nd and 6+ situations because the schemes that Richie Hall employs, mixed with the talent and athleticism that the SSK D-line possesses, is a mismatch vs. an older Ti-Cat group that can not be overstated.
Winning the Special Teams Battle
• If a team can win 2 out of the 3 phases of a football game (offense, defence and special teams), the likelihood of a favourable outcome is, well…awesome. Field position…Field position…Field Position. Starting at a great spot after a kick or forcing the Ti-Cats to come out of their own end, is going to mean a world of difference this week. Mosaic Stadium is the toughest place to play in the CFL and if Bob Dyce’s troops perform at the level they were able to reach last year, the Ti-Cats are in for a long game. The Riders are chalked full of young play makers at all levels of the kicking game. Young guys like Ainsworth, Peters, Pierzchalski and Steinhauer were flying around all over the place during the pre-season. I’m not sure as to the health of Paul Woldu, but, he is by far one of the premier gunners in the league. All special teams is, is DESIRE and WILL. If the Riders keep a team that is tirelessly coached by Jeff Reinbold at bay and locked into bad spots on Sunday, this game, may get ugly.
Sunday is going to be a great time. You guys have waited all winter for these guys to hit the field. There is no passion that exists that can match Mosaic Stadium during a Saskatchewan Roughrider football game. Yeah, the Hamilton Ti-Cats may come out and make some big plays and catch a couple lucky breaks, but that’s fine. This game, this season, this journey, will be a process. The Riders will divide things up into 18 weekly sub seasons, in which the goal is to go undefeated during that individual time frame.
Anyone expecting this year’s edition of the team to shoot out like they did last year, may be disappointed, depending on how heavily they invest themselves into that thought. There’s no way that anyone on the staff will guarantee you that they’ll go through this year undefeated.
What they will guarantee you is this. The staple of a Corey Chamblin coached ball club, is a fast, physical and mentally tough group of guys that are brought together in order to pursue one thing…A CHAMPIONSHIP. Not to be the kings of the regular season. Not to be the kings of the stat sheet. The goal is to win CHAMPIONSHIPS…
Cheers to the guys going 1-0.