I disagree

GROUND ATTACKS

Monday, April 24, 2006 - 09:00AM

Rouge, White & Blue

By Jack B. Bedell,

Anyone requiring proof that a healthy running game is one of the keys to success in the CFL should take a look at Edmonton’s season after the arrival of Troy Davis. Or they could always ask Anthony Calvillo how much easier his play-calling became after Robert Edwards started piling up 100-yard games.

Aggressive running games provide changes of pace to keep pass rushers off guard. Whether it’s the solid possession running of a big back like B.C.’s Antonio Warren or Calgary’s Joffrey Reynolds, or the gashing speed of scatbacks like Winnipeg’s Charles Roberts and Toronto’s John Avery, effective running can break any defensive scheme down over the course of a game giving quarterbacks time and space to work.

There are new ball carriers all over the league heading into the 2006 season. Here’s a look at how I think they’ll stack up by season’s end:

  1. Montreal Alouettes

Robert Edwards established himself as a premier performer in 2005. With Edwards, former PAC-10 standout Sultan McCullough, and returning veteran Eric Lapointe, the Als are sure to have a formidable ground game in 2006.

  1. Calgary Stampeders

Even with the Stamps vaunted aerial assault dominating the game plan, Joffrey Reynolds still managed to be among the league leaders in rushing yards in 2005. Now that Henry Burris has even more weapons in his passing game, Reynolds’ production may fall off a bit, but he’s too talented to taper off much.

  1. Hamilton Tiger-Cats

The combination of Josh Ranek and Corey Holmes is sure to add some serious punch to Hamilton’s run game once coordinator Joe Paopao figures out how to distribute the rock. Ranek’s forte has always been ripping off huge chunks of yards on carries up the middle and off the short passing game. With an invigorated front line and familiarity with the system, he should have no problem continuing his production in Steeltown. If Holmes can contribute on offence as well as special teams, the Ticats will be hard to contain on the ground.

  1. Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Charles Roberts is the CFL’s premier little back. He’s got a lethal combination of speed and toughness, and he’ll need both while the Bombers adjust to coach Berry’s system. Look for Roberts to carry the load while the offence gets untracked.

  1. Edmonton Eskimos

Ricky Ray had to feel like he had fallen into a meat grinder with all the pass rush he faced before Troy Davis came over from Hamilton. Now that Davis is locked up for the near future, the Esks are sure to pick up where they left off in 2005 with their rushing attack. Don’t underestimate the value of Davis’ blocking to Edmonton’s offence either.

  1. B.C. Lions

Antonio Warren sometimes gets lost in the shuffle when the league’s top backs are discussed, but his production over the last few years is as good as anyone’s. With a better O-Line, Warren could easily lead the CFL in rushing. If Dave Dickenson loses any extended time to injury in 2006, the Lions will have to lean heavily on Warren to get them where they want to go.

  1. Saskatchewan Roughriders

The addition of a 1000-yard rusher at pivot should warrant a higher spot in this list for Gang Green, but how Kerry Joseph and Kenton Keith mesh is simply too big a question. Keith’s sure to suffer from the loss of Corey Holmes as well. Holmes and Keith were an excellent one-two punch in the ‘Riders attack, and while there’s little doubt Joseph will more than replace that production, there’s bound to be period of adjustment before everything clicks.

8) Toronto Argonauts

Even though the additions of Keith Stokes and former XFL standout Saladin McCullough are sure to help the Argos’ ground game, the inconsistency of injury-prone John Avery and the status of Sean Millington leave too much doubt for Toronto to be ranked any higher here. When healthy, Avery is a dominant player, but that “when� has been more of an “if� during Avery’s time in Toronto.

UP NEXT

In a few days, I’ll take a look at offensive lines around the league as teams gear up for training camp. Until then, take care.


I don't know about the rest of you, but whenever I read this guys I have to say What??

How does the team with the best rushing attack in the league last year go to seventh??? The O-line is still close to the best if not the best. Kenton Kieth is injury prone, but he is still a hell of a football player and able to break it at any time, and yes we lost Corey Holmes, but we also gained Kerry Joseph who rushed for more yards than Corey did last year. Also gained supposedly one hell of a fullback in the dispersal draft. And we have Dominique Dorsey.

Where did they get this guy?? why do we have to have this rouge white and blue stuff. This is a Canadian Game, why not have Canadian analysts.

I have noticed a bias toward the Riders all along with this guy, and I think its kind of ridicuous.

Oh well.

(And no where am I saying the Riders should be #1, but with the o-line they have i don't think you can put them lower then 3)

Hmmm, I'd put Saskatchewan ahead of BC's running game.

I think Billy, he is speculating, just like all of us are. With all the player movements, free agents, dispersal drafts, it's really a wild guess. Anything "on Paper" is really just an opinion.

In reality with all the personel changes in the CFL it will be a "crap shoot" for picking teams and their finish.

Also Billy do you not think the guy is unbiased in his writings!

I am not sure he means it as a ranking as opposed to just the order he listed each team!

actually, if I remember correctly he's said in the past that he's an Als fan..... and I would have to agree with Billy that it's highly unlikely that the team that's been leading in rushing the past few years is all of a sudden going to drop to seventh in an eight team league....

He said the Riders may have warranted a higher spot on the list, so he is definitely ranking each team's running game.

I'm not sure what you mean here. Are you asking me a question? Are you agreeing with me? Or disagreeing with me?

I guess you are right but like any prediction it is only the authors opinion

I am disagreeing with you Billy. The reason is the guy is not forming his reports by favoring any team. And really that is great to have. You or many of us may not like some his reports because we feel differently about what he has stated but the fact is he does not have a favorite team. So really do not get bent over and I am sure you are not.

this guy is full of it there all wrong the als wont be 1st it would be the bombers then ticats and so on

and i cant remember wich other acticle he wrote it said the bombers will be 7th out of the 8th teams that bull at least 4th place

And why is is wrong because you said so. Where is your proof? Has the Bombers won games in 2006 yet! The guy is making an opinion with out biased. In otherwords he does not favor any team. Where as you have your team winning the GC before they played a game this year. If you do not see the difference then I suggest you go to school and ask your teacher the difference!

go eat some beef

Billy Its His Opinion And we have to respect that. Yes i think he should have put them higher but thats his choice and he can do what he wants.

If Barrett and his new OC figure out how to use Szarka properly(remember he ran right down the throat of Alouettes late last year), the Rider running game can still be a force. Let's not forget they also have Neal Hughes, who has the potential to be a great running back, and he is Canadian to boot. We have one the best o-lines in the CFL, so i would say Sask should have been ranked much higher, I would have put them at #3 and pushed everyone else down a notch from there.

First, thanks for reading the article. As with any type of prediction, I'll probably look really foolish in two months (if not immediately!). Mainly, I based the list on a combination of the momentum at the end of the year as I saw it (read just another fan of the game trying to figure things out) and off-season moves to this point.

I agree with 'Riders fans who are proud of their rushing game. I think it has the potential to be phenomenal. Of the eight teams, though, Saskatchewan's running game underwent the biggest change this off-season, IMO. I just can't help feeling it's going to take some time to get Joseph and Keith comfortable sharing the offence. I also feel that Joseph will pile up more yards passing than the 'Riders' offence has gotten the past few years.

Hamilton made serious changes, but all of the improvements came with a degree of familiarity (Paopao and Ranek, for example). Winnipeg has the new system under Berry, but Roberts runs to daylight and will get his yards while the pivots are sorting themselves out.

If I'm wrong, I promise it's due to misjudgment, not prejudice. I really do try to be unbiased in the column, but like all of you, I have my favorites, too. (Saskatchewan happens to be one of them! As are the Als.)

Jack

P.S.--And please don't hold my nationality against me. I'm a true fan of the CFL regardless of where I was born.

BBfan12
Let me explain something to you.
What the author gave was his opinion!
An opinion is A belief or conclusion held with confidence but not substantiated by positive knowledge or proof:
His opinion cannot be wrong, nor can yours. He probably is biased but so are you. Maybe the bombers will win the cup maybe they will finish dead last!
The thing is that the last time I checked, you were entitled to your opinion and he his.

The Riders have that same degree of familiarty with Condell and one of their top rushers in Joseph, the only thing different is Keith. Yes they lost Holmes but they did gain a rusher who had more yards than Holmes. They also have arguably one of the best offensive line in the CFL and the rushing game always starts with good blocking. I'm not saying they are number one (I would actually give that title to Hamilton with Ranek (who is superb when catching the ball and Holmes who can be very elusive). And neither would I say they have the best back in the game (that honour goes to Charles Roberts). But with their offensive line and two great rushers in Joseph and Keith (and Szarka who can be a threat if given the ball) I would put them at number two. No one else can give the same punch, offensive line, good running back, good rushing quarterback, and good fullback.

With the type of offence the Riders have played over the last few years I see them staying atop the rushing stats.

Also the other thing the Riders have this year that didn't last year is a more formidable passing game which will open up the running game. They have Joseph who is a better passer, Armstead (last year's all-star wide receiver), and Dominguez (who was out last year with an injury but is their top receiver).

Also I don't hold your nationality against you, it's great that you have come to love this game that so many of us throughout Canada take pride in.

Nationality has nothing to do with the opinion other then the fact he has no real ties to any team. Now if you do get a Canadian football fan to write guess what he of course would have his favorite and it would show in his opinion. Big deal if he did not pick your team for what ever. Your feelings are hurt go into a corner and cry. Billy of all people I am suprised!

Roughyfan, if Joseph and Keith come out of the gate on the same page, and if Keith stays healthy, you're absolutely right. Also, Szarka's been underused in the past. I hope he gets in the action, too.

Joseph's arm will make the biggest difference in 2006 in my book, though. He'll make plays from the pocket without using his feet on broken plays as he did in Ottawa. With Armstead and Dominguez down the field, and Szarka catching swing passes, the ball's in the air twice as much as last year, especially at the beginning of the year. I just feel this will affect the team's ground production totals.

Also, I probably should've defined "productivity" in the column. I didn't necessarily mean total yardage. For me, the real stat to watch is yards per rush not total yards, because the latter often results in ball control/time of possession rather than points.

You should have also defined threat in your column too. You correctly noted that a great running game will open up the passing game in the CFL. A 1000 yard rusher behind centre, even if he drops back to pass, is always a threat to take off for a first down. The defence always has to be aware of this and almost has to keep a spy around to make sure Joseph doesn't run which opens up the passing game even more.

The other thing you should have mentioned is the offensive lines. A good o-line can turn a 700 yard rusher into a 1200 yard rusher. And turn a 4.2 avg/carry into a 6.2 avg/carry. Having 5 guys open up gaping holes for you will always make a running game that much greater (just ask Emmitt Smith of NFL fame).

I do agree though that with Joseph the Riders will rely more on their passing game, especially with Armstead and a healthy Dominguez. It will bring the rushing yards down, but with Sask's O-line they still will be able to run the ball quite effectively.