Into 2015 Camp

Thought I would give my take on a few things going into camp.

OL:
There are some concerns on OL after the departures of Neufeld, Picard and Heenan over the past year. Sure, the club will be watching NFL cuts for guys like Heenan and Jones, but I tend to think at least one of them will land. Eight now it is looking like there will primarily be 2 International starters at OT. But wait, there are only 2 international OL on the roster. Sure, there is time to sign a guy still, but typically your OL is learning schemes on their own by now. So does the club have a trick up their sleeve? Maybe. CC clearly is biased towards D, and while logic says that the club SHOULD be starting 2 Nationals on D this year, I could see a surprise in the lineup. Could Best move to RT, Watman/Clark to C, Picard stay where he is and Gord Hinse to RG? This could realistically happen. Hadn’t thought of it until recently, but there could actually be 3 Nationals on the OL still. This would put 1 National to rotate for on the OL and 1 International as a designated import, who could push Best over if need be. I think Nehring will earn a chance to stick around on the PR.

Receiving:
I must admit I was disappointed to see Swain and Depalma. Depalma had a second crack at the NFL, good on him. Swain, IMO, had a superior blocking ability and ability to find the gap. He reminded me a lot of Geroy in that sense…no I am not saying he was as good.
Getz is the only natural SB right now, and I believe they will develop Anthony as his backup.
I believe that Taj will truly be competing for a spot with the club. Granted all of the guys struggled with yards last year, but with some of the unfortunate baggage, the club may view this as an easy out. Richardson is a vet presence there to make Taj earn his spot. Richardson might, apparently, not even be ready for camp, so they need another guy in mind.
The club has done a good job of bringing in some great speed guys, but I anticipate a couple more signings pre-camp.

RB/FB:
Another spot I am waiting for an announcement. There were a couple backs that looked great in mini camp. Jerodis Williams is one that stood out in my mind. The fact they have not inked anyone, I believe, is that they are still in discussion more than that they are not looking to add.
The club needs to add 1 more National at FB to compete, and IMO 1-2 more RB. they really only have Allen as an every down RB right now, and I would at least hope he has competition. Messam is not an every down back. He is a ratio buster that they can rotate in. Miller looks great, but is undersized for an every down back. Great changeup guy though and looks like he can be a return threat. Hoping he gets some good looks in pre-season. Whether one likes Allen or not, he needs some competition.

QB:
The obvious question is does Tino stay or go.
mini camp has put minds at relative ease with DD.

Secondary:
in the secondary there is a ridiculous amount of competition. With rule changes some of the contact heavy backs are going to need to prove quickly they can get the job done without the contact. This is where guys like LeGree and Green might outshine guys like Harris or Jackson. With that many bodies there are going to be some changes, even if one or 2 are slated for more of a LB role.
The other big thing…will the club put a Canadian back to S and move Brack to LB? They need to find a ratio spot somewhere.
It will be interesting to see who gets displaced, and who will land Emry’s backup role at LB.

There is so much action there with some promising looking LBs and DBs that it is hard to even speculate until we see a week of camp.

DL:
Hall, I think, is an upgrade at DE, but the Riders lose an Import and a guy who loved his spot with the club and loved the team. He was a leader…that is touch to replace. The big problem with the line, and the D as a whole really, is that the club had built up a couple guys who could solidly backup Foley, and now one is left wondering…do they even have a home any more? Is a designated import spot going to backup Emry, and then have these guys rotate onto the line and swap out a starter if Emry needs to come out? It means there is not going to be regular reps for them, which is unfortunate because it likely means not retaining them long-term. Further, does that mean that Wellman/Gesse never get action other than on ST? The Foley move marked a change in defensive philosophy, especially ratio wise. That could take more than 1 season to iron out, as they had just used recent drafts to build the other philosophy. We could see one of the recent drafts moved to Hamilton.

I tend to think they will be working on a trade of some sorts pre-draft, likely packaging their 1st round pick off. Hamilton makes a lot of sense for this as they are pretty stocked with young Nationals and have what, 8 picks. But what do the Riders actually have that they would want? clearly the Riders have some players in the secondary available, but I tend to think the Cats are basically sitting back laughing as they will just pick up a cut post camp.

Kicking duties…Milo has the goods, but if he comes to camp out of shape again they are not going to keep his salary, plain and simple.

I don't think there is too many concerns on defense. God knows they brought enough players in on D that anyone not cutting it could be replaced quickly. The only concern there is like last year will we see the revolving door philosophy of if you make a mistake your out. That could really mess with the chemistry and how aggressive the defense will play as no one will want to get burned on a big play and have to sit.

On offense is the big question and it really surprises me that more attention was not focused on it this year. While the O line was all right last year a couple of injuries and some poor run and pass protection got them in the jam they were in last year. losing Heenan was not surprising but also really wasn't addressed. Sure he could come back but what kind of shape position wise in the standings will we be by then? Yes if Heenan stays down south but Jones becomes available then without any big name signings on the O line may allow to the Riders to open the wallet and get him but again will it be too little too late? There is also the fact if Jones becomes available it could be another bidding war with teams like the Stamps obviously and look for Winnipeg to take a sniff too. I think Winnipeg is going all in like the Riders did when they hosted the Grey cup and if there is any doubt on their O line they will be serious shoppers for either Heenan or Jones if they are available.

The receiving core of Getz, Bagg Smith and Dressler are all getting older with both Getz and Bagg's health always being a concern. With the new rules of touch football coverage, teams that have sprinters for receivers could be in good shape. Getz, Bagg and even Dressler are not speed demons but are great route runners and know where to go to find the soft spot but that may not be as big an asset as it was in previous years. A guy that can get off the line quick and blow by the defender will probably be in more demand as its no touchy feely after 5 yards. ( total friggen joke by the way) as they have little to fear as defenders likely will be giving them lots of cushion.
The kicking game is another area that was an obvious weakness last year and again I see no signs of it being anything this year. The punting game is even going to be more critical to get serious depth to allow the statue linemen to at least get some momentum to go down field after having to stand with a thumb up their butt until the punt is caught( another total garbage rule that whoever thought of it should be shot, hung, and shot again) our special team coverage was brutal last year with I forget how many punt returns brought back for scores and I blame 95*% of that on the punter. This year unless we take the penalty and kick everything out of bounds it could be even worse.

As for quarterback hopefully Durant is completely healed as he may take some licks again with the O line situation but I think Glenn is very capable of stepping in and getting the job done too so as far as Tino goes I think the biggest question is how long Glenn is going to stick around and if they feel that Tino has the goods to ever be a starter. If Glenn stays with the team for just a half season or even the full season and then either moves on or retires then it may be wise to get Tino or someone up to speed. Now if Glenn and the team has intentions of him sticking around for at least 2 seasons then I'm not sure how valuable Tino is. Sure Glenn is not the future of the team but is Tino either? If the answer is no or highly doubtful then kick Tino to the curb and get someone who is a good prospect and get him some good insight into the game by learning from Durant and Glenn. Personally I could see Glenn fitting into the qb coaching role very nicely.

The D didn't really have a huge philosophy on a mistake and you are out last season. That was more of an O thing, or at least that is what I recall for the most part.

As far as the OL, yes, at this point there are some definite question marks there. Predecessors built the team around a strong OL, especially with Canadian depth, and we only see the remnants of that now. Canadian depth as a whole is slightly better than last season, but still a concern IMO. IF someone comes available the Riders will still be in contention...I would be shucked if they are under 3-4 wins by mid-point barring some huge injuries or something. I said it in FA season, and I say it now...the Stamps and the Bombers should be 1 and 2 in the West, and I think the Esks and the Riders will be chasing them with BC struggling. Time will tell.

I am actually not too worried about the receivers...I know a lot are. I think they have a future starter in Anthony, and I am still hopeful in Pierzchalski. Getz is feeling better than he has in a year and is good to go. They have addressed the speed issues with some of the guys coming into camp. Greg Hardin has similar to slightly faster speed as Dressler, and broke Dresslers school receiving records...he likely ends up displacing Ryan Smith. Roosevelt has some respectable speed, and from what I heard about mini-camp...all QBs liked him as did the coaches. This said...as I mentioned before, I am anticipated another name or 2 to come up before camp. The Riders do lack a scary fast guy as an every down WR. Miller can roll out and do some serious damage, but that is out of the backfield or maybe a utility SB. It does sound like the O will be using that role a lot more this season.

While it was mainly the running backs that suffered that fate of mess up and your riding pine I have a feeling that was because we had so many of them on the roster. What something like 4 all trying for one spot so they had no issue making someone sit if they made a mistake. That is my fear could happen to the defense this year with the abundance of players in some positions. I fear if they stick to that philosophy the results will be the same as it was with the running backs. No one will dare to be creative or take chances of they could be out. It's one thing to want your players to play smart and with discipline and it's another to have them scared stiff of screwing up. A player that is thinking about not messing up is not going to be loose and play with their natural talents and instincts instead they will be trying to play cautious and by the book and that is when you usually get burned.

At OL:
Vonk is still on the roster, right? That makes Labatte, Best, Watman, Hinse, Clark, Vonk ... I would still expect 4 Canadians starting out of those. Could be wrong.

Receiver:
Taj is the fulcrum here. All other decisions are based on which way the Taj domino falls. Totally agree that he needs to step up and 're-win' the job but with the new no contact rules, his skillset makes me salivate. So long as his head is in the right space, he just might be the most underrated receiver in the league and I really want to see him succeed. Good to hear that Getz is healthy. He's a game changer when he's on all cylinders and another that can benefit from the new rules.

Secondary:
Well the rule changes dictate a lot, although I really like the guys that are there as well rounded athletes. However, I can't help but think that the main objective of the scheme will shift from aggressive coverage (although still important) to one of playmaking/ballhawking. If this is the case then T-Brack is the only choice for safety. It's the perfect place for him.

QB:
I still think that the best choice right now for #2 QB is Tino. I have always been a Glenn fan and supporter, but even I must admit that at this stage of his career his lustre is faded. Every time that Tino was allowed to throw the ball he threw it very well. Every time that his numbers were poor, the playbook was shite. EVERY TIME. The only thing really wrong with Tino last year was Cortez. Now he is gone, there are new rules to open passing and Chapdelaine has a history of pass first bias. Tino also had like the 3rd lowest pick/attempt ratio amongst starting QBs last year. Other than a severe lack of mobility I am very comfortable handing him the reins in any situation.

Cortez fucked up the offense. The media and fans blamed the QB. Taman panicked and signed Glenn - money better spent elsewhere. There was a hole at MLB (one of the easiest positions to fill). Taman panicked and TRADED AWAY Foley! If Emry plays like he did last year (his WORST career year ever) the Riders lose BIG time. I am not a fan of either of these moves.

RB:
From what little I saw of Miller last year I liked him. He's a playmaker. Usually I prefer more of a power runner but ultimately I don't care how the yards are gained. I felt that Miller was able to get more on his own than Allen. Although I thought Allen's best part of his game was definitely his ball carrying ability. His blocking lacked quite severely at times and for a guy his size that is inexcuseable. I am not too worried at this position. The bulk of the yards are gained by the oline and the back itself is pretty much a raw talent position, as long as you are smart enough to read the pass protection. As far as Psyche of players, if a player under performs because a couple guys are waiting to take his job then that player SHOULD lose his job. Competition for position IS the very business of playing football. You're in the wrong line of work if this bothers you so I have no problem with the coaching staff handing the ball to the next man up if the first guy doesn't do the job. Hurt feelings? This is the pros dude, get over it.

None of them have, to my knowledge, ever played more than a few snaps at OT, Clark aside, who is worse the more you move him outside (yes, Center is his best spot). Best MIGHT be able to make the move, but there is a reason that Heenan moved to Tackle and Best, the vet, stayed at guard. I can't see any of the others being at that level consistently enough, though would love it if they were. Sounds like there will be a lot of short passes in this offense, so that might let an extra NI on the OL at times.

As for Glenn, my biggest concern is whether or not it handcuffs the club from signing another player should they become available. My guess is yes. That said,, say one of the Big OLmen who went down south to play comes available, I am willing to lose a draft pick over it cap wise if they sign for 4 years.

Cortez...well, lets see how much was on Cortez and how much was on Chamblin trying to be a totalitarian. This season will tell. Hoping Emry has a bounce back year and that he was treading lightly after a concussion. I tend to agree that it was probably at best a wash of a trade, and that the Riders came out behind. I get that Hall was in the works and he likely said yeah, I will come back, but I not as 2nd/3rd fiddle, so that prompted the move...tough call for a GM for sure. If Hall and Chick are on the top of their game it could be darned scary, because Hall at is best is better than Foley at his best. Just hard to lose a guy who loves the situation he was in, especially when you have drafted and built up redundancy behind him....that is the part that pisses me off. That is so much more important in the CFL than a lot of other leagues.