A 0-1 start is something the Riders and us fans have not experienced since 2006. I didn’t like the feeling then, and I don’t like it now. This was the first time the team had lost a season opener at home since 2000. It tells you that this has been a pretty good decade for the team. The problem now is with the powerhouse Alouettes coming to town, there is an urgency for the team to turn it around immediately to avoid a 0-2 start.
I am one of the guys who firmly believes that Darian does need to cut back on his interceptions. That being said, the interceptions that happened last week have to be put into perspective. The first one wasn’t a ball being forced into coverage, the 2nd one was a result of a bad route by a receiver, and the third one was in garbage time. That last one was as significant as a garbage TD pass thrown late in a game. The fumble is the one turnover that actually bothered me. That was a tough game for Darian. The brutal defensive performance gave him and the offense little room for error.
Talking about Anthony Calvillo is boring. You have to get nit-picky like saying he’s not that mobile to find any weakness in his game. He does everything else well. Edge Alouettes
Because Hugh Charles got hurt last week, we don’t know if the coaches will stick to what they said and go with two backs this year. We won’t know until the 42 is announced if Brandon West is going to be given a chance tomorrow or not. If he’s not in, expect Wes Cates to be the workhorse again. We really don’t do anything to try and utilize Hughes or Foord. Brandon Whitaker gets the start for Montreal. He had a nice start to the season last week with over 100 yards. I thought Whitaker was a smaller speedy back but at 5 11, 200 pounds, he has decent size too. He doesn’t have much of a track record, but has played well in limited time over the last two years. The Als will spot Kerry Carter and use him to catch passes out of the backfield. Even
We could definitively use some good news here. At least Carey Koch’s surgery went well. Jason Clermont slides a starting role at WR with Wheelwright going down. Clermont’s speed does not make him the prototypical WR but he played there in the playoffs last year. When we go with 5 receivers, look for him to slide inside. We are going to need a lot of Weston Dressler in the meantime. Nunn showed all the physical skills necessary in game one, but we need him to stop making mental mistakes, or he’s going to cost us more turnovers. We all know how good Montreal’s receivers are. Jamel Richardson has the potential to be a league MVP. Bratten and Green can make plays too. Kerry Watkins is injured right now. I keep waiting for Canadian Eric Deslauriers to break out. I like how rookie Dallas Landon looked in pre-season. Edge Alouettes
The best breakdown of the o-line is done by Oldguard midweek so I direct you to read that thread to get a complete breakdown. The only thing I will touch on here is that I am concerned about Parenteau being driven back by defensive tackles. We can’t have Darian seeing pressure up the middle consistently. This is another area of perennial strength for the Alouettes. There really isn’t a weakness but they are especially strong on the right side with Flory at guard and Perrett at tackle. Edge Alouettes
There is nothing I can say here that hasn’t been said already. The interior of the line was decent plugging up the run, but that was the extent of the accolades. With Willis coming in, I am unsure if we are going with two import tackles with Murphy on the other side or will Murphy sit and Luc Mullinder / Shomari Williams man the end spot. All we know for sure is that Shologan and Romero will be at tackle….on first down. Montreal’s line is led by John Bauman at one end. Anwar Stewart is still around at the other end, with Wilson and Bekasiuk inside. They will spot Jermaine McElveen and even ex-Rider Kitwana Jones at end. Edge Alouettes
Having Jarrell Freeman back will be a big lift for the defense. I thought Barrin Simpson was the only linebacker who played well for us last week. Shea Emery starts in the middle for Montreal. Everyone’s favorite Alouette Chip Cox lines up at OLB on one side with Ramon Guzman and Diamond Ferri alternate on the other side. Slight Edge Alouettes
The Riders get Tad Kornegay and Chris MacKenzie back this week. MacKenzie isn’t a moment too soon after John Eubanks suffered third degree burns last Sunday. I am assuming Tad becomes the wide side corner with Tristan Jackson becoming the 6th defensive back. The big question mark is at safety where James Patrick has a “lower body injury”….when did CFL injuries resemble the NHL playoffs?? Draft pick Craig Butler gets the enviable task of starting at safety if Patrick can’t go.
Montreal suffered a big injury with Jearld Brown going down with an ugly looking break. This has led to multiple moves in their secondary. Billy Parker moves from wide-side corner to short side halfback into Brown’s spot. The Als cut Dix in the pre-season. (sounds painful), but he’s back now at wideside corner. Remember everyone’s favorite Stamp Dwight Anderson? Well he’s plays halfback in Montreal now. I am sure he is his usual clown self. I am rating this based on Patrick being out. Edge Alouettes
Based on the way I see this, maybe this should be titled “return and cover teams”. Montreal gave up a few big returns in pre-season and that continued last week with a BC return TD. The Riders will use either Tristan Jackson or Brandon West as the primary returner, depending on the final roster. Montreal uses Tim Maypray as their main returner. We remember him from two return TD off missed field goals against us last year. He has had more recent success than Jackson has had for the Riders. By the way, if you had a choice on kickoffs between kicking it to Jackson/ West/ Charles, or Stu Foord, who would you kick it too? Uh huh. Look for Kit to want to make a big stick on special teams for the Als in his first game back. Edge Alouettes
How was the overall confidence in the stadium when Lance lined up for his first FG attempt last week? One of the few bright spots was his 2-2 performance. In a limited body of work, Sean Whyte is a career 77% kicker. Not a lot to choose between the two for now. Even
I had some concerns with Johnson’s punting in the pre-season, but he had a pretty good day on Sunday. Windy conditions could play havoc with the punting game tomorrow. Edge Riders
When the Riders have the ball
Unless the defense comes up with a huge improvement from last week, once again the Rider offense will be under pressure to put lots of points on the board to keep up with the Als. Hard to say how the Alouette run defense will be as the Lions didn’t really test them at all last week. Here’s the catch-22 for the Riders to get the running game going. It’s tough if they aren’t getting stops from the other side of the football and fall behind. Wes did have success against Montreal last year. Here’s something I can’t figure out. Doug Berry is supposedly high on Stu Foord, yet he never gets a carry in regular season. When Darian is on his game, he is very productive on the ground too. Look for him to take off when he gets a chance.
Without the depth we used to have at receiver, it’s more about going to your best guys instead of looking for your best matchup. Look for Dressler to get lots of work. In five receiver sets he will get his opportunities against Chip Cox. Unless Cox grabs him as he likes to do, that’s a matchup that Dressler will win every time. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Alouettes try and rotate coverage towards Dressler. With Dix being in for his first action of the year, the Riders might want to test him with Clermont. As I mentioned earlier, JC is not a typical fast wide out, but if we get the ball to him fast, he might break some tackles and make plays. Without harping in the interceptions again, keep in mind that Cox and Anderson are ball hawks. Darian has to be aware of them and make sure he throws the hooks and curls on time.
When the Alouettes have the ball
Sure Whitaker got 100 yards last week, but make no mistake, it’s the Alouettes aerial attack that should frighten us the most. Calvillo is pin point accurate with the short and long game. His receiver can get in behind your for big plays, or they can take short routes and break tackles to make those long gainers too. All eyes will be on Mr. Harris. Sounds like he’s a speed rusher , so we need him to be able to get around that corner and get in on Calvillo so he’s not able to stand back there.
Matchups to fear? Pick your poison. Richardson and Green are the two guys to really worry about it. They are both listed as slotbacks so Frazier and MacKenzie will have to have big games for us. Since MacKenzie is coming off an injury look for the Als to test him. The other thing the Als do is move their receiver s around to get matchups. Remember Richardson making a couple of big catches against Omarr Morgan in the Grey Cup where he line up as a WR? The Als may go after Nick Graham the same way.
There is lots of angst over losing our all-star safety against Calvillo and having to start a rookie at safety. I am going to throw in a contrarian view for people to mull over. Calvillo is great at looking off the safety. Based on that Patrick may not have been able to make his usual impact in the game. If that is the case, maybe this is the best time for Butler to be in there. I am not saying that we won’t miss Patrick but overall this may be a scenario where the impact of the loss is lessened.
If Calvillo wants to go after Butler, look for him to do it with layered crossing routes. If Butler sneaks up, AC will go to the guy crossing in behind. If Butler stays deep, AC will take the short one.
The only way the Riders will have a chance is to get a good game up front. Richie has to keep switching it up to keep Calvillo guessing. Don’t give him a steady diet of one look. We did get to him a few times last year with halfback blitzes so we can’t be afraid to come after him. Since AC is a pocket passer, it would be nice to get some push up the middle and get in his face. That did not happen last week against Ray.
This is not a must win in the literal sense, but starting the season with two home losses is going to put the Riders in a hole early. Yeah depending on what Edmonton does, we may only be 2 points back of first, but are the Riders really going to make up ground in the next two weeks with road games upcoming?
The Riders don’t have the offense to overcome mistakes like special teams TDs or points off turnovers like last year. I hate to say we need a perfect game to win, but we’re going to have to be pretty darn close. The reason to expect a win? Well this team has had a way of surprising us when we expect the least out of them. Games that come to mind are the August 2009 win in Calgary, and the win at home last year over Calgary after getting shellacked in Winnipeg. But pinning our hopes on that theory doesn’t sound very promising does it? One thing to that would really help? Montreal coverage on kick returns has been weak. If there was ever a time for a return TD, tomorrow is the day.
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