Let’s get it started…in heeeree. Bring ‘em out, bring ‘em out, bring ‘em out. Yeah, not quite the same reading it versus hearing it at the stadium., but I can’t wait for that moment on Sunday where our guys hit the field. I got to thinking about how many years this site has been around and how long I have been doing these articles. Gulp, this season marks the start of my second decade. The first time I matched up the Riders and Eskimos, I would have been comparing Nealon Greene vs Jason Maas. Terry Vaughn and Ed Hervey vs. Demetrius Bendross and Curtis Marsh. Yes, we are in better times now.
I’ve thought about tinkering with the format, but haven’t done anything for two reasons. This seems like a logical way to break teams down. Secondly, a new format would require thought, and I’m pretty lazy. If anyone does have any ideas, my cyber door is always open. Feel free to drop me a line.
I tried to hold off on this as long as possible to get some final word on the lineups for both teams. Unfortunately that is still up in the air as of late Friday night. Since I have no time to get it down tomorrow due to attending the 100th birthday celebrations where I grew up (let’s here it for Holdfast!), I’m going to have to finish this tonight…inaccuracies and all.
I listened to what Milt Stegall said about Darian during the TSN preview show this week, and it wasn’t that bad. He said for Darian to take the next step, he needs to cut down on his interceptions. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that statement. Other than that, the only other thing I would like is to see him get off to a better start in games.
Ricky Ray’s numbers have come down in recent years. In fairness to him, he has not had as much talent as in the past to work with. His strengths are his accuracy and ability to read a defense. What seems to be missing in recent years is his big play capability. Ricky Ray has had a storied career to this point, while Darian is still on his way. I was thinking rating Darian higher would be a case of drinking green (and white) kool-aid. But then I looked at their numbers last year. Edge Riders
Last year’s Cates / Charles debate still lingers for the Riders. This time it appears the coaches are more determined to keep both of them on the roster. Cates is not done yet, but has lost some of his quickness. Here is where Charles is a perfect compliment with his speed. I wish Brandon West the best in getting over that unfortunate foot injury. Daniel Porter is the opening day starter for the Eskimos with Arkee Whitlock sitting on the one game injured list. Edmonton has a good 1-2 punch at running back with Canadian Calvin McCarty. The Eskimos have also given impressive newcomer Brandon James some reps at running back. Even
The identity of our receivers has changed in the off-season with the Canadian Air Force requiring the help of some U.S. stealths. Really tough news for the Riders on the eve of the regular season to lose Carey Koch to a broken thumb. I think the fans and team were expecting big things from him this year. The silver lining is that we only lose him for the first third of the season. This means that newcomers Nunn, Wheelright, and Hill are going to have to step up. The good news for Darian is he still has Weston Dressler, Chris Getzlaf, and Jason Clermont from last year to rely on.
Fred Stamps is easily the number one receiver in Edmonton and has had some big games against the Riders in the past. After`a controversial waiving over an injured ankle, Jason Barnes is back. I mentioned him in the running backs section, but Brandon James is technically a receiver. With the early candidate for free agent bust of the year Chris Bauman not dressed, first rounder Nathan Coehorn may get a good look. I think this guy is going to end up as the best of the first round WR picked this year. The Eskimos think that they have solved Adarius Bowman’s dropsies by moving him inside. I’ll believe it when I see it. Newcomers Marcus Henry and Ray Fisher showed speed in the pre-season, but I believe Henry is hurt. Slight Edge Riders
It’s going to be really strange not seeing familiar number 54 leading the Riders from the huddle to the line of scrimmage. Marc Parenteau beat out George Hudson to take the starting centre role. My biggest concern with him is his strength. Will he get overpowered right up the middle by some of the defensive tackles in this league? I think Gene is fine inside at guard while Chris Best is developing into a good one. Alex Guathier is fine at left tackle, while there are concerns about Goodspeed’s food speed at right tackle.
The Eskimos were planning to start the season with two import tackles. They still are, but injuries have hit this unit early. Patrick Kabongo is still a big dude even after losing 70 pounds. They are somewhat set with Fiaconne at centre with Kabongo and Koch at guard. As for their tackles, y best guess right now are Greg Wojt and Junius Coston. I know about as much about these guys as I know about basic astro-physics. Edge Riders
There are two very different storylines when talking about the Rider defensive line. The middle is set with Keith Shologan and ex-Eskimo Dario Romero. Romero brings us a different element to the middle of our defense that we haven’t seen since Nate Davis was in his heyday. End is a different story. Brent Hawkins’s wonky shoulder blew up my prediction a few months ago that he was ready for a big year. Right now Montez Murphy and Luc Mullinder appear to be the front –runners to start.
Greg Peach appears to be the anchor of the Eskimo defensive line. Annoyingly, the Joe Sykes I saw in the pre-season looks like the guy that we never saw in two camps in Regina. The Esks are pretty excited about the potential of two non-import tackles inside: Jermaine Reed and Ted Laurant. Even
The Minister of Defense, Barrin Simpson, is back at MLB. There were concerns about his age when we brought him in last year, but based on his tackle numbers and his play in pre-season, he’s aging like a fine wine. We have Mike McCullough who is more than capable of stepping in if needed. Jerrell Freeman’s injury looks like it will keep him out a week with Kye Stewart starting in his place. Stewart has always looked good when given a chance, he just has to stay healthy. Sean Lucas starting at the other OLB spot is mildly controversial with some people thinking Tad Kornegay or Byron Bullock should have won that spot. We need to see Lucas regain his 2009 all-star form.
The best way to describe the Eskimo linebacker situation is unsettled. T.J. Hill was playing safety all through pre-season but is now back at the linebacker spot he played last year. I believe Rod Davis is Mo Lloyd’s replacement in the middle. Brian Bonner was the guy playing the other OLB spot in pre-season. Edge Roughriders
Not much has been made of the Rider secondary, but there are a few changes on the back end. James Patrick and Lance Frazier are back to anchor things. Chris McKenzie remains out with an injury leaving John Eubanks to play halfback. We will see two newcomers at corner, which based on what we saw from that position last year is not a bad thing. Nick Graham showed well last year when he had to fill in. The biggest surprise for me from pre-season might be Tristan Jackson earning himself a spot in the starting backfield at wide side corner.
During the pre-season, we saw more busts in the Eskimo secondary than a Dolly Parton film festival. Not surprising that there have been some changes made from the starting group from even one week ago. Chris Thompson was their best d-back last year and is back at halfback. Newly acquired Jykine Bradley will start at corner. Ex-Rider Donovan Alexander has been moved to safety after spending all his time at corner. This might be a good move long term if Alexander has the ability to read and react to the ball, but there are bound to be some growing pains. Rod Williams played corner in preseason so I expect him to be the other corner, and I think David Pittman will be the other starter in the secondary. I am basing this mostly on conversation I have read over on Esksfans. Edge Roughriders
I don’t know about you guys, but I am really looking forward to this aspect of our game. This is something I haven’t been able to say in a while. I believe that Triston Jackson’s emergence at corner is what has made Hugh Charles the primary returner with Jackson the #2 guy. The combination of more talent and better coaching is going to make it practically impossible for this unit not to improve from last year. The aforementioned Brandon James is being counted on to be the Eskimos main return guy. He had a nice kickoff return against Calgary. He has major wheels from what I have seen. Even
It appears that Eddie Johnson is going to handle the placekicking job in week 1. Whether it is him or Milo, the concerns over the kicking game have been well documented over the pre-season. There’s one thing I can’t figure out about Eddie Johnson’s line drive kicks. He must have shown the Argos something two years ago to win that job from Jason Medlock going into the season. Damon Duval has won the kicking job in Edmonton and will be their guy on Sunday, barring a ratio situation requiring Canadian Derek Schiavone to be on the roster instead. There is an outside chance Milo will handle the kicking for the Riders. Leg strength is not a concern with him, but somehow we have to get him to start hitting them in games, like he is in practice. Edge Eskimos
Same guys as above will handle the punting roles. These guys were the #2 and #3 punters in the CFL last year, with Duval’s average being slightly higher. The biggest question for the Riders here (and placekicking) will be having Krausnick-Groh doing the long snapping. This guy needs a nickname so I don’t have to type that name. With his first name being Alexander, maybe he can change numbers with Cory Huclack so that we can call him AK-47. Slight Edge Eskimos
When the Rider have the ball
Even though there are a few new faces at receiver, I don’t expect our style of play and game plan to look much different from last year. One thing I do expect is that Darian will be relying even more than expected on Weston Dressler, Chris Getzlaf; and I’ll bet Jason Clermont will be a key second down contributor for this team. Edmonton is claiming to have kept it vanilla in pre-season who it’s hard to know what they will come out with on defense Sunday. One of the guys on the TSN panel described Stubler’s match defense saying it takes away things on the outside. He said the defense can be run on and has holes in the middle. That sounds eerily familiar to our defense last year. Actually Stubler’s and Etch’s d share some similar philosophies but Etch does stuff that makes his more unsound. We are going to find out if Stubler’s steller D in Toronto was due to his scheme or all the talent he had there like Steinhauer, Parker, O’Shea, Ivory etc.
I do expect the Riders to try and establish the run with Wes Cates. I hope with Wes and Hugh on the roster we take advantage of their different skill set to hit the Esks up the middle with Cates and use Charles to get outside. Hughes and Foord were forgotten men on offense last year. Hughes might get more looks this year with Szarka gone.
Just heard that Wheelright will get the start inside in Koch’s place. He looked really good in the pre-season opener against the Esks. He will be a big target for Darian to find in the middle. As mentioned look for Dressler to get the ball in all kinds of ways, quick screens, deep corner routes. One receiver that no one talks about is Efram Hill, who quietly impressed the coaches enough to make his way onto the starting roster. I’ll bet he would love to have a big game against his old team. I hope Darian attacks the seams and tries to catch Alexander too late coming over to help with his inexperience at safety.
Up front I think the guy who will get the most attention will be Parenteau to see how he handles directing traffic. He has to hold his own in the middle as having guys overpower him and getting right in Darian’s face would be disastrous.
When the Eskimos have the ball
As much as the Eskimos struggled on offense against the league in general the last couple of years, they put up some good numbers against the Riders. I think that is because the Rider defense allowing a lot of stuff over the middle was tailor made for Ricky Ray. We also would go undersized linemen in the middle on passing downs allowing him to stand there with no one in his face. The best thing we can see on Sunday is having our two tackles collapse the pocket getting right in Ricky’s face. He’s a rhythm passer, and that will get him out of his rhythm more than anything.
Look for the Esks to try and establish the run with Porter and McCarty. Richie Hall has said he wants to take away the run and make teams one dimensional. We’ll see if there is a marked change from last year.
With an unsettled offensive line, I expect the Eskimos to try and get the ball out of Ray’s hands quickly. Fred Stamps will be his go-to guy so the Riders need to pay attention to him. We can’t let him run free thought the middle on crossing routes. If I had to pick a matchup that would concern me the most at this time it would be Stamps or Bowman on Eubanks. If the Esks go with short passes as I anticipate, our lineman may have to resort to getting their hands up to knock down passes since it will be tough to get in for sacks. I expect to see an extremely emotional and motivated Dario Romero in this one.
Anything can happen on the football field as we have already seen with two road teams pulling off upsets this weekend. I just have a tough time believing that this Eskimo team with so many new faces can come together that quickly. Moves like Hill and Alexander changing positions tells me they already have to go to Plan B. I don’t see where the Eskimo players have developed that ability to know and trust the guy beside them which you need to be effective in this game.
If the Riders are on their game, they will find opportunities to take advantage of Eskimo breakdowns. I think this game is a matter of not “gift-wrapping” points to the Esks off turnovers or special teams. Especially early to give them some confidence. The Riders need to come out and make a statement in this game. There would be nothing more satisfying that a convincing win over the Esks on Sunday to put a few things to rest.
My score: Roughriders 31 Eskimos 18
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