So there will be a lot of drama at this game on Sunday. I mean when you have someone coming back who was a part of your team, and now you face him as a member of the opposition, there will be a lot of emotion. Fans are going to be in turmoil. Do we boo him? Do we cheer him to acknowledge past accomplishments? Do we ignore him? But enough about Shomari Williams. Let's talk about the game. Ok seriously, there is going to be so much Kent Austin talk, you will all be sick of it by Sunday I feel for you guys watching it on TV and how you will get it jammed down your throat through the game. I am going to do my best to avoid bringing it up any further here. Saturday update.... Well I have a few changes to make on both sides of the ball based on walk through and the new depth charts.
Projected starters: Riders - Dur-lly or Wil-rant, Cats - Burris The date is Wed July 17th. I am writing this in full anticipation of Drew Willy starting at QB for the Riders. If Darian ends up starting, well we have talked about him enough so that you won't be missing anything. As for Willy, we were all very impressed with him in his short yardage work early in the year, and then the big comeback win over the Bombers. But in his first start in Montreal he had a bit of a deer in the headlights thing happening, and I felt it affected his confidence the rest of the year. With better weapons on offense, a terrific running game and o-line, and a coach like Cortez getting him ready, I think we will see a much much better Willy. I think we all agree that any Willy becomes more effective with experience. (I promise that's the only one). Hank has been his usual self this year. He had a great game in a loss in Toronto, of course the highlight was that ridiculous arm raise at the end when the pass to Fantuz went incomplete. He then had a stinker against the Esks and played pretty well against Winnipeg. I hope that pattern holds this week then diverges for a week. When he's on, Hank is tough to stop with his arm and scrambling. But if he's off his game and you get pressure on him, the stadium will smell like a bakery with all turnovers. Saturday - I would be shocked if Willy is starting. Unless Darian trips and reaggravates things in the next 24 hours, he plays. Even
Projected starters: Riders - Sheets, Cats - Walker Right now Kory Sheets is playing the best of any running back in the CFL. End of story. I absolutely love how he is getting stronger as the game goes on. Hats off to Cortez for sticking with the run when it gets stopped early. There's really nothing more to be said when the guy is playing this well. Chevron Walker should get the start again for the Cats, but Lamar should get a lot of work, especially with the Cats hurting at receiver. I guess I should mention Sanders will get a lot of work too for the Riders. Especially if our running game works as we are antipating. Edge Riders
Projected starters: Riders - Dressler, Getzlaf, Simon, Bagg, Smith, Cats - Giguere, McCoy, Ellingson, Grant, Hilson. 2924 yards and 23 TDs. Pretty good numbers right? Well that's what's out of the lineup for Hamilton with Fantzu and Stala hurt and Williams holding out. They are having trouble fielding recievers to even go into a 6 pack this game. Finally, we get to see Geroy Simon make his Rider debut. The circumstance couldn't be any better. With the team firing on all cylinders, he's not being looked at as a saviour. Like the game in Edmonton, the Riders put big points on the board without relying on Getzlaf and Dressler in Toronto. I mentioned this earlier in the week, but all 4 starting receivers have TDs already this year. Glenn MacKoy gets the start for Hamilton instead of Charbonneau-Campeau, ending the short lived run of the French Canadian air-force that he formed with Gigure. Cats are also starting Justin (don't call me Paris) Hilton who apparently looked good in camp, then not so good and got cut. Sounds kind their nominee for the Terrence Nunn award. Edge Riders
Projected starters: Riders - T - Fulton, Heenan, G - Labatte, Best, C - Picard, Cats - T - Dile, Simmons, G - Dyakowski, Wojt, C - Hage. The most ridiculous assertion I have heard from opposing fans this year is how the Riders are getting away with holding and the refs aren't calling it on other teams. What a load of crap. It's refreshing that who is having the best year out of our linemen is the prevailing conversation versus who needs to be replaced and with who. When I look at the Hamilton line on paper, they don't look bad, but wow have they been turnstyles. 13 sacks against puts them tied for 2nd last in the league. Things were marginally better last week with Wojt at tackle replacing Ingersoll who was a disaster in the Eskimo game. Wojt moves back to guard this week with Marc Dile back from injury. They should be better as a unit on Sunday. Edge Riders
Projected starters: Riders - E - Chick, Foley, T - Shologan, George, Cats - Marshall, Norwood, T - Bulcke, Moore. One change for the Riders with Hilee Taylor in for Will Davis. Davis does get reps on passing downs so expect Taylor to be out there taking a shift. Lots of inexperience on the ends for Hamilton. Bulcke was a solid free agent pickup from Calgary but in his first year as a full time starter. Despite the lack of actual sack numbers, particularly from Chick and Foley, our line has been playing well. It's nice to see the pocket collapse these days on passing plays. Edge Riders
Projected starters: Riders - MLB - Williams, OLB - Butler, Brown, Cats - MLB - Johnson, OLB - Knowlton, Harris. Rey Williams has been a pleasent surprise this year. I thought the move to him from Lobendahn was only going to help us with the cap and wasn't a big deal on the field. He's been great so far. Brown and Butler have passed the test so far of standing up against the run at linebacker. Butler was very impressive taking on Kackert one on one. WHen he did get beat on the long one, from his reaction I got the sense that he jumped a route and got burned vs just getting beat ouright. This is the strength of the Hamilton defense with two of their few vets. Johnson and Knowlton had good games against the Bombers. Rico Murray gets his first start at Will Linebackers while Eric Harris moves to safety. Edge Riders.
Projected starters: Riders - CB - Turenne, Russ, HB - Anderson, Miller, S - Brackenridge, Cats - CB - Stephen, Brown, HB - McCullough, Hobbs, S - Patrick. Unlike last year when Coach Chamblin was moving guys in and out of hte lineup due to trying to find the right mix, he is being forced to do it this year due to injury. I was surprised that Eddie Russ got cut, but it was great to have him around since we need some healthy bodies. It's a good thing we have depth ni the secondary. 3 starters are out from when we started the year. Of those three, Maze and Harris are the guys we will miss the most. Hamilton's best defender is Even McCullough who came over from the Argos via free agency. Eric Harris moves to safety from LB replacing James Patrick who honestly has been horrific for Hamilton this year. Harris should provide better tackling and better run support. Courney Stephen is a Cats draft pick from last year who starts at corner. All the inexperience and changes in the secondary reminds me of the Rider secondary in 2000. That's not good if you are a Cats fan. Even with the injury changes, the Rider secondary has more stability. Edge Riders
Projected starter: Riders - Sanders, Cats - Lamar. In what was a big area of concern due to Dickenson leaving and Dyce being in, the Riders have surprised the nay-sayers leading hte league in coverage. Jock Sanders has been effective the last two games coming really close to breaking one. If I want to nit-pick, we've taken a few penalties on returns. Lindsay Lamar was the story of the pre-season and started the regular season with a splash by taking a kickoff all the way back. Since that return, he has been quite ordinary, including a horrendous day in the bad weather against Edmonton where he put at least 3 balls on the ground. Slight Edge Riders
Projected starter: Riders - Milo, Cats - Congi. Yes, Luca had a fantastic season last year, and Milo struggled. However I though the thinking that we should have never cut Luca was a case of Monday morning QB'ing. At the time. we had a kicker who although money inside of 40, wasn't consistent from beyiong that and didn't get distance on kickoffs. Add to this, he was coming off a major knee injiury. Based on the start this year, maybe the Riders didn't make the wrong call long term. We still have yet to see Milo try one from over 40. Broday McKnight is on the 46 man roster this week. Will we see a change? Even if not, that move still puts the heat on Luca. Edge Riders
Projected starter: Riders - Schmidt, Cats - Bartel. Schmidt had his worse day punting in this new season with a 43 average last week. Remember the days when we would have killed for that?? His hangime allowed our special teams to limit Chad Owens to almost nothing. Bartel's average is very close to Schmidt's but Schmidt hs the better net. Slight Edge Riders
When the Riders have the ball
We didn't get to see them run a bunch of plays, but just based on what we saw at walk through, it's got to be Durant starting. Just from a layman's observation, I didn't see any noticable limp. No matter who is at QB, there is no secret that the Riders are going to try and run the ball again, with the top running back in the league and one of the best yards per carry. Conversely, Hamilton has one of the worst yards per carry given up in the league. In fairness if you give up a couple of big ones like they have, your average this early in the year is going to look bad. Harris at safety should shore up the run D against the big one, but a safety in the CFL will be hard pressesd to help out with the run inside the box. They will be hoping for Rico Murray to help out there. Look for Knowlton and Johnson to run blitz a lot, with the Riders countering the aggressive linebacker play but bringing on the 2 TE set to block them. You know there is a section of the playbook that has not been opened up where we have Sheets and Sanders in together. Maybe we see that tomorrow to take more pressure off the QB.
If Hamilton can't get pressure on the Rider starting QB they are screwed. Maybe a year from now, or even a few months, we will be praising this Hamiilton secondary as a good one. But even if they are talented you simply can't make this many changes with a bunch of youngsters and expect the unit to mesh. Especially when the Americans are still getting used to the motion etc. If I am the Riders, I stay away from Evan McCullough as much as possible and attack everyone else. I assume in his first start, Stephens will be on the wide side, so it's a little harder to game plan him, but I can see the Riders testing him. Bagg will the out there most of the time, but on that his first TD last week, Taj lined up out there. Harris will proved a better presence physically, but I don't expect him to read the QB as well as Patrick did. Darian might be able to use play action and his eyes to get him out of position. I don't know if you guys have noticed, but Darian is doing more looking off receivers than in the past....probably another influence of Cortez. If Hamilton is aggressive against our run, they could be susceptible, espcially early to some playaction shots down the field.
To be honest, the way the Riders are doing on O right now, they can run their package and force the defense to stop them versus having to adjust what we do on offense based on the opposition. That being said I am sure Cortez has a couple of specific things planned. I may have missed this online during the week, but I noticed last week that our receivers are now doing that thing where they run up to the line and stop, trying to get the defense to tip their hand. Another Cortez innovation I first saw a few years ago.
When the Tiger-Cats have the ball
With all the injuries in the Rider secondary, we definitely caught a break with all the inexperience with the Hamilton receivers. The guys missing from their lineup add up to more than 50% of Hank's TDs and yards last year. I would love to pile on Hank, but he's doing about as well as he can with what he has to work with. Hamilton's running game hasn't been particularly good this year, but I expect them to try it to take pressure off the passing game. Last week against Winnipeg, I thought Hamilton tried to use a lot of mis-diretion and motion in the running game. For the ost part Muamaa did a great job for the Bomber sniffing those plays out. We will need Rey Williams to do the same tomrorrow. Speaking of Rey, he's been pretty vocal about his big this game is for him. You can bet Hamilton has heard this too. We need him to not let his emotions get the better of him. He needs to stay focused and within the system. Hamilton might try and burn him with screens and draws (which I expect them to do anyway to slow down our front four). In a couple of big wins over Calgary late in 2009, Williams did a great job of spying Hank and not letting him be effective as a runner. Like he did last week, Hank will use his legs as much as possible to get first downs. Rey is going to be the key man to prevent that.
By default, I guess Giguere and Grant will be the go to receivers for Hank. We can't fall asleep on guys like Ellingson, but I doubt we game planned for the new guys. Giguere on Turenned will be a key matchup. Turenne has the speed to cover Gigeure but his tackling is going to have to be good, since as Rod Black has told us many times Giguere is a big strong guy. I can see them running a few hitch screens to try and get him the ball. If we go with a lot of zone coverage, that's where the inexperienced receivers may have problems finding the open spot and sitting down, or adjusting thier routes based on coverage of bitzling. I think Hamilton is going to have to run a more simplified passing game that whana guy like Kent Austin would normally want.
It comes down to 2 things for me for the defense to be successful tomorrow, imo. Contain Hank and don't let him extend drives and make plays with his legs. Don't allow the easy big play. Make these guys earn their yards and go down the field.
I am one of those guys who always gets hot and bothered by the "same old Riders" type talk. But here I am going for that same type of thinking. With all the inexperiences, injuries, and lack of talent in some areas, Hamilton is a huring team coming in here. There is no reason for a Rider fan to not expect our team to come up big tomorrow. Even with Drew Willy, the rest of the team shoul be good enough to pick up the slack and win it, but now with Darian ready to go, there's no reason to worry. But those little thoughts creep in. What if Austin comes up with a fantastic game plan? What if our revamped secondary breaks down even against a no-name group of receivers. I'll bet fans of teams with more success don't worry about such things in this situation. As for the Austin factor, I think he is a fantastic coach, but he didn't go 20-0 for us in 2007. We did lose games, and a couple of them weren't pretty.
If the Riders come to play tomorrow, there's no excuse for losing this game.
My score: Roughriders 31 Tiger Cats 20
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