I didn't expect the Riders to blow out the Als last weekend, but I didn't think we would need a miracle finish either, especially with Calvillo out. I've seen the Riders lose many games over the years in such an unbelievable fashion. We just need to go back to last year to see a game where biting on a pump fake burned us. Onto Edmonton where the team got the season off to a great start. Despite Edmonton's 1-6 record, this one should be a lot closer. Have the teams changed much since that game?
Projected starters: Riders - Durant, Eskimos - Reilly. In post game interviews, Darian confirmed what I thought I saw last week. He didn't seem sharp with his accuracy. Then on a couple of plays in the 2nd half I thought he was guilty of holding the ball vs running out of the pocket or just throwing the ball away. Oh well, that happens. The big think was he didn't get down and made the big play when we needed it. He'll bounce back. Reilly is playing a lot better than he did in week 1. He's got a good arm, and he showed some amazing touch last week, like on a long one he dropped into Fred Stamps late in the 2nd quarter on the near sidelines. Yes he has put up a lot of yards, but a good chunk of it is later in games with the Esks trailing as much as they have. It reminds me of some of Henry Burris's numbers in 2000 with us, except that Reilly seems to be a better decision maker with less picks. He looks good, but I am not ready to move him into the upper echeloen of QBs yet. Edge Riders
Projected starters: Riders - Sheets, Eskimos - Charles. That was Kory Sheets's least productive game of the season, yet projected over an 18 game season that still worked out to 1300 yards. It seemed like the Als did a good job of blowings up some of our blocking. Kory had a rough day catching passes out of the backfield too. GIve credit to the Als defense. The good news is having Scott McHenry back in the H-back role that he has been so effective at this year. Hugh Charles is doing what Hugh Charles using does, having an average season, and that's with his numbers inflated by a big 70 yard run. The Esks have their change of pace back in John White. Sanders it out for the Riders so it's Hughes and McHenry behind Sheets in this one. Edge Riders
Projected starters: Riders - Dressler, Getzlaf, Simon, Smith, Riley, Eskimos - Stamps, Koch, Coehorn, Henry, Chambers. Thank goodness for Rob Bagg that he got the news that he did this week. I think we all feared the worst based on his reaction last week. My guess is we let him sit for 2-3 weeks. Dressler having a banged up shoulder is a little worrisome too. I would think the potential to make it worse wasn't that bad or we would have never called an end-around play to him in the 4th quarter. We won't know for sure until tomorrow, but it looks like we will swtich up the ratio and Rily will come onto the roster to replace Bagg at WR. We haven't seen him since week 3 in Toronto. As can be expected, the Esks receivers had big numbers along with Reilly last week. Their passing attack has gotten a lot better with Stamps and Koch playing on one side together. Coehorn is turnining into a pretty reliable target. Chambers and Marcus Henry showed some signs of breaking out. Even
Projeted starters: Riders - T - Fulton, Heenan, G - Labatte, Best, C - Picard. Eskimos - T - Coleman, O'Donnell, G - Rottier, Mason, C - Kruasnick. Between sacks, penalties, and not as much running room our line as a whole had their roughest start of the year. I wish Elmer had made a blog post regarding last week's game. It was very uncharacteristic to see Labatte with a holding call wiping out a TD. It's time to see this unit on top of their game again. The Eskimos have made a few changes as of last week that seems to have improved things. O'Donnell moved out to tackle, where although he's no star at this point, is better than he was at guard. Miles Mason is a rare import at the guard position. You may remember ex-Rider Krausnick who had his first start at centre last week. The line performed well, but I thought the Argos helped them out by not bringing a lot of pressure. They still didn't blow open holes on the rare occasions where the Esks ran the ball. Edge Riders
Projected starters: Riders - E - Chick, Foley, T - Shologan, George, Eskimos - E - Willis, Howard, T - Laurent, Oramasionwu. Due to ration issues, there's a good chance that Hilee Taylor will not on the roster for the DE rotation meaning Chick and Foley will get more work. If the Rider coaches trust Steinhauer, he might get some reps. There's also a chance it will be McElveen will be the extra d-lineman sitting but my money is on Taylor. Our line bounced back from their game against Calgary and played well last week. This line was supposed to be the strength of the Eskimo defense this year, but they haven't played up to expectations so far. Odell Willis is actually having a productive year sack wise with 5 already, but as usual has shown to be susceptible to the run. The biggest surprised has to be Marcus Howard's two sacks, and he really hasn't been dominant like in the past. It didn't happen week 1 but Laurant is a guy the Riders have had trouble blocking in the past. Even
Projected starters: Riders - OLB - Butler, Brown, MLB - Williams, Eskimos - OLB - Hill, Munoz, MLB - Curran. Brown and Butler rebounded from their games in Calgary where they struggled against the run. Butler in particular was a lot better with his tackling. Rey Williams was solid, last week, but hasn't made an impact play like a sack or interception in a couple of games now. The big hole in the Eskimo lineup is Rennie Curran replacing Sherritt. I didn't see the Argos exploit any huge holes in the Esks middle last week so even though he's a step down from Sherrit, I assume Curran held his own. I've read a lot of dissatisfaction with Munoz's play in my readings from Edmonton. Edge Riders
Projected starters: Riders - CB - Harris, Miller, HB- Anderson, Maze, S - Brakenridge, Eskimos - CB - Williams, Rwabukamba, HB - Young, Thompson, S - Alexander. Granted for three quarters it was against an inexperienced quarterbacks with a depleted receiving corps, but our secondary had a good game last week. There was only one big play against that really should have been a sack, and 2 interceptions. With this group finally being healthy and playing their third game together, look for them to mesh and keep getting better. The Esks have a few changes due to injury in their secondary to Burnett and Grymes. Poor Grymie, can never catch a break. Christ Thomspon is the Esks best cover guy with Burnett out. The Esks will be better at safety this time around against the Riders with Alexander back in. Edge Riders
Projected starters: Riders - Dressler / Miller / Brown. Eskimos - Koch / Charles. With Sanders out, it will be return by committee for the Riders. I know people are scared of injury to see Dressler back there, but he is good at returns. I imagine he will get the majority of the work on punt returns since Miller and Brown have never done it in a game; at least I don't recall Brown returning punts for the Eskimos at any time. I am thinking the two of them will be the kickoff return guys. I remember thinking in the Eskimo / Als game what the Esks coaches were doing putting Koch back on returns, puttting him in a spot that does not match his skill-set. He promptly took one 81 yards for a TD :). You take that return out, and he does average about 6 yards a return. Even
Projected starters: Riders - Milo, Eskimos - Shaw. Last week was the first time Milo has been called on in his career to try a game winner and he nailed it. You know how some people say all his FGs have been short to discount his percentage? Well Grant Shaw has missed a couple of those type of kicks this year. I don't think it will happen, but since Hugh O'Neill and his beard are on the 46 man roster, there is a chance he will be on the roster. Edge Riders
Projected starters: Riders - Schmidt, Eskimos - Shaw. There really isn't much to say here. No matter if it's Shaw or O'Neill punting for the Esks, Schmitt is the superior punter. Edge Riders
When the Riders have the ball
The offense needs to be better this week and they know it. The penalties, dropped passes, and missed assignements must be eliminated. If they do that, the offense should be ok. The running game is a test of resolve now. Teams are geared up to stop, and we aren't going to give up on it. Which group in the trenches will exert their will? I don't know if it was getting beat by the man accross from them or if the Als ran some run blitzes, but a few plays got blown up in the backfield. As I said earlier, going into the season, the Esks interior was considered tough to run on. The Riders will try and duplicate the sucess they had in week 1, especially with Sherritt out. I guess we will see if having Scort McHenry back for the two TE set kick starts things. One concern is with no Sanders in the backfield, we can't give Sheets the breathers we normally do, unless we use one of the Canadians in a one back set or go 6 receivers. Sherrit is one of the best linebackers in the league at sniffing out the screen pass. Without him in therei, I would like to see us try a few to Sheets, despite the trouble he had hanging onto the ball last week. Screens are a way to slow down the Eskimos ends too.
Darian needs to get back to not trying to do too much like he was last week. If he doesn't see a play down the field, he needs to throw the ball away, check it down, or scramble. Maybe ti's my imagination but we seem to have gone away from the play action and half roll to change his launch point. Whatever the reason, I hope to see some of that. Normally our slots are the guys who see most of the passes in our offense, but the Esks are inexperienced at corner, so we may see an effort to go after them. With no Sanders, we might see some end arounds or trick plays to get the receivers involved as running backs.
One thing that I noticed the last two weeks is that Calgary and Montreal had some success disguising things and bringing extre pressure from various looks. You would think the Esks will try that too. However, recall that their coordinator is Greg Marshall so who knows?
When the Eskimos have the ball
The Eskimos have had their success in recent weeks in putting lots of receivers on the field and throwing the ball. Part of this has been out of necessity as they battle from behind. Part of it is that they haven't really made an effort to run the ball. The Rides are a defense that is geared to defend the pass, particularly as we use faster defensive backs at two of our linebackers spots. It's a defense that is potentially vulnerable to a power running game. So in theory, we have the personal to matchup with the Eskimos. Will the Eskimos try and establish the run with Charles and White? If they do, they don't have a bigger back to attack us, unless they throw Calvin McCarty into the game. McCarty is also the only guy I really see on their roster who can play the TE spot if they want to mimic that part of our offense. If the Esks do try and run the ball, the Riders have to shut it down or we'll have troubles. Recall that ugly game in Edmonton last year in October, where Charles ran all over us. New D this year.
The Eskimo passing game is a good one, so we need to get pressure on Mike Reilly. I think the jury is still out on Matt O'Donnell and that Chick and Foley can have success going around him. The Esks offensive line did play better last week but I don't feel the Argos challenged them with a solid 4 man rush. We need to get pressure on Reilly because he has shown with time he will take apart a defenes. Along with revamping the line, another adjustment the Esks have made is putting Fred Stamps and Cary Koch on the same side of the field. I thiank that is mostly to the short side so it will be on Anderson and Harris to keep them in check. Reilly will use his secondary targets as well. I think Maze and Miller can handle it on the other side. I hope we keep Brackenridge in the middle and let him flow to the ball as much as possible. Right now I think he's the best safety in the league with the range to get over and make a play on the ball or put a big hit on the receiver. We can give Reilly some different looks by using Butler too to try and force a mistake. He is a young QB experience wise. The big thing will be to get pressure though. We have to make him uncomfortable or it can be a long day.
Well the Calgary win over Toronto means the Riders need to win tomorrow to keep first place to themselves. I know right now that the Riders are trending downward the last two weeks and the Esks looked pretty good in their last game. Lots of people are calling this a trap game. It is really a trap game when so many people are calling the upset? Everyone on the Herald staff picked the Eskimos tomorrow. I think the Riders need to respect the Eskimos for sure, but there's no need to fear them. We need to guys to get back to playing good fundamental football. Get rid of the stupid penalties, win the turnover battles, and no assignment breakdowns on defense causing big plays. Check all three and the Riders talent should win out. It won't be a walk in the park like week 1, but I think it will still be a win.
My score: Roughriders 30 Eskimos 23
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