I am not going to act like I knew that the Riders would come up with a performance like that on Friday. I was hoping that the team would keep the game competitive and not start the season with a bad loss. I figured we could pull off a win, but at no point did I think we would go into Hamilton and lay that kind of a whooping on them. I know it’s only one game, but it’s hard not to get excited. Now comes a game against a Western opponent, which was one of our many failures last year.
That was a fine performance by Darian on Friday. He was on target for the most part, made the right reads, and showed leadership. He also used his legs to run for first downs, and maybe this is me not remembering the past, but he seemed a lot smarter about giving himself up after getting the first down and not taking hits.
Stephen Jyles had a workman like game on Saturday. He got the win, but only got to the end zone once and put up less than 20 points. Whether it was by design to not take chances, Jyles went to a lot of check-downs when passing. There were only a handful of attempts to get the ball down the field. Edge Riders
Welcome to Rider nation, Kory Sheets. It’s one thing to do what he did in pre-season, but Sheets picked up right where he left off with his regular season debut. I loved his ability to cut to the outside and make something out of nothing. He also showed a great stiff arm and made a couple of key catches. He also made a couple of nice blocks. Complaining about this guy right now is just being picky. Brandon West is around to spell him, but it did not happen last week. Neal Hughes looked a lot bigger than last year. Maybe we should look at him in short yardage.
I really didn’t get why Black and Forde were gushing over Hugh Charles. 12 carries for 43 yards is less than 4 yards a carry. He also averaged less than 6 yards per catch. With the way Sheets looked and with West and Rankin around as well, the Riders should have absolutely zero seller’s remorse about trading Charles last year. Edge Riders
No surprise that Dressler and Getzlaf led the way on Friday. If you still have the game on PVR, check for this moment for amusement. On Getzlaf’s TD, Dressler and Harper had their arms up in celebration before Getz actually hauled it in. That’s trust in your receiver. I expect Robb Bagg to become more involved as he gets back up to game speed. Mixed reviews for Justin Harper in his first game. He is a monster out there when it comes to size. He needs to come back to the ball and help Darian out on his outs.
Although Fred Stamps has been the Esks’ best receiver over the last few years, it’s not surprising to see Bowman get more work last week. Jyles would have familiarity with him and Carr from Winnipeg in 2010. The above mentioned guys are Edmonton’s big three. Carr and Bowman are a load to bring down after they catch the ball. Cary Koch returns to Mosaic with his new teammates. Matt Carter is out for Edmonton so first round pick Chambers is in for the Esks. Slight Edge Riders
Watching this unit perform was a refreshing change from what we observed last year. IMO, Kris Sweet is already showing his value. We had 2 guys in their first ever CFL games and 5 guys playing together for the first time ever. Yes, I know Hamilton has a questionable d-line, but our guys still had a great game. Chris Best will sit out another game. Ben Heenan’s performance is probably making it easier for the coaches rest Best (rhyme purely unintentional) until he is completely healthy. Admittedly I didn’t watch the Eskimos line closely enough to form a strong opinion. I think their biggest question is Dylan Steenbergen at right tackle. Late news: Greg Wojt is out at guard for the Esks and probably replaced by Brian Ramsey. Edge Riders
Like the offensive line, it was nice to see an effective defensive line for the Riders. We may not have been wowed with 3 sacks, but that’s 54 over 18 games which in 2011 would have put us among the league leaders. There were a few times where the pocket collapsed and Willis in particular disrupted Hank enough to cause bad throws. Those are important plays that don’t show up on the stat sheet. I believe the defensive line is one of the strengths of the Eskimo too. Howard is a handful off the edge and Laurent is a huge body in the middle. Julius Williams is back this week. I thought that maybe the Esks would dress three pass rushers but it looks like Jeanty is sitting. Edge Eskimos
I thought our linebackers did a good job for a trio all starting at their respective positions for the first time. Brackenridge holding Fantuz to 5 catches for 46 yards and getting a pick was a big key in the success last week. There was only one real major gaffe where two of our backers got caught in the wrong hole and the third guy got blocked on Walker’s long TD run. JC Sherritt picked up where he left off last year with a monster performance on Saturday. Munoz might be their fastest backer on the other side and TJ Hill is more of the cover guy. I wondered how Sherritt and Munoz would adjust to a 4-3 this year after playing in a 3-4 last year, but so far so good. Speaking of Munoz, when I hear his first name of Damaso announced, I still expect to hear “Garcia” with an echo after it. Edge Eskimos
I think this is what we were all worried about going into Friday; Hank bombing our secondary. Hamilton’s longest completion was only 19 yards. I thought our guys did a good job of coverage; a knockdown by Eddie Russ helping to stall a Hamilton drive sticks out in my mind. Quietly Chris Mackenzie had a good game. Props to all of you who thought Nick Graham had a poor game as it looks like he is going to be replaced by Woodney Turrenne. I don’t remember much about him in Hamilton, but word is that he is fast and aggressive.
Edmonton has two good halfbacks in Chris Thompson and Weldon Brown. I think this is the strength of their secondary. With Rod Williams on one corner and Donovan Alexander at safety 4/5 of the secondary from last year is back. When I see Alexander at safety, I still have painful memories of Dinwiddie making him look like an all-star last year. The only newcomer is Joe Bennett at corner, and he had a good pre-season.
Edit: Turrenne is confirmed and possibly Maze is in at CB for an injured Tristan Jackson. I was impressed by Maze in Vancouver in pre-season. I am excited that the coach is making changes like Turrenne to improve the team, but you can't ignore there is risk in having two inexperienced corners.
Both teams didn’t do a whole lot to get exciting about in the return game. Moss got off to a tough start bobbling the opening kickoff. Joe Bennett returned punts for the Eskimos. They have their own ex-NFLer to return kicks in Yamon Figures. I was very impressed by our guys covering kicks. Hurl made a huge play on Giguere on a kickoff. Even
Grant Shaw helped take some of the heat off the Ray trade by hitting on 4 of 4 field goals and winning the special teams POW. Chris Milo only got called upon twice on Friday and had a bad break by hitting the upright on his first attempt, but came back strong hitting a long one with his second attempt. Even
Chris Milo’s 47 yard average was definitely boosted by the kick that bounced by a Hamilton returner that turned into a 73 yarder. Keep in mind he did sacrifice distance once or twice to pin the Cats inside their 20. It’s strange seeing Burke Dales in an Eskimo jersey. Nice pickup for Edmonton as he is one of the best in the league. Edge Eskimos
When the Riders have the ball
I am going to go right to what I think is going to be the key matchup in this game. That is the outside pass rush of the Eskimos against the offensive tackles on the Riders. Fulton and Patrick played pretty well for us last week, but compared to the guy in the interior, they are the ones who would be considered question marks. If Edmonton is contently getting on Darian from the outside, it’s going to be a long day for him. If we can get those guys blocked, well then good things can happen. We might see a good amount of that twin TE set with Hughes and McHenry early to put more big bodies on the Eskimo front and wear them down. Coach Dyce said that he would like us to run the ball more than last week. I don’t think we will see the huge gaps we saw for Sheets last week, but he should still be able to get his yards.
There’s no doubt that Edmonton has watched the drag route to Dressler where he comes out of the backfield and will be looking for that. The first way to defeat that play would be to play less man and more zone underneath so that someone is waiting to pickup Dressler. The way the coaches spoke this week, it sounds like we went to Dressler a lot on that play because that’s where a man read takes Darian. If he gets a zone look, I anticipate he looks elsewhere. Perhaps down the seam. If you get the defense watching Dressler like that we may be able to sneak the WR to that side behind coverage.
Edmonton’s strength in the backend are their halfbacks so the matchup with our slots will be a good one.
Overall the Esks have a lot of speed in the front seven and pursue well. They come up quick on dump offs and make the tackle before the ball carrier gets the first down. Their linebackers read screen well too. The dump offs to Sheets may not be as effective as last week. I think we are going to have to go down the field and attack more than we saw in Hamilton. Going back to my first sentence, it all comes down to what happens up front. If a QB like Darian gets time to throw, any secondary is beatable.
When the Eskimos have the ball
The Eskimos probably saw us play a lot of man coverage and are probably planning to attack that. They had a lot of plays where they got the ball to Bowman in short passes and let him run. He’s turned into a pretty good receiver after the catch. Very similar to our Efrem Hill ;). They will do this in a variety of ways. Quick screens, crossing routes etc. They will do the same thing with Greg Carr as well. Like Bowman, he‘s a big receiver who can be hard to bring down in the open field. We all know what a threat Fred Stamps is. If the Riders are going with a newcomer at corner, there is no doubt the Esks will test him. Carr is the guy who plays the short side WR spot so that’s the matchup they will look for. I think they move their guys around so they may try and get Stamps on Turrenne.
Based on what I saw last week, I have faith in our defense to be able to stop Hugh Charles when the Esks go to him. When I think back to Jyles’s one game against us last year, he had a lot of success with the play action bootleg play, just like the play Hank killed us on over the years. Willis and Hawkins have to continue the job they did last week and keep the QB in the pocket. Make Jyles a pocket passer. I am interested to see how Steenbergen handles our ends. I like that matchup for us.
I noticed Jyles checking down a lot last week. I don’t know if it is because the Argos had that good coverage or if Jyles just didn’t want to air it out. If he’s doing the same thing, our tackling has to be good to stop the Eskimo receivers from picking up first downs. Edit: No doubt the Esks will try and go after our corners.
Before the season started, I had said that I don’t mind a loss in Hamilton, but that this is the game we really needed, a home win vs. a Western opponent who we should be battling for a home playoff game. Don’t get me wrong, I am not interested in giving back the win from last week. But a loss would take some luster off week 1.
A win this game would really give us some confidence and get this team on a roll with a tough BC team just around the corner. I don’t think we have a huge edge over Edmonton, except at the most important position on the field. Sure I may eat crow on this later, but I’ll take Durant over Jyles any day of the week. That and being at home should be enough.
My score: Roughriders 24 Eskimos 16
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