Reasons for optimism following Riders loss in Montreal

The best news of all for the Saskatchewan Roughriders is their often horrifying trip to Montreal is done and over with for the year. The bad news is the Riders once again opened up a new season with a notch in the loss column.

There’s no such thing as “moral victories” but there’s some positive to be taken out of the effort on Thursday night for the Green and White. Most notably, the defence might be in better shape than some people (myself included) gave them credit for. We won’t know until the Riders face a high powered offence, but any time you can keep the opposition below 2o points, that’s a good thing.

Offensively, the picture isn’t quite as rosy but there’s no need for panic either. Some more practice time should fix some of the issues (like unforced penalties and drops) that we saw in Montreal.

Naturally, the Riders would love to be heading into their first regular season game at New Mosaic Stadium with a win under their belt, but overall, there isn’t too much to lose sleep over after this one. More often than not, Montreal hasn’t been kind to the Riders, add in a short week, travel from B.C. and some of the injuries and it could have been a whole lot worse.

Game Thoughts

The biggest worry heading into the opening week of the season was the Riders beat up secondary. Adding Jovon Johnson paid off in spades against his former team as the veteran was solid, which shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Overall, Darian Durant and company were mostly kept in check other than a couple of breakdowns by Mike Edem and Chris Lyles. It’s quite possible this was one of the best early season tackling performances by the Riders in a few years. More pressure on the quarterback will be needed as the season goes on.

Speaking of Lyles, I thought TSN’s Glen Suitor did a top notch job breaking down that play as the rookie was caught not keeping an eye on his man, Ernest Jackson.

Much of the talk heading into the game was the quarterbacks but I don’t think either stood out over the other. Though, I don’t think anyone believes Darian Durant anymore when he says it was just another game.

The offensive line held up pretty well for Kevin Glenn. When the blitz was coming, Glenn did a pretty good job reading it and either getting the play off quick or creating some time for himself. You could say his interception was “vintage Glenn” but they still had a chance to win afterword.

Penalties are still an issue. 113 yards is simply too many to take during a game. The good news is most of the penalties taken are correctable.

The coaching staff would be wise to do some self-scouting after the loss. There’s a couple of times they could have done a better job managing the game. In a scoring situation in the fourth quarter, Jones put backup pivot Brandon Bridge into the game, leading to a three yard dash on first down. Then kept Bridge, who had only attempted one pass prior, stayed in the game for a toss to the corner of the end zone to Duron Carter. It didn’t work out and the play wouldn’t have stood anyway. I get wanting to give Bridge some in game reps but there’s a time and a place. This might not have been it. The overall clock management during the team’s final drive of the game left much to be desired as well.

One decision by the coaches that was a good one was giving the ball to Cameron Marshall after his lost fumble. It’s important to show players you have confidence in them.

I don’t agree with the command centre when it comes to Bakari Grant’s touchdown. The ball looked loose to me before breaking the plain. The play also didn’t decide the game either way as there was lots of time on the clock. Overall, the officiating was fine. Yes, there were lots of penalties but the players share some of that responsibility as well.

I’m still not a fan of the three man rush.

Nic Demski made the most of his opportunity with Rob Bagg injured. The Winnipeg native led the team with 87 yards through the air, a new career high. We’ve seen flashes of Demski’s top play, now he needs to be more consistent. Demski would probably like to have a play back on the team’s final drive back when he should have turned north sooner for a first down. Luckily for the former Bison, Naaman Roosevelt bailed him out on third down to keep the drive alive.

An unfortunate ending for Tyler Crapigna. The Riders kicker was solid last season and I have no doubt he’ll move on from the game ending miss and be just fine. Crapigna had a rough game during the Labour Day Classic last season but bounced back.

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