To say the most important part of the Riders schedule, a stretch that will see them play six straight games against divisional opponents, did not get off on the right foot, would be an understatement.
Last week, I wrote about how these games will tell us who this team really is. There are still five more games to go, but the early results certainly aren’t flattering.
You couldn’t have scripted a worse start for the Green and White on Saturday night. Being down 24-0 after the opening quarter is less than ideal against anyone. It’s especially true against the best team in the league and you’re a team that struggles to put up points at the best of times.
In that quarter, the Riders essentially did everything they can’t afford to do if they want to win games. The offence turned over the football multiple times and they even gave up a special teams touchdown. The defence? Well, it’s hard to put much on them in that quarter and they ended up keeping their team in it the rest of the night as usual.
After the game, Chris Jones said that they need to play great defence and special teams to win. They also need an offence that can chew up some clock. There’s no denying that. They didn’t do that against Calgary and at the end of the day, the score probably flattered them.
Much of the talk around the province right now is the sad state of the offence. It’s pretty clear at this point that they don’t trust Brandon Bridge all that much (more on that in a bit), so perhaps Zach Collaros returning in a couple of weeks will make a difference. Either way, in theory, there’s nothing wrong with an overly conservative game plan. As much as it’s not an offence I would run, there are ways it can work and there’s certainly a time and place for it. If it’s a close game in the fourth? Sure. Down 24-0 after 15 minutes? It’s probably time to open it up a bit. It’s the lack of adjustment that gets to me more than the overall idea. On the bright side, at least they’ve decided that running the football is a good thing.
One area hampering this offence is their receivers. As Duron Carter continues to be OK on defence, his offence is badly missed but that’s another story. Without Naaman Roosevelt for most of the night, no one stood up. Is it time to re-visit some of those cuts out of camp? Something has to give soon. Someone’s got to start making some plays or they need to find someone who can.
I found it interesting that Jones said that the offence would be the same against Edmonton. It’s a short week, so not making changes isn’t that surprising. I’m just surprised he said it. There are times he doesn’t want to say things in the media so the other teams can’t learn anything. Other times Jones doesn’t seem to care. Could he be up to something by saying it? Maybe.
As much as I like Brandon Bridge, and this is going to kill Justin Dunk, he’s not the answer here. Bridge is good in a pinch, he can be a serviceable backup, but I think it’s safe to say he’s not a starter in this league. Not yet anyway. Everyone learns and grows at different paces, so maybe he gets there, but Bridge’s accuracy is an issue. As is his overall game sense.
Brett Lauther is quietly becoming one of the better stories in the CFL this year. The kicker had been out of the league for years and got his chance again this year after Tyler Crapigna was shut down for the season. He’s made the most of it hitting on 18 of his first 20 attempts including a 56-yarder against Calgary.
Charleston Hughes certainly still has it. That’s not to say that Calgary made the wrong decision, considering how good their defence is. That said, Hughes already has a league-leading eight sacks. Big things were expected of Hughes in green and white but he might actually be surpassing expectations at this point.