"Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success." Henry Ford
The horror of the first third of the season can finally be put in the rearview mirror with the end of the Riders first bye week of the season.
There were numerous issues that plagued the Football Club that attributed to the woeful start: penalties (most in the CFL), lack of turnovers (least in the CFL and on track towards a record in futility), injuries (22 six-game injury designations; 19 different players with Shea Emry, Darian Durant and Cam Sheffield entering their second six-game stint), red zone defence (teams score touchdowns a league high 65% of the time) and just bad plays at unfortunate times during the game.
That is the negative, but let's look at the positives beginning with the Rider offensive line. This was a group that many thought was the weakest on the team; they have proved different. The offensive line is the anchor of what is still one of the top offences in the league, even with three different quarterbacks starting games this season. The quintet of Brendon LaBatte, Chris Best, Xavier Fulton, Dan Clark and Levy Adcock paved the way for the CFL’s top running game and the overall third best offence.
The only hiccup was Brett Smith’s first CFL start, but the improvements were ten-fold a game later in the loss to the Argos in Toronto before the bye week break. The offensive line did take a hit with Adcock suffering a knee injury and being placed on the six-game injury list, but former Missouri State Bulldog, Randy Richards will fill in admirably for him. If this group can continue their high level play, good things will come.
The play of rookie linebackers, Jeff Knox Jr. and Jake Doughty has been the highlight of the defence. Knox is the team’s top tackler and in the top five in the CFL in overall tackles while Doughty is in the top 20 in the league. You have to remember, both missed the first game of the season.
The punting of Ray Early and the cover teams are the envy of the CFL. With teams having problems with the top returners in the CFL, the Riders are tops in net average at a shade under 40 yards per punt (39.7).
Finally, with the glut of injuries this season, that meant first and second year players have had to make their mark. With the play of Ryan Smith, Nic Demski, Ray Early, Jeff Knox Jr., Jake Doughty, Brandon Tennant, Rory Connop, Brett Smith and many others, the future is incredibly bright!
Now to the Calgary Stampeders. The defending Grey Cup champions are also going through their injury woes. Their offensive line is so young, that Calgary Colt junior, Spencer Wilson has the most experience with five years under his belt. The other four starters are either in their first or second CFL season. With the addition of Jon Cornish to this list, one would figure the Stampeder offence would hiccup. This is not the case as the offence rolled to a 48-3 victory over Ottawa last week at home.
A lot of the credit for that victory should go to the Stampeder defence. They forced five Ottawa turnovers and a meagre 162 yard offence in the biggest point margin for a victory this season. This all starts with former Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker, Juwan Simpson. The eight year CFL vet does it all: rushes the QB, stops the run, fantastic in coverage and is their emotional leader. Simpson, along with defensive linemen Charleston Hughes (six sacks) and Freddie Bishop (three sacks), and defensive backs Fred Bennett, Joe Burnett and Keon Raymond make this Calgary defence one of the top overall units in the CFL.
- Week eight of the CFL saw a season low in penalties, but with the Riders taking the field again this weekend, that may change.
- Weston Dressler is still three catches from 500 in his CFL career.
- Rob Bagg is 13 catches away from 250 in his CFL career.
- Brett Smith will start at quarterback for the first time at home in front of a sold-out Mosaic Stadium.
- There may not be much scoring in the first quarter. Saskatchewan and Calgary are in the bottom three in the CFL in points scored in the opening frame.
- The Stampeders are a perfect 7-7 on two-point conversions this season.
- The Riders are the only team in the CFL perfect on 1-point coverts in 2015 (11-11).
- The Riders are the only team in the CFL that have had all of their points scored from the offence.
- Both the Stampeders and Riders have a pair of touchdown drives of 90+ yards (starting inside their own 20). The Alouettes also have two.
- Randy Richards and Junior Mertile will be playing in their first CFL game, while Don Unamba will be playing in his first game as a Saskatchewan Roughrider.
- Jake Doughty, Levy Adcock and Nathan Kanya were added to the six-game injured list this week.
- This will be Dan West’s 50th career CFL game.
What to watch:
The Riders have you covered on and off the field. Keep checking with riderville.com, download the Rider app, or follow on any of the Riders social media platforms for all of your Green and White information.
We also give you live game day coverage with 90 minutes of CKRM’s pre-game show with Michael Ball and post game coverage of Corey Chamblin’s press conference on riderville.com/riderslive.