Movin’ On Up

Life is looking much better for the 4-4 (and nearly 6-2) Riders

Rider Fan Forum | by Gregory Beatty

After being a Jekyll and Hyde team early on, the Riders have recorded impressive wins at home against B.C. and on the road against Edmonton to  move to 4-4 heading into their annual Labour Day Classic/Banjo Bowl double-header against Winnipeg. To get their assessment, we’re joined by our Rider fan panel of Ivanka Trudeau, Cal Corduroy, Ron Mexico and Earl Camembert. You know them, you love them so let’s give them a hand!

What do you make of the Riders’ play so far?

RON MEXICO: You stole my line by calling them Jekyll and Hyde, leaving me without words. What I have noted is the team has mirrored the performance of its defensive secondary.

IVANKA TRUDEAU: It was difficult to know what to make of them early on, but I think they’re an improved team. Looking at the first eight games they could easily be 6-2, but for one play/missed field goal in the first two losses. The calls to fire Chris Jones/Craig Reynolds/John Murphy/Gainer, etc. have all but stopped! Realistically, though, they still have some areas for improvement and it will be tough for them to make the playoffs in the West.

EARL CAMEMBERT: I think the records of some West teams flatter them (i.e. Edmonton, Winnipeg, B.C.), while the Riders’ record didn’t. If Tyler Crapigna had made two field goals they’d be right in the mix. The Riders have been better of late, but you still have to wonder what went on in Calgary and Vancouver. Those games were horrendous. Are those the true Riders, or is it the team from the last two games against B.C. and Edmonton?

CAL CORDUROY: The Riders could easily have two more wins save for a couple of missed field goals. Big plays have hurt them, but a lot of that is just inexperience on our back end.  Every game they get better. That’s all you can ask.

What about the CFL season as a whole? One thing that stands out is the East/West disparity. Which teams have surprised? Disappointed?

RM: One thing that stands out for me is that the games have been more entertaining, and it seems like penalties are down. The East/West disparity has existed since the early 1980s. I can’t figure out why. Winnipeg is the biggest surprise. Ottawa’s record is disappointing, but they’ve had a lot of tight games and are coming on of late.

IT: I think we all knew Calgary and Edmonton would be the teams to beat, but I’m amazed at how well Winnipeg has played. They’ll be tough to beat in the Labour Day Classic and Banjo Bowl. B.C. started strong, but has a lot of injuries, and I think (hope) they will end up last in the West.

I’m surprised by how poorly the East teams have played — especially Hamilton and Ottawa.  Good on Kent Austin to be self-aware enough to fire himself as head coach. The Ti-Cats definitely needed a change. Montreal is where I expected them to be. Darian Durant has helped them improve, but they’ve still fallen short in several games. Marc Trestman and Jim Popp have already made Toronto better than last year.

Perhaps this will be the first year the fifth place team in the West has a better record than the second place team in the East, which will have fans inundating the new commish’s e-mail/twitter account with calls to eliminate the two divisions.

EC: The season has been pretty good overall, with lots of close, hard-hitting games. Since the new commissioner took away one of the coach’s challenges the games have more flow too, as opposed to the incessant challenges on pass interference. I don’t think any of the teams have surprised in the West. Like I said, Winnipeg’s record flatters them. So I guess I’m surprised they’re 7-2.

In the East, I thought Ottawa would be better, but they blew a couple of games and lost some close ones as well. I still think they’re the class of the East though. Hamilton is what you’d expect in year five of a Kent Austin run. Everyone on the team eventually hates him because he’s such a knob and they go in the tank. Montreal is where they are because Darian is Darian, and will consistently throw ill-timed interceptions like he did here.

CC: Talk about a roller coaster. There have been some excellent games, and a few stinkers as well. The collapse of the Cats has been surprising, and I suppose, the play of the Bombers. The Riders made the right moves with Weston Dressler, John Chick and Durant.

How do you see the season’s second half playing out?

RM: I have no idea. I can’t read the Riders. I’d like to say they’ve turned the corner and are on their way. Jones has won everywhere he’s gone, but of course the Riders are cursed and this can override everything. I don’t know how they’ll hold up if they get some injuries, although they’ve played better since centre Dan Clark’s injury.

IT: In the West, I think Calgary and Edmonton will battle for first, with the Riders and Bombers vying for third and fourth — which will be good enough for a cross-over play-off spot. Hopefully having our two byes early in the season won’t bite us in the hiney later on when the play-off hunt heats up. In the East, I think it will be close among Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa for the top two spots and play-off berths.

EC: In the West, Calgary takes first going away but I predict QB Bo Levi Mitchell gets hurt. The Riders are in the mix, and if they can take out Winnipeg back-to-back they’re really on the boil. Someone from the West will cross over in the playoffs and we might see a West vs. West Grey Cup. The East? Who cares?

CC: Maybe a split with the Bombers for the Riders, a split with the Stamps, and one other loss. This will end up being a good season. No Grey Cup though.

Before Chris Jones swung the Vernon Adams trade, I was going to ask about the missing piece in the Rider puzzle to become perennial contenders — a franchise QB. How much of a concern is that for you?

RM: We’re fine with Kevin Glenn for a year or two. He’s far better than Durant. One of the three guys the Riders have as backups might be fine. I’d like to see a franchise linebacker.

IT: I was concerned about our QB situation at the start of the year. However, I think both Brandon Bridge and Vernon Adams have shown some promise in their limited playing time. We need someone to step-up post-Glenn and become our long-term starter. Perhaps Jones still has his eye on Edmonton’s James Franklin and will sign him in the off-season when he becomes a free agent.

EC: I think the trade was a good move. Bridge hasn’t been bad when he’s been in there, but clearly the coaching staff worked with him enough in practice to see his limitations, and Marquise Williams is a complete unknown. Pretty well everyone would realize Glenn, who has certainly been more than serviceable (and to Jones’ credit, way better than Durant at half the price), is not a long-term solution. Adams is worth a shot. And he’s 24 years old.

CC: The Adams trade is impossible to rank right now as we have no idea how good he’s going to be. I do think, however, that as much of a knob as Chris Jones is, he (and John Murphy) know talent, and he’s proven he knows how to win. So while it’s next year country for the Riders, they have a good base to build on. ❧