Riders will struggle in 2019 without a quality QB, says panel

Rider Fan Forum | by Gregory Beatty

So, how about those Raptors? On June 13, they claimed their first NBA title with a 114-110 win over Golden State. In their season-opener earlier that evening in Hamilton, the Riders battled hard after losing QB Zach Collaros to injury but fell 23-17 to the Tiger-Cats.

On June 20, the Riders play the Ottawa Redblacks, then return home to face the Toronto Argonauts on Canada Day. So, what does our Rider Fan Forum panel of Ivanka Trudeau, Cal Corduroy, Earl Camembert and Ron Mexico have to say? Let’s find out.

Watching the Hamilton game, did you experience a sense of déjà vu related to 2018?

Earl Camembert: Yes, although I was more pissed off than anything. To have a cheap shot artist like Simoni Lawrence pull that bullshit on the third play of the game and knock out a starting QB is horrid. Now, we get to watch another season of screens and hitch passes. Instead of two games, they should’ve suspended that bozo for half the season.

Cal Corduroy: How could you not? With a peanut brittle QB (cheap shot or not) and a punt oriented offence (yawn), it’s gonna be another season where the defence will spend its time wondering how fast the offence will get off the field.

Ron Mexico: Not necessarily. If there is pessimism, and there is some, it is for perhaps different reasons.

Ivanka Trudeau: Yes. It was so frustrating to see Collaros get hit and go out of the game that early. I know Hamilton was penalized with the new 25-yard call, and Lawrence has since been suspended. But that’s little solace to Zach and doesn’t help the Riders going forward without their starting QB.

What stands out for you as maybe different about this team compared to 2018?

Earl Camembert: William Powell is an excellent back. but teams will load eight guys in the box and dare the QB to beat them. I think the receivers are better, but the O-line already has injury problems. The Riders are better at back-up QB, I think. Certainly, Isaac Harker showed some promise. Cody Fajardo didn’t look good after Collaros got KO’d. It’s hard to say the defence can be better than last year, and I don’t think they are. But they will be very good on D. Hamilton had a punt return for a TD or the result might have been different.

Cal Corduroy: I remain to be convinced Craig Dickenson can motivate this team. Chris Jones was a no-nonsense guy (like him or not) who demanded the most from his players. I was pretty pissed at Dickenson’s response to the Collaros hit (“It’s part of the game”). He doesn’t have to risk a fine to say “We have to do more to protect our players”. That hit cost the Riders millions of dollars (fewer wins, less ticket sales, less merchandising). On the plus side, our defensive line and backs are improved. Who knows with our receivers as we never get them the ball downfield. I thought Harker looked pretty good, both in the exhibition game and in relief of Fajardo. William Powell is an upgrade at RB.

Ron Mexico: Last year, I didn’t see any real prospect of offensive production. This year there seems to be a very good running game. I also think we’re better off with Fajardo and Harker than we were with Brandon Bridge. It’s far from ideal, but it’s better. I also like that the Riders don’t have the Duron Carter distraction. I feel better now than I did at this stage last year.

Ivanka Trudeau: I think we’ve improved in every aspect of the game, other than, unfortunately, at QB. I think a lot of our young receivers will be even better this year, the O-line has more depth, and we should be very good on defence.  But not having our starting QB is going to be a big challenge. Maybe Fajardo or Harker will step up, but it’s hard to imagine us having a winning season now.

How do you see the Riders stacking up against other teams in a tough West Division?

Earl Camembert: After watching the first weekend I think Winnipeg is the best in the West as long as RB Andrew Harris stays healthy. The Riders will tussle with B.C. for the crossover to the East playoff spot. Edmonton looked good on offence but were playing Montreal (who have a stupid logo and helmet, I might add) so it’s hard to say what they’ve got. I think they’ll be in a lot of shoot-outs. As for Calgary, I hate them.

Cal Corduroy: Last. Sorry folks, but without a QB (or with a rookie taking snaps) and our punt oriented offence, we’ll be lucky to go .500.

Ron Mexico: Prior to the Collaros injury, which I felt was inevitable, but didn’t expect to be as comical as coming on the third play of the first game (no offence Zach), I had the Riders third behind Calgary and Edmonton. I think it’s fourth now with B.C. overtaking them for third. Crossover birth for the Riders with 7-8 wins.

Ivanka Trudeau: It is going to be extremely difficult to finish better than fourth or fifth in the West.  All of the other Western teams got better with their off-season signings. I thought we did too, but am not optimistic now that Collaros is out.

With the Montreal Alouettes under league ownership, and the East Division struggling in general, do you see some rocky times ahead for the CFL?

Earl Camembert: I do. Ottawa and Hamilton are fine. No one gives a shit about the Argos in Toronto, especially now that everyone in that bandwagon jumping town cheers for the Raptors. And GM Kavis Reed in Montreal will cause more trouble before all is said and done. I think that can be a good franchise because Quebec is a strong football province. But like most teams in Montreal, if you don’t win they boo you or don’t show up. Toronto is a lost cause.

Cal Corduroy: Yup. The league needs a good TV contract. Toronto will be intolerable with the Raptors’ championship, so they’ll be pushing NFL (good luck). The reduced salary cap could be helpful. It will take some good leadership to navigate the choppy waters. How about trying to attract more younger fans? I realize they don’t have money (yet). But the average age of the viewing audience is well over 50. Gotta find a way to raise revenue $1 at a time.

Ron Mexico: Times in the CFL are almost always rocky. Even the prosperous times are never that strong league-wide and there are always at least two franchises in trouble. The difference now is the TV money makes up for a lot of the trouble at the gate. If the Halifax team gets going on time, I think it will strengthen the league a great deal. Coast-to-coast representation. An even number of teams. Much better.

Ivanka Trudeau: I am very concerned about Montreal. However, they may be better with the league ownership if they make some changes. I think they were right to fire coach Mike Sherman, but I have zero faith in Kavis Reed.  I think he needed to go in the off-season and Montreal will struggle. However, they looked better than I thought they would in the Edmonton game.