Saskatchewan Roughriders threatening to turn into 2001 Baltimore Ravens

July 12, 2018 - 10:13am

The 2001 Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens was noted for their defense, but not their offense. The 2018 Saskatchewan Roughriders may be noted for the defense, but their offense was truly offensive in a 18-13 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats that evened their record to 2-2.

This was the Riders first game since Zach Collaros went on the six game injury list with a concussion.

The Riders gave the reins to Brandon Bridge before flip-flopping him with David Watford as neither quarterback showed they had the ability to operate the Rider offense before finally eking out a touchdown in the final two minutes.

The TSN panel thought Bridge was not getting a fair shot by being allowed to work through his mistakes, which is fair, but Bridge also showed a disturbing ability to play like a first year quarterback by rushing his passes and turning into the pass rush when he was forced to scramble.

It was a team effort on offense as the Rider offensive line was slightly better than it was in the loss against Montreal, and serious questions have to asked about what exactly the Rider coaching is accomplishing. The Riders only managed to move the ball on the ground and on the odd circus catch which means if the Riders are going to win, it is going to be incumbent on the defense to carry them through.

While Bridge and Watford struggled, there is no guarantee if Collaros returned, he would be able to do any better considering his tendency to go down with an injury. The Duron Carter experience continued at defensive back but this week the Riders managed to move him around to avoid having him isolated against Bandon Banks.

The more the Carter Experience continues at defensive back, the more it seems that Carter is on defense to avoid having him being a distraction on offense. Carter got kicked off the Montreal Alouettes two years ago because he was a distraction on that team.

There have been flashes of that player who got kicked off the Als at times with the Riders, and with the Riders offense resembling a doughnut with no centre to it, Carter on defense in theory lets the rest of the new receivers try to develop with whoever is at quarterback without having an open mutiny on the field or on the sidelines.

The Riders win however disguises the fact that while Montreal and to an increasing extent BC is becoming the tire fire in the CFL this year, the Riders are teetering on the brink of joining those teams if they cannot figure out how to run an offense in the next week. The Riders defense is capable of winning games, but the revolving door at quarterback, the turnstiles at offensive line and the running back misfires makes it doubtful the Riders can consistently pull out games against their CFL competition.

If the Riders are unable or unwilling to come up with an offense that best reflects the talents of their players, then prepare for the wheels to come off the Riders playoff hopes. The situation is similar to 2014 when Darian Durant went out with an injury and the Riders were suffering through Tino Suneri and Seth Doege until Kerry Joseph was brought in as a band aid solution.

The problem is that there is no Joseph on the horizon and neither Watford or Bridge offer enough stylistic differences to make game planning difficult for opposing defensive coordinators. If I was game planning against the Riders, I would blitz on a regular basis because the Riders offensive line has problems with the blitz along with the quarterbacks ability to respond to pressure.

The contrast between the coaching job being done on the defense versus that of the offense is startling. Chris Jones is doing everything to give his defense a chance to succeed. The offense is not giving itself the same opportunity.

Bridge’s fumble in the second quarter when he crossed the goal line is an example of either lack of coaching or perhaps Bridge feeling the pressure to perform. Bridge last year did his hurdling over defensive players which helped to spark the Riders in various situations.

However what was innovative last year is this year predicable and if Brandon Bridge was trying to hurtle me, I would try to punch out the ball because he is a sloppy ball handler. Unless Watford demonstrates an ability to do more than quarterback sweep right and then quarterback sweep left, the Riders will be lucky to break 100 yards passing offense.

If Chris Jones wants to demonstrate he is more than a defensive coordinator, then figuring out how best to run an offense with the players available has to be the main priority before the Riders go to Hamilton next week. If the Riders can’t correct those problems, then they will be battling BC for the bottom of the western conference.

Jones came in with the mandate to build sustained development and whle the Riders took a step forward last year, they are not trending to make another step forward to Grey Cup contender this year. While Jones can talk about parallels with the 2001 Baltimore Ravens, the fact of the matter is the Regina Riot, the Western Canadian Women’s Football Champions, have a smarter and more efficent offense than what the Riders have demonstrated so far this year.

Whle people want Brandon Bridge to succeed, he may have reached his ceiling as a change of pace quarterback coming off the bench unless the Riders decide to try putting Bridge in a position to succeed as opposed to him trying to make things happen on his own within the context of a weird game plan.

So this week there are just three games and each are interesting in their own way. Calgary goes to Ottawa on Thursday and while the Stampeders are 3-0, Ottawa is 2-1 and coming off a win against Montreal, which for the Riders is apparently harder than it seems.

Calgary is coming off a bye week and news that Eric Rogers, who returned to the Stampeders, is out with an injury. Rogers was a gamble by the Stampeders along the lines of John Ojo signing with the Riders before the effects of his injury caught up with him.

With Calgary going on the road and short Rogers, it seems the Stampeders might be vulnerable to an improved Ottawa team. However beating Montreal is no yardstick to determine where a team is and while the deck seems to loaded in Ottawa’s favor, the Stampeders are deeper talent wise and tend to rise to early season challenges more easily at the start of the season as opposed to the end where they start to lose focus and especially in the Grey Cup.

It should be a competitive game and while Ottawa could very well pull off the win, Calgary should win this one 26-17.

On Friday Toronto goes to Edmonton to complete the season series with James Franklin hoping to build on his debut with the Argos and sweep his former team. Toronto was helped by the turf-grass combination at their field which led to one crucial Eskimo drop and while the Eskimos are injury ridden and tend to fall behind early before trying to come back, the question is whether the Argos can pull off a similar upset two weeks in a row.

Toronto has some things in their favor including smarter play-calling by Marc Trestman who puts his quarterbacks in a position to succeed. However Edmonton has the firepower that if they have the mental toughness to get out ahead and stay ahead, they should be able to throw more at Toronto than what they should be able to handle.

This should be a tight game because while Edmonton should be able to win this one, Toronto has the coaching to make this close. I would not be surprised to see Toronto win, but Edmonton should be able to prevail 28-26 in a game that should be close because Edmonton is injury ridden and has shown a tendency to be slow starters which might work in Toronto’s favor.

The final game on Saturday features Winnipeg going to BC to potentially drive another nail into the BC Lion coffin. The Lions had hopes that new GM Ed Hervey would be able to bring in enough talent on the defense and offensive line to help make Wally Buono’s last season a successful one.

The problem is Jonathon Jennings appears to have lost his confidence as the BC Lion quarterback and Jarious Jackson as the new offensive coordinator has been unable to bring Jennngs back from the drain his career has been circling since last season.

Travis Lulay has received clearance to play this week and if Lulay plays, it may be an admission by the Lions their season is on the brink. Lulay does bring more maturity and grit than Jennings does to the position, but the problem is if BC brings Lulay back too early and he gets injured, then the Lions season is for all intents and purposes over.

The problem is if BC doesn’t do something, they will lose ground to Winnipeg in the battle for a playoff spot. The other problem is perhaps there is just not enough talent in BC to justify a playoff spot. Take Winnipeg in this one 33-22.


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