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Here’s a little trip down memory lane…

WOO HOO!!!!!!!!

Yours truly now has tickets to BOTH the Riders’ home opener AND Labour Day!! Mom – I love you!!

And I must make an addendum to Monday’s note about Rider receivers. Seems I missed an important. Well, one that could become VERY important.

Adarius Bowman is an import receiver who very likely would have gone in either the first or second round of the NFL College Draft had he not elected to smoke a few joints. As a result, he’s fallen off the NFL’s radar and is now looking to get ‘back in the game’ up here.

ET is pretty high on him, despite his past issues. He’s a big guy with speed and great hands according to his former coach and ET. If he develops the way they’d like, he could be a HUGE find for the Riders. Here’s some footage of him from Oklahoma State. Stay tuned…

And if you’d like even more info on our beloved Riders, here are two great sights for ‘inside’ information:

Rod Pedersen’s blog – Rider Radio play-by-play man Rod Pedersen updates daily with his opinions and usually posts transcripts of post-practice scrums and whatnot.

Rider Rumblings – The Leader-Post’s Rider blog with content from Rider beat writers Darrell Davis and Rob Vanstone. Lots of good reading and info.

The Green Zone – Courtesy of NewsTalk650/980, it posts audio of pretty much all newsers, press conferences, media scrums, player interviews, etc.

Rider Blitz – A new site I found courtesy of another blog. Looks great!

So let’s get to it! Today is special teams/running backs day and a look at the hated Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

RIDERS SPECIAL TEAMS/RUNNING BACKS

I think it’s fair to say that kicker Luca Congi (still my favourite name in all of the CFL) had a sophomore slump of sorts. But he wasn’t horrible by any means. Remember the 6 field goals he made in the Western Semi-final versus Calgary? If not for him connecting on all six attempts, the Riders wouldn’t have won that game. I expect him to have a better 2008 season.

Jamie Boreham had a decent season. His average punt was 42.0 yards; not great, but decent. Probably has something to do with the wind at Taylor Field. But his kickoff average was 62.9 yards, tops in the league. He should improve his punting average this year and have a good season.

The Riders had good special teams coverage last season, minus a few bad plays. Where they struggled was in RETURNING kickoffs/punts. Neither Jason Armstead nor Corey Holmes exploded for more than 20 yards on returns. And neither returned a kickoff/punt for a touchdown. The Riders need to find SOMEONE who can give them better field position on a regular basis. Corey Holmes was released in the off-season, so the competition is wide open.

Wes Cates comes into camp as the Riders’ starting running back. He had a solid 2007 season with 866 yards on the ground and another 452 through the air. Remember that he only played 14 games – he hurt his foot late in the season, which hampered his abilities. The Riders have brought in a number of other running backs to push Cates and vie for the backup position.

Here’s the transcript of the scrum after yesterday’s 1st rookie camp practice. Ken Miller answers questions about running backs:

Q. You have a couple of former NFL running backs on your roster in Griffen and Robertson. Do you see them pushing Wes Cates or creating a two-headed attack?

MILLER: THEY HAVE A LOT OF ABILITY .. THEY MOVE WELL, WE SAW THEM CATCH THE BALL WELL TODAY. WE NEED TO WATCH THEM IN LIVE ACTION TO TELL FOR SURE, BUT THEY HAVE THOSE CREDENTIALS. BUT WES IS OUR #1 GUY AS WE SPEAK.

Q. Is running back a real position of strength for this football club?

MILLER: EXCELLENT DEPTH. IT REALLY IS. I’M ANXIOUS TO SEE HOW THAT PLAYS OUT.

The key to success in the CFL is finding young talent, and that’s exactly what Tillman is doing. Remember that no one had ever heard of Joe Smith three years ago, and now he’s one of the league’s premier backs.

The fullback position remains Chris Szarka’s. Every year I keep hoping he’ll get more touches and every year I’m disappointed. Maybe this will be the year?? Neal Hughes will continue to be his back up and play an important role on special teams.

“What Hurts the Most” – WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS

Oh you poor, poor, poor, poooooooooooor Blue Bombers. Oh so close to that Grey Cup, but yet so very far.

The Blue Bombers will be very good this year. Their offense will be strong with the return of QB Kevin Glenn (5000+ yards passing last year; runner-up for MOP), running back Charles Roberts (2nd in league rushing yards) and receivers Terrence Edwards, Derrick Armstrong and Milt Stegall (all three had 1100+ yards receiving; the Riders only had ONE receiver with 1000+ yards – DJ Flick with 1020). Their offensive line is solid, too. Their weakness is kicking. Troy Westwood is getting old. I’m not gonna lie – I can’t stand the guy. His field goal percentage last year was 60.6% – worst in the league.

Winnipeg’s defence was one of the top -ranked in the league in 2007, led by Tom Canada and Doug Brown at DE and DT, respectively, and Kelly Malveaux at DB. The Blue Bombers do have a large hole to fill in their defensive backfield with the loss of Kyries Hebert, who bolted to the NFL. The Bombers haven’t brought anyone in to replace him, so it looks as if they’re hoping to promote from within.

Head coach Doug Berry returns and GM Brendan Taman continues to do a great job; he resigned 7 of 8 free agents this offseason.

As much as I hate to say it, the Bombers will be contenders this year.

Yuck.

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