“Are You Ready for Some Football?” (part deux)

\Photo Credit: Michael Bell, Regina Leader-Post

I will admit that there are few things in life I enjoy more than watching Calgary’s Nik Lewis get smacked by a good, hard, clean hit.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I started my season preview of the Saskatchewan Roughriders with a look at their offensive and defensive lines. Then came news that the Riders have lost right offensive tackle Patrick Neufeld for 6-8 weeks with a broken fibula. Ouch. It makes the ratio situation a little more precarious for the Riders.

Anyway, I said I’d review special teams what I think is two weeks ago now.

Oops.

The good news is that I attended this past week’s pre-season game against the Calgary Stampeders. The bad news is that the Riders looked a little rusty, and the offence was downright offensive.

Today I’m going to preview the rest of the team, with some observations based on last week’s game.

Special Teams

The biggest news in this department is that the Riders lost their special teams coach, Craig Dickenson, to the freaking Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Yeah.

So now Bob Dyce, the Riders’ former offensive coordinator, has moved into that role.

I’m not sure I’m happy with this.

Regardless, the Riders’ special teams need some improvement.

And based in last week’s game, that improvement hasn’t happened yet.

The Riders brought three kickers into camp. One, Brody McKnight, was cut released by the team in its final cuts (he missed a 48 yard field goal in the Calgary game). That leaves American Ricky Schmitt to handle the kickoffs/punting, and veteran Canadian Chris Milo to do the field goals. Milo has been widely inconsistent, and didn’t play a full season last year as he got hurt. The Riders brought in Sandro DeAngelis, and he wasn’t any better. Milo is still very young, so it’s more of a case of the Riders sticking with someone they know, hoping he can become more consistent. His pre-season wasn’t very good, so he’d better get better – fast. I suspect he has a short leash.

As for returns, Jock Sanders and Price Miller handled things the other night. Miller was the more dynamic of the two. Sanders seemed tentative; he’d stutter step rather than trying to just go forward. But they should be good returners. I love Weston Dressler back there, but I’d rather seem him catching passes.

The coverage teams seem about the same as last year.

Defensive Backfield/Linebackers

Dear Coach Chamblin: what the HELL are you doing??

Craig Butler is a SAFETY, not a LINEBACKER. And why is Abraham Kromah not playing linebacker? And why oh why is Tryone Brackenbridge playing safety?

STOP. THE. MADNESS.

*Rant over*

There almost seem to be too many cooks in the kitchen here. We have TWO defensive backs coaches. Why? No clue. Defensive coordinator Richie Hall is a former DB, and Chamblin coached DBs in Calgary, so really, it’s FOUR DB coaches.

They’d better be good.

I’m not too worried about our secondary. It’s gotten bigger and faster, and they made some great plays last week.

Linebacker is another story.

If everyone would go back to their natural positions, the defence would be stronger. Butler is too little to be playing linebacker, and Kromah needs to be in the field. Hopefully the coaches will see the light when they look at the film of Calgary’s Rob Cote running all over us last week.

Quarterbacks/Receivers

What a dreadful first half performance from this group, albeit added by yet another turnstile performance by the offensive offensive line (see what I did there?). Korey Sheets also needs to learn how to block.

Darian Durant was sacked 5 times, and most other times he had no one to throw to. Yes, it’s pre-season, so the offence was really vanilla, but yeesh. It was bascially the the same play every down: three receivers to the left, two to the right, and no one hardly ever threatening the middle. The receivers couldn’t get open, and Sheets had nowhere to run.

Gerry Simon also appears to have re-aggravated a hamstring injury that hobbled him last year. Hopefully he gets over it, ’cause the Riders’ receiving core needs him.

All that being said, I’m excited to see what a true George Cortez offence looks like. It definitely won’t look like it did this week.

And in better news, Rob Bagg looked good, and Chris Getzlaf caught everything thrown his way.

And getting back to the offensive line, the Riders are determined to start second-year Ben Heenan at right tackle, which is unfortunate. He’s a great guard, but doesn’t yet have the technique to,play right tackle effectively. Hopefully the Riders scheme for it, because the Eskimos’ d-line is a lot better than Calgary’s, which is pretty solid itself.

This week’s game

The Riders open the season on the road in Edmonton, where they hardly ever win. I think the Riders will get off to a bit of a slow start this season, so I’m predicting a loss to start 2013.

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