Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday Morning 'Rider Blogging

Sadly, due to the 'Riders' choice to play most of their veterans in Friday's loss to Calgary, we didn't get to learn much about the team's prospects. But if nothing else, the loss did prove educational about the players currently holding down a few lineup spots.

Simply put, the 'Riders' defence is in dire need of some new blood. In previous weeks the most obvious problem tended to be ineffective tackling, particularly by smaller linebackers trying to bring down bigger running backs. But Friday a new issue emerged - as the Stamps' offensive line created so much space that there often wasn't a defender in position to make a tackle until after Jon Cornish had picked up a first down already.

Now, if the 'Riders had been playing rookies in their key run-stopping roles, that might have raised questions as to whether the incumbents might have some chance to improve. But CFL veterans like Dario Romero and Tearrius George don't have any excuse: both are in the lineup precisely because they're supposed to be able to contribute now (and indeed to do so effectively enough to make up for being highly penalty-prone). And while Keith Shologan should undoubtedly one of 'Riders' key defensive building blocks, I have to wonder whether the team needs to reconsider its order to have him slim down a couple of seasons ago: he hasn't been able to use his quickness to avoid a lot of blocks this season in particular, and a bulky run-stopper would seem to be a must for the 'Riders to avoid getting trampled as they were on Friday.

And a similar story applies at the linebacker position. The likes of James Patrick and Sean Lucas might do just fine handling smaller running backs in one-on-one tackling situations. But Saskatchewan's three Western rivals all feature big, strong, young non-import backs who figure to carry the load for a long time to come - and the 'Riders can't afford to counter them with linebackers who are vulnerable to being straight-armed into submission.

Of course, I'll hope that the next two games feature a few less stories as to how the 'Riders' vets need upgrading, and few more indications of whether the team's younger players are up to the job. But we may as well learn what we can from another disappointment - and about the best we can take from Friday's game is that there's ample room to improve.

Update: Stephen LaRose sees some bigger issues.

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