Saturday, September 01, 2012

Saturday Afternoon 'Rider Blogging

Yes, last week's loss to Calgary was downright ugly to watch at times. But it may also signal some positive changes for the Saskatchewan Roughriders - and we should find out soon whether the 'Riders can find their way into the playoffs with the players and plans they have now, or whether it's time to leave aside a 3-0 start and focus on multi-year player development.

On the downside last week, the 'Riders defence was helpless when it counted most: on the first two possessions of the game when the Stamps took a lead they'd never relinquish, at the end of the game when Saskatchewan needed a stop to have a chance to pull even, and all too frequently when Jon Cornish touched the ball throughout the game. But it surely can't escape notice that  the Stamps' usually-fearsome offence didn't accomplish much on the scoreboard - and there's at least a plausible reason to think the 'Riders' run defence can improve in a hurry.

Meanwhile, the 'Riders' offence suffered more from a failure to group positive plays together than an inability to design and execute them. A much more consistent two-pronged rushing attack proved highly effective throughout the game (with each of Kory Sheets and Darian Durant piling up 70+ yards), while the 'Riders' passing attack was at least respectable despite the higher degree of difficulty resulting from windy conditions.

Which is to say that there's reason for hope that the 'Riders can build off what worked last week - particularly with two games coming up against a team in even greater disarray. And that's why a couple of roster moves which would normally look problematic may prove very well-timed.

In general (and in contrast to Brendan Taman's usual proclivities), I prefer to see the 'Riders focus on developing new talent rather than picking up CFL retreads whose previous teams have already found them wanting. And that goes doubly at positions like linebacker where new players seem to be relatively easily incorporated into existing schemes: some of the best CFL personnel moves involve shifting defensive backs to linebacker spots, and the 'Riders aren't lacking for candidates for such a transition.

But with the 'Riders' defence struggling against the run, Joe Lobendahn and Diamond Ferri may make for extremely valuable additions. And now isn't the time to take the risk involved in letting somebody new to the position or the league carry the load in a couple of games which could either put Saskatchewan solidly on the path to the playoffs or leave the 'Riders at the bottom of the CFL's standings.

Of course, the flip side is that if the 'Riders' losing streak continues past the upcoming matchups with Winnipeg, then it will be time to start dropping veteran imports and using the rest of the season to audition NFL castoffs and see if some of the team's current players can be put to better use. But for now, the 'Riders have an obvious opportunity to get their season back on track - and hopefully a combination of development game plans and new faces will help in the effort.

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