Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sunday Morning Rider Blogging

Yesterday's win over Toronto obviously made for another successful game for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. But it's worth noting that the game exposed a few weaknesses which the 'Riders overcame in large part due to avoidable errors by the Argos.

Starting with the defence, the game confirmed that while the 'Riders will keep up a ferocious pass rush, they'll be plenty vulnerable to the run as a result. The team's occasional difficulty in finishing tackles against B.C. became a regular problem against Toronto, as Jamal Robertson consistently shed the first tackler or two on his way to significant gains (particularly in the first quarter when the Argos went to a variety of confusing formations to counter Gary Etcheverry's defensive creativity).

Mind you, the defence did find an answer - not in actually stopping the run on a regular basis, but in going after the ball with a vengeance even if that meant risking a few extra yards against. That worked extremely well against an undisciplined Argos team, but may be far less successful as the season goes on.

The other main issue defensively was a perpetual inability to cover receiver Reggie McNeal, who had absolutely no trouble getting wide open downfield (with Omarr Morgan the apparent goat on a few of the plays) but minimized the damage by dropping a couple of seemingly easy catches. Of course Saskatchewan will take that outcome, but it definitely can't count on opponents giving away big plays like that.

On offence, the 'Riders performance was serviceable but not exceptional. Particularly on the series where the 'Riders scored their first touchdown, the team's plan seemed to be to keep the offence on the field with a dink-and-dunk possession scheme and let the Argonauts move the ball downfield for them with bad penalties. But that strategy - combined with another set of opportunistic reactions to turnovers (three touchdowns which came from a combined 34 yards of net offence) - put the game nearly out of reach by the end of the first half even if it didn't make for particularly impressive statistics.

And while Durant wasn't perfect in the ball-protection department, the Argos weren't anywhere near as prepared as the 'Riders to take advantage of their opportunities to take the ball back, missing out on two potential interceptions: one on Durant's whiff on a pass in the second quarter, one on an out that Jason Shivers dropped in the third. That may be more potential turnovers than would be ideal from Durant, but is probably a reasonable number for a game where an already-hurting offensive line had to add a new starter over the course of the last week (and all indications seemed to be that Matt O'Meara held his own).

While the good news for the 'Riders is that they've been able to capitalize on opponents' mistakes so far, the bad news is that their next opponent is the one team in the CFL which seems to be firing on all cylinders to start the season. So once again, the 'Riders will have to pivot from building a win largely on one weakness one week (the Lions' lack of a running game and the Argos' lack of discipline) to facing a team which can claim that same area as a major strength. And if the 'Riders can keep up their pattern of rising to the occasion against Montreal, then their surprising standing alone at the top of the West may last for quite some time to come.

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