Friday, July 08, 2011

Friday Morning 'Rider Blogging

Yes, Saskatchewan is a tough place for a football team. Lose one lousy game to start the year, and look what happens...

But how worried should 'Riders fans be after a loss to Edmonton to start the 2011 season? I'd argue that the answer is less so than one might think.

While there were a number of causes of the loss, one stands out above all others: in the first half of the game, the 'Riders simply couldn't get any pressure on Ricky Ray. And so Ricky Ray did what he normally does when he has time to grab a snack before finding a receiver downfield, posting a lead that the 'Riders couldn't overcome the rest of the game.

And let's be clear that the problem looked to be almost entirely with the pass rush.

Yes, John Eubanks and others in the secondary were left clutching at air at times - but that's bound to happen when a big, talented receiving corps has all the time in the world to operate.

And yes, Darian Durant coughed up the ball far more than he should have. But that looks to be the result of two problems. Granted, he seems to have let his guard down somewhat in the third quarter after getting away with a soft toss or two. But more importantly, seeing a need to put up a pile of points to keep up with the Eskimos, he took some arguably necessary risks to try to force the issue. Which may not often be a successful strategy (see e.g. the difference between Kerry Joseph playing protect-the-ball for the 'Riders in 2007 compared to his attempts to carry the Argos to victory the next two seasons) - but at least makes for a rational response to the 'Riders' defensive difficulties.

Which were of course fairly disastrous, as the defensive struggled even against as weak an offensive line as it can expect to face all season. But the 'Riders found at least part of the answer in the second half, as a series of linebacker blitzes managed to limit Ray's time in the pocket. And the addition of Remond Willis should hopefully add some more pressure off the ends.

So now is far from the time to push the panic button, as the 'Riders difficulties can be traced back to one problem with some available solutions. And hopefully we'll see those on display in what figures to be a tough game against the Als.

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