Monday, August 08, 2011

Monday Morning 'Rider Blogging

Once again, the 'Riders' latest loss was more a story of missed opportunities than poor play overall - particularly in the third quarter, when Saskatchewan's near-total dominance on both sides of the ball led to a grand total of one point. But there's a downside to that type of loss as well, as the fixes normally available for a losing team don't apply to the 'Riders in the slightest.

Normally, the best advice for a struggling team is to take better care of the ball. And indeed, usually a losing streak involves losing the turnover battle handily - which tends to even out over time.

But the 'Riders' last two losses have featured a grand total of zero turnovers, to two for the team's opponents. So there's nowhere to go but down on that front.

Likewise, a struggling offence can normally find some obvious room to improve its completion rate. But Darian Durant has completed two-thirds of his passes over the past two weeks - and while a few too many of those have been for little or no gain, it's hard to see much prospect of pushing that number upward.

And aside from Geroy Simon's first-half eruption, the 'Riders' defence has played about as well as could be hoped for - holding two fairly strong offences to 22 and 24 points.

So what's left for the 'Riders to improve?

Well, the biggest problem looks to be getting some touchdowns out of the current possession offence. And there are a couple of obvious points which might help, including setting up receivers to take the ball in stride rather than catching the ball flat-footed, and designing plays to let Durant make better use of the time he buys to find receivers far downfield.

And of course it would help for the 'Riders to stop shooting themselves in the foot. In particular, it's beyond me how an offence with an elite quarterback has so much trouble working within the play clock - and indeed a faster-moving offence might also help to set up bigger plays by getting opposing defences off stride.

Meanwhile, the 'Riders' receivers have plenty of work to do on timing up the play without going offside - not to mention catching the ball once it reached them. (Needless to say, James Robinson didn't help on either front.) And of course, a better field-goal conversion rate would at least help to keep games close.

But even if the 'Riders can improve on those points, they might face enough concurrent decline in their turnover ratio to keep them on the losing side of any given game. Which means that while it's too early to give up on the season or any large number of the 'Riders' players, there's ample reason for concern that matters will get worse before they get better.

Update: I won't claim to have much insight on Dallas Baker, the import receiver who arrived in a trade for Luc Mullinder today. And hopefully he'll provide one of the playmakers the 'Riders have lacked.

But it's seldom a great feat of CFL roster management to trade a perfectly serviceable non-import for an import lottery ticket who was available as a free agent just months earlier. And if Baker isn't ready to help immediately, the effect of the deal will be to push the 'Riders even further away from where they need to go.

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