Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Looking at Day 3

When one retires, or when ones time expires from the professional football ranks, there’s certain things about the game that will be missed; and there’s certain things about the game that will not be missed.  
I myself, like many others, missed the locker room for instance.  There’s no place in the world like it! The bonds you form with your brothers in there will withstand anything Father Time throws at it.  
One of the things I don’t miss, is getting in the cold tub for 20 minutes after every practise. 
Opinions may vary.
The one thing nobody tells you though is how much you will miss COMPETING!  The absence of competition is the biggest obstacle that one will go through after hanging up their cleats. 
Former athletes take up hobbies, beer league hockey, Cribbage, hunting, Flip Cup; the list is endless. All in an effort to find something that they can compete at.  
Shoot, these days if someone is pushing their grocery cart down the dairy isle near me at anything over “browsing” speed, I’ll swerve to cut them off and take off towards the end where the greek yogurt is…
*Sorry ma’am, thought we were racing.  #BeastMode
That’s why Day 3 at Riders camp was so exciting for the Green and White.  Finally after 2 days of installation, building technique, and learning, the squad got to throw the pads on and COMPETE against one another without having to gauge physicality.  The pads were on, it’s full go…that’s the tempo!
The ultimate realization was that a by-product of Coach Chamblin emphasizing technique and development in the first few practises, was that players were really excited about finally getting to go in full pads.  When guys are in full gear drills move quicker, coaches demand more physically, and the explosiveness that the players use to execute their assignments is dialed up.  The Roughriders embraced all of that on Day 3.  
That’s how you build Championship teams…Create a culture where guys can’t wait to compete against each other, or someone else.  These individuals have based everything they’ve done for their entire life around the need to compete.  They’ve trained, eaten, slept, and loved, all in the name of competition.  
That’s why it got a little louder when Coach whistled for the first team drill to begin.  The guys were getting a chance to apply what they’ve been working on for 5 practises in a real time, real contact setting.  That’s why the defensive unit relished that opportunity to defend their endzone when the ball was placed on the 7 yard line going in. Competition.
Now don’t get me wrong.  This has been a competitive environment from the very beginning here at the U of S.  Today was not the first day that coaches have been evaluating talent.  However it is the first time that the coaches get to see a little bit more of what a guys REALLY about…  
If a guy was lightning fast with his get off, and a physical beast during practise in shorts and shirts, but he’s slow to get out of his stance and doesn’t have that same pop when the pads are on; well then there might be some concern.  #HappensAllTheTime
On the flip side, if there’s a guy who the staff is unsure about but all of a sudden looks like a different player when the pads are on, that gets noted and it may earn him a couple extra opportunities down the line.  One never knows.
At the end of the day the speed and intensity was turned up, and the 6th practise of camp was great opportunity for guys to put their speed and physicality on film.  Up until now, players have had to take their foot off the gas pedal slightly when it comes to the physical designs of the game.
For the guys in the trenches, it’s actually easier to practise in pads sometimes.  Whether pads are on or off, for Olinemen, the emphasis is on getting off on the snap count, hand placement, and drive. Defensive linemen explode on movement and their target is usually the guy in front of them.  Those requirements dictate technique and physical contact anyway, sometimes one would rather be padded up versus banged up from all the hand fighting and accidental helmet contact to the shoulders and chest.
Now, as the 4th day approaches guys start hitting that camp wall.  Meetings and practises eventually catch up to a player physically and emotionally.  One has to be doing everything they can to keep the body healthy.  There will be more padded practises to come and the exhibition games are getting closer.  Ice tubs, ice bags, treatment for nagging bumps and bruises are a must if one wants to continue to compete at a high level.  Team and unit meetings at night, with heavy emphasis on film and more installation.  Most importantly, get that rest.
It was nice to see such enthusiasm regarding a padded practise.  When your focus is on competition, you’re not worried about the camp grind, how many padded practises you have left, or what day you’re in.  This team’s speed was on full display, and play started opening up for the offensive side of the ball.  
Competition was in full effect.  
At some point in their lives, all of the players at the 2015 Riders Training Camp will sit back in a chair and diagnose what the things are that they miss about football, and what they don’t miss.  One thing is for certain.  Competition will never exist as it does right now.  Embrace it at its highest points, and take advantage of every moment that coaches gives you to go at full speed and intent. Those chances don’t exist outside of the walls of pro football.
With the pads on and the Oline finally getting to use all the physical tools in their tool belt, the offense had a few bright moments.  Steven Miller showed spurts of why the coaches are making sure he gets his touches with the 1s.  Like all good RBs, Miller sees through the traffic of bodies at the Line of Scrimmage well and once he chooses his run lane, he is able to show terrific burst in order to get to the next level.
Dylan Ainsworth continued to put some good things on tape.  He’s clearly picking up things from the vets he has in front of him, his effort in practise during things like chasing down ball carriers is awesome.  Coaches can’t teach effort, and it’s always acknowledged it the film rooms.

One of the ways the new players will make this team is through Special Teams, and now that the guys were in full contact, a few guys stood out.  Telvion Clark’s aggression was notable and his effort was a welcome sight.
Rory Connop (#95) showed the potential to be a disruptive presence on the Line of Scrimmage for the defense.  I was interested to see how he would do in his first padded practise against vets like Best, Labatte and Clark.  He got in there and battled hard.  He’s another high motor guy whose feet don’t die on contact, and he gave the 1s all they could handle on more than one occasion.
Now that the QB protection was better due to full contact, the WRs started getting more involved.  All the familiar names from the core of that receiving group started catching the rock much to the delight of onlookers from Ridernation.

The more I watch what Jacque Chapdelaine wants to do theoretically, the more I like the explosive prospects of this year’s offense.  This is a very athletic group from at the RB, WR and QB spots, and it looks like they are going to use every bit of that speed and athleticism to their advantage.

Last thing of note.  The DBs continue to look fine with this new contact rule that the league has put forth.  Nothing changed when the pads were on either.  The focus during individual periods on technique and fundamentals has really helped this group make the rule a non-issue to this point.
Talk soon guys.  Keep your questions coming at @lucmull95 on Twitter.

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