Here's a few thoughts that I threw together regarding Day 7 and the Mock Game situation that the Roughriders went through before their day off.
As always, discussion is welcome in the comment section, as well as questions for our ProPerspective Mailbag.
Talk soon folks!
One of the defensive topics during the off-season was that the Green and White were going to become more aggressive on Defence. Now that may be hard to imagine considering the Riders lead the league in sacks and were 2nd in interceptions, but during the mock game fans were given an early look at how the defence in SK plans to go about their business in 2015.
They didn’t get to fancy on Saturday, but the Riders threw a healthy amount of blitzing and line movement into their mock game scripts. Adding defenders to the rush through different gaps, and utilizing the athleticism of the Dline through various stunts was effective because the aggressive play calling wasn’t just held to 2nd and long downs.
The different looks that the D was showing took the Offence a couple of drives to get used to. Guys were getting through clean to the QB and the refs that were in attendance didn’t blow a lot of the plays dead that would have been sacks, pressures, of throwaways. Some of the plays that the crowd saw as completions or successful calls, probably wouldn’t have happened in a live situation, but the film will do the talking and guys will be able to watch how their plays would have transpired in a regular game.
Working on some of the concepts that will make this defence more aggressive in 2015 was fun to watch. One gets excited about the potential of this playbook once Coach Chamblin and Coach Quick get to sit down and start game planning for individual teams and QBs.
Don’t bother trying to find a definition for the offence that Jacques Chapdelaine is implementing in Saskatchewan. What was very clear during the mock game, is that whatever the offence plans on doing, it will be fast, and athletically demanding for all involved. Upfront, the hoggies weren’t just running stretch plays and dives, they were getting out and having to block in space for plays that utilize the vast real estate that a CFL field is made up of. Now asking Olinemen to get out into space and run isn’t a new concept in football, however the mock game did show onlookers that Chapdelaine’s offence may involve more of it in an effort to negate the defences that plan on being overly aggressive in certain spots and situations.
Saturday’s proceedings were a stark contrast from the 2014 season. This year’s attack is wide open, and the best part of it is that the weapons that Durant uses will be available during all situations, rather than being very personnel driven depending on the down and distance. Chapdelaine has done a great job of watching the film and recognizing what kind of talent he has, and devising ways to get the rock into the hands of his potential playmakers. There are some guys with some versatile skill sets here in SK, like Steven Miller, and they’re going to be given the opportunity to stretch the limits of that versatility, instead of being asked to plug-in to certain spots and do what the playbook says.
Having said all of that, the Riders are still going to be able to be as physical as any team in this league offensively. Jerome Messam has looked great thus far, and his physical running style is going to be called on just as much as the QB will be asked to throw the ball. And don’t sleep on Anthony Allen who came out yesterday and looked unbelievably smooth.
Come to think of it, that RB group may be the best way to describe the offensive potential for the Green and White, and what fans were treated to at the U of S. Instead of haggling over who plays and when, it’s quite apparent that everyone will play, because everyone brings the ability to move the sticks and keep a defence on its toes. They’ve got the ability to play in a phone booth, or play on a track. Both ways work and either way can be lethal. One thing that is promised…it will all be fast.
Mock Game Afterthoughts
Both Doubles and KG looked good. It took the Oline a minute to figure out what was being thrown at them at first, and that definitely had an effect on both guys initially when it came to timing, but once everything around them settled, they got into a comfortable groove and handled their business.
Sunseri looked good to, which goes back to our discussion of him having to grasp every opportunity from here on out. He had a good command of his personnel and made sure everyone was on the same page as far as pre-snap alignments and counts. He also threw the ball well, and exhibited a calm patience when going through his progressions down near the goal line. He didn’t get a ton or reps, but he did well with what he had.
The big 3 (Allen, Messam, and Miller) got all their touches. Everything works back there with them. Last year Ridernationwas hell bent on finding a starting running back in camp, and this year one gets a complete understanding that it behooves the Riders to use all of them during the year in order to keep defenses honest, and navigate scenario’s like the last three minutes of a game as efficiently as possible.
As for the FBs, outside of the coaching room, nobody gets a sense of how many roster spots will be available at that position. Moore, McHenry, and Rea have all had good camps but nobody has really leapt out as we close out week 1. One has to consider the ability of some of the big receivers that are here in camp when looking at offensive potential, and there may be a couple of guys that Chapdelaine chooses to use closer to the line in some situations over a FB body.
The depth of this group is beginning to show. NaamanRoosevelt, Alex Anthony, and Ryan Smith made good on their opportunities when they popped up, while there was still a presence of the group’s veteran leaders like Rob Bagg who made a sick diving catch early in the mock game for at least 40 yards. Like the RBs, the receiving core also gives Chapdelaine some things to work with. When you consider the bigger rangyreceivers like Alex Pierzchalski, or J.rich, and how they can complement some of the faster guys on the field, there’s really a ton Doubles can do in situational areas, specifically the Red Zone. Some of the WR size and physical ability also changes the way Chapdelaine can look at short yardage situations as well.
There’s no question about that starting Oline group. Granted the Centre position has not been awarded yet, but Dan Clark has looked great physically, and has been BANG ON with his call-outs and key defender designations. I pointed out that they may have been slow out of the gate, but once they adjusted to the things the D was trying to do, their QBs were given all the time they needed to make the throws. The 2nd continually stalled due to penalties which will have to shored up, and hopefully when they diagnose the film, there will be a couple of guys that really played well. I wish I could be in the room when the coaches are grading out the two new tackles. #59 Randy Richards, and #68 Michael Philllip. There’s a hot competition going there now that it seems like the quad is going with two American OTs. Matt Vonk is going to get a chance to build on progress he made last year, but Nehring, Hinse, and Patterson are all going to have play well during the exhibition games if they hope to make a push for solid roles in 2015
Other than Emery, there wasn’t any consistency that dictated that the coaches are any further along in making their decision regarding who plays that other LB spot. Telvion Clark (#13), and (#49) Jeff Knox shared some first team reps, but EltoroFreeman (#48) and Jake Doughty (#50) both received snaps and made some things happen. Truthfully there isn’t a rush to fill the vacant LB spot, and a lot of the way these guys are evaluated is going to play out in the exhibition games and on SPECIAL TEAMS.
The depth on the Defensive Line and in the defensive backfield will be the strength of the 2015 Saskatchewan Roughriders. The Dline looked great during the mock game using their tremendous athleticism to execute stunts and games that confused the Oline, and put guys in the face of the QB constantly. Their individual talents were on display as much as their cohesiveness, with a few guys (young and old) putting on pass rush clinics during Offensive passing situations. It’s scary, right now this unit runs about 8 deep in terms of guys that they could potentially throw at an offensive line. Led by John Chick and T. George, has a shot at surpassing their sack totals of last year when you add in things like the Blitz packages that will be installed during the year.
This unit is going to be the group to watch as exhibition season rolls around. Macho Harris eluded to the fact that defenses may play a lot more zone this year because of the way coverage will be officiated, it’s going to require an emphasis on communication (which has been great in camp) in order to take away any advantages that offenses think they may have. The DBs have been very good thus far at playing situational football and on Saturday they had some bright spots. Their best friend all year is going to the DLine and their ability to apply pressure to the QB. Keep an eye out for this group in Fort Mac. They continue to get better every day.