Someone asked me if I regretted starting this blog during such a sh*tty season as I was leaving the game yesterday...ABSOLUTELY NOT was the immediate response, regardless of conversation, as long as we're all talking BALL, we're all good!!!
Anyway...As far as "talking ball" goes, this column is the closest interaction point between us, aside from the Post game call-in shows that Mike McCullough and I sit in on, and it's been funny
how the questions that we've been getting from you guys are all pretty similar. Either you guys are really in-tune with each other, or this abysmal record hasn't gotten any of us thinking too deeply or too much!!!
Regardless, we press on. The loss in Edmonton raised some eyebrows as far as depth chart and position groups go, and we'll get into them now. Here are the questions (and the answers) for the questions we received over the past week...
Why are the Riders rotating QBs like they are? Why not just tell guys which Quarters or Halves they have?
I think the way the Riders rotated Smith and Price was good for both. One of the main things it did was force them to be in tune to the game at every point, instead of just waiting on their designated time and taking whatever situation they got. What the rotation also did was keep both accountable for the ENTIRE game vs. potentially saying something like "Brett Smith was up 21-3, and then when Price came in during the 2nd half, the Riders lost it all..."
Having both QBs play in every situation while the game went through all of its ups and downs allowed both Smith and Price to be evaluated at their highest points in a number of different situations that you wouldn't have seen them in had they been relegated to certain quarters of play.
Can we give up on Connop and go get an EXPERIENCED CDN DTACKLE?
The Riders can go and get an experienced Canadian DT, like Keith Shologan, to man the Nose spot and it wouldn't mean they were giving up on Rory Connop. It was such a tough ask to really expect Connop to man that key Nose Tackle spot without going through a few hiccups. The first thing he has to do, as any tall guy in football is challenged with, is play with low pad level. That alone will help him maintain, or play on the other side of the Line of Scrimmage.
Having an experienced vet come in and show Connop what it takes to command a double team, and push the pocket consistently will be huge for his development. The Rookie DT has so much potential, which is why everyone jumped on his bandwagon so early, but if he's not able to learn from all of his reps then they end up hurting instead of helping. It was evident in the first few weeks that Connop needed some on-field guidance (not just in the class room and at practise from Mike Sinclair) and he really had nobody in the room, aside from fellow rookie Brandon Tennant, to help him through what is TRULY REQUIRED at the 1 technique where he is playing.
It's very hard to find solid Canadian Defensive Tackles, and it's not their fault. The coaching just isn't there. If you look at the comparison between the CIS and NCAA, it isn't even close as far as developing D Linemen. Even though we might get a guy like Eddie Steele, who was schooled at the CIS level every once in a while, they still need to develop and have teammates around them that can facilitate that growth. Bringing a guy in here to play the Nose spot will only help Rory Connop and guys like Tim Agbaje.
What's it like when players see guys on the field (like JR Mertile) just give up and put no effort into the game?
Plays like the one Mertile was involved in (where he backed off an tackle attempt) happen every so often, at every position group. The one thing that I'll say is that one can never hesitate to pull the trigger in the game of football. If there is a guy in your sights with the ball; you have to get in on the tackle. It doesn't matter what's going on around you, or who you think already has the play made, you have to get in on the tackle until the whistle blows or the player with the ball goes to the ground. There's actually a lot of teachable moments that can be taken from that play where Adarius Bowman scored his 1st half TD, like securing the tackle prior to trying to strip the rock, and leveraging your body position. In the end one always has to pull the trigger and get in on the play. There can never be a hesitation based on the fact that someone else is "probably" going to make the play.
I was surprised we didn't see more of Dylan Ainsworth in on Defense. Thoughts?
I'm in the same boat, I thought that we all might have seen Ainsworth on Defense a little bit more, but I wasn't shocked by any stretch. The organization needs to see what they have in Markus White. No. 98 has been here for a few seasons now, and being that he's an International, the Riders may have a decision to make on him IF HE'S NOT GOING TO BE A STARTER. White did some good things against Edmonton, but couldn't manage to finish a couple of plays that would have boded well, in terms of his involvement, as they continue forward. I have a feeling that we'll see more of Ainsworth in the next two weeks. What Dylan has to understand is that he still needs to be playing at a high level on Special Teams and that cannot change. He also needs to be prepared. Whether he only gets one rep, or he gets 100 reps, Ainsworth has to show the evaluators that he has his plays down and can be called on to execute at a moments notice.
Being a back-up in this situation is tough. You know that there is an opportunity coming up, and your practise reps might even start to increase, so the excitement starts to build. One of the things that young guys tend to lose focus of, in these occasions, is their initial responsibilities in the kicking game. Just because a guy may get a shot in one area, doesn't mean that it takes priority off of another area. As long as Dylan Ainsworth understands that, and keeps pounding away and improving, he should see his reps increase over the final two competitions.