Monday, 9 November 2015

Mailbag Monday!!!

Well folks…It’s all done in Riderville.  I’m sure that everyone was pleased as punch to watch the Riders close out this horrific year with a victory of the Montreal Alouettes but we’re officially in Off Season mode!  After such a hard year, one would hope that the boys take a couple weeks off (at least) to get away from the game and enjoy some much deserved R&R with loved ones that have also been making their fair share of sacrifices throughout the year.

For the rest of us, as I stated in my Alouettes Primer, NOW THE FUN BEGINS.  The road to 2016 and the beginnings of a sustained success model is officially underway.

Here are the answers to a few of your questions that popped up over the last week!

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Did we see enough of either Keith Price or Brett Smith?  Are they the future?

One of the only advantages to this disappointing season is that the Roughriders were able to evaluate a few of the positions that they normally wouldn’t have unless it was during the off season or during spot-work. 

As far as Keith Price goes he didn’t look out of place when he got his playing time, but there was definitely room for improvement.  Like any rookie, it’s the speed of the game that Price was visibly uncomfortable with, and that’s perfectly fine, as one only gets comfortable with the way teams carry themselves through experience.  Things like QB awareness and recognition of what teams are trying to do to an offense develop through film study and physical reps.  Price did some good things, and some bad things, the problem was is that there isn’t a big enough sample size to take and directly say, “You’re our ___ string QB going into camp”

The thing that impressed most people about Brett Smith is that you could tell that he has been doing his film work and learning from the trials and errors that he has gone through during his tenure as the teams 2nd string QB.  Take the Montreal game for instance…During previous outings, when Smith would get pressured, he would take off and try move the sticks with his feet.  It extended plays, however did not prove to extend drives.  This past weekend, when Smith was pressured, he would use his feet to avoid pressure BUT he still looked downfield and attempted to make throws.  His ability to remain in the pocket while recognizing pressure and still remain composed enough hit his receivers was a welcome change to his earlier starts.  Any player that takes the coaching, can implement the changes needed in their game, and apply it under pressure has a chance to contribute to his team.  Brett Smith improved from start to finish, and has showed that he has the ability to play at the CFL level.  This off season is a big one for him MENTALLY.

Both Price and Smith are so young that it was kind of unfair for them to be cast into the situations that they were, and to also expect any sort of consistent success.  The Riders young Qs showed flashes of ability, however, in order to get the best versions of each individual during camp in 2016 there needs to be competition.  I don’t think either of them cemented a role that is the equivalent to an “it’s my job to lose” scenario.  Whether it’s through free agency or through scouting, there needs to be solid competition at the QB spot next June.  Obviously we know who the Face of the Franchise is and that’s not going to change with Darian Durant, but unlike the past 7-8 years this team needs to find a “successor” that they can win consistently with.  Smith and Price didn’t let anyone down during their time, however they’ve still got a ways to go.  They both need to be pushed if the Riders are going to find what they’re looking for.

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What's the most immediate need on the Defense?

Loaded question!

The first thought that comes to mind for many here is that the secondary needs an overhaul, which I might agree with, but also caution people that two KEY FIGURES in this group weren’t healthy all year, and that’s Terrell Maze and Weldon Brown.  I think getting those guys back and building with a guy like Tyree Hollins is really going to make a difference.  As far as the rest of that group, including Macho Harris, they may be on the bubble in terms of what the next DC or HC wants their defense to look like.  The league will send out potential Free Agent spreadsheets very shortly now that the regular season has expired, so hopefully there will be one or two skilled guys there that the new regime can pursue should they try and test the Free Agency waters.

The biggest key in my mind is at the Nose Tackle spot.  This team is blessed with a trio of youngsters that are listed as DT’s and all of them have potential but they’re just not ready to contribute at a high level with consistency.  Much was made of Rory Connop and the way he handled himself in camp, but like Smith and Price (QBs) it was really unfair to pin the requirements of a Pro Nose Tackle on a rookie from Western University.  I think going out and getting a Canadian interior linemen for the defensive side of the ball is absolutely crucial if this Defense wants to climb back into the ranks of a CFL powerhouse.  A Dlineman that can take up two Offensive Linemen keeps LBs like Jeff Knox clean and able to scrape and attack their gaps and responsibilities.  A solid Nose Tackle also forces a running back to change his initial path quicker.  Having that Line of Scrimmage disrupted makes RBs go east-west versus north-south and potentially changes 2nd down scenarios from mid-range, “anybody’s guess” plays, to 2 and 7+, “these guys need to throw” downs.  In the long run that helps the secondary in terms of the way they play on 2nd down like you couldn’t imagine. 

Keep in mind that this may be a team that chooses to move on without stalwarts like T. George.  If that happens, it will only increase the need for a solid DT, maybe even two.

You’ll hear experts hammering on the fact that games are won and lost in the trenches, and they’re absolutely right.  It all starts upfront.  Getting Weldon Brown, and T. Maze will help in the back-end, in terms of Day 1 starters, but to me, there is no greater need than a gap cancelling, Canadian Defensive Tackle.

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Will we hear of a new GM before the Grey Cup?

That all depends on whether or not the candidates that President Craig Reynolds has circled are available for interviews.  I do know this:  They won’t announce a hiring DURING Grey Cup week because the CFL mandates that teams cannot make those sort of announcements, and that all the focus should rightfully be zeroed in on the actual participants.

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What’s the plan for now that the CFL season is over?

We’re in the middle of figuring all of that out.  I know that we’ll absolutely be continuing with our OFFSIDES Podcast and may even double up the output.  We’ve got some cool ideas that have been presented in that area.  We’ll also make sure that we continue to answer your questions.  We may not have enough consistently for a WEEKLY Mailbag Column, however we’re going to make sure that you guys get what you need out of this website.

Sports don’t stop!  Thank the good Lord for that!  This Website will continue on through the Off-Season with a couple of cool new columns, and special features.

We’ll also keep up with you guys during the playoffs which I am excited about.  Now that the Riders are finished up, I’m hoping that the Ottawa RedBlacks can continue their amazing journey, and end it with a Grey Cup victory.  I know former Riders, Keith Shologan and Zach Evans are thrilled to be back in the dance!

Thanks for checking up!



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