Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Keeping the Party Going...

I had the opportunity to chat with one of the beat writers who covers the Green and White today and during our brief convo I got the feeling that the general consensus among the media was that because the practise session was shorter, it meant that it was some how “easier”.


From an athlete’s point of view, having the amount of time you’re out on the field cut down is a nice thought, however one has to keep in mind the gravity of the situation at hand.  There is never an “easy” day during the most important job interview of your life.  #ProSports


I was puzzled by the logic of the suggestion, especially seeing as the team was in full pads this morning HOWEVER I did understand where the media was coming from having never physically been through something like this in their lifetime.


In the real world, if ones boss designates a day of work that the employees only have to come in for half of the day, the employees celebrate like it’s a holiday. #PubCrawlTuesday  


Unfortunately, such is not the case during training camp.


Day 3 and 4 are always the tougher days to get through during the grind that is June.  The bumps and bruises are piling up, ones muscles are stiff and sore, and it seems like plays are being installed at 100 miles per hour.  

One cannot stress enough about how important mental toughness is over the next couple of days for these athletes.  

As the job interview becomes harder, the players that let the uncontrollable circumstances, like practise sched and tempo, affect their process will be the ones left behind by the guys who understand that the COMPETITIVE EXPECTATIONS never change.


That’s why I scoff at the notion that practise today was being approached with an “ease off the pedal” attitude.  For those onlookers that expected that mentality, I’m sure they were surprised with the proceedings today.  Things were as lively and as spirited as ever!  As a matter of fact, I’d venture to say that this one of the more competitive days the Green and White have had during the early stages of training camp.


The score board is quickly becoming my favourite part of this year.  Right now it’s my MVP! #ChefCurry


The fact that this team is keeping a running score between the offence and defense throughout the day is AWESOME because it has become a reference point for all the team periods and a catalyst for the competition that Chris Jones is trying to foster.


Case and point...One of the reasons why today’s practise was so lively is because the players were focused on WINNING the day.  The last team competition period became as close to an actual game as one could simulate without referees because the score was tied up until the last play of practise!  Doubles (Darian Durant) even utilized a hard count to get a Dlineman to jump offside in order to secure the winning point. #VetMove  


There was no way the D wanted to let the day end like that so Chris Jones elected to give the team one final play to resolve things to the delight of everyone involved.


Even my competitive nature as a former Dlineman kicked in during the final snap and I couldn’t have been happier when the defense ended up winning the day with Dan West blowing up a ball carrier to keep him from gaining the yardage necessary to put up an offensive point.  

Practise couldn’t have ended on a better note!  

The 2016 Saskatchewan Roughriders are starting to form their identity folks!  The fact that the bonding agent they’re using is COMPETITION is perfect considering the makeup of this group.


Sure, there’s going to be a ton of new faces on the field when the Green and White start the regular season, and because of that, there’s going to be some speed bumps that they’ll have to deal with along the way.  


The most important part of training camp right now is not just about who’s going to end up where.


Right now the Riders are developing an innate drive to compete down in and down out.  If that mentality is developed and carried into the 2016 CFL season, they’ll always have a chance at success.


“The only thing on the mind of a shark is EAT.”


As usual, here are some other (Day 3) notes of interest that you guys may add to your water cooler conversations...


• It’s no secret that the Canadian content of this organization has not only increased, it’s gotten better.  One of the players that keeps taking advantage of the reps he’s being given is Dillon Grondin from the Windsor Jr. Program.  We first ran into Grondin at the Vero Beach Fla mini-camp where he opened some eyes specifically with his coverage ability.  He’s popping up everywhere this week and one of the positions that is not deep in CDN talent is the LB spot.  It’s been a good start for the young man.


• During The Sportscage yesterday (620 CKRM) we talked about the need for finding some pocket pushing Defensive Tackles.  One of the guys we didn’t mention was Markus White who is another hold over from the last couple of seasons.  White had a good day today, especially during 1v1s, and don’t count him out of the mix on the interior quite yet.


• Going back to yesterdays theme of ‘getting the most of players athletic ability’ Chris Best was the latest to display a multi-purpose skillset.  #66 took reps as the TE in the teams big packages and did a fantastic job of collapsing the edge of the defense and resetting the line of scrimmage.  He also took snaps at Centre and continued to knock guys off the ball whether it was individually or within a double team.  You can tell the veteran Guard is digging the new offensive mindset of Coach McAdoo...Control the ball by dominating upfront.


• To add to the point above, the Olinemen are doing a terrific job asserting their physical presence on any drill they’re involved in.  There were a few holes opened up today that sprung backs for big gains.  Edmonton’s Oline were known throughout the league for their nasty demeanor and one can see that it’s slowly developing with these players.


• Ed Gainey continues to cover all sorts of body types.  His value goes up every day.  


• I tweeted this earlier today but one of the highlights of the competition on the field has been watching Otha Foster and Rob Bagg go at it.  Whether it’s Pass Skelly, 1v1s, or during Team periods, both players are getting the most out of their reps.  #BestOnBest


• I’m getting sick of people complaining that “they don’t know anybody on the roster any more!”  I get it, there was an emotional attachment to some of the guys that used to be here but the more people sit and wish the jersey they own is more relevant, the more we’re going to miss out on the future insert former favourite player here.  Just remember guys; at one point in time the John Chicks and Weston Dresslers of the world weren't legends and they to had to step through the 'Door or Opportunity'.  Don't miss out on the chance to see the FUTURE legends of this organization dwelling on the names that you've come to revere.
There's plenty of time in the Plaza of Honour for all of that!



















Monday, 30 May 2016

The Search Continues...

FOOTBALL WEATHER!  For the casual onlookers that attended practise today the weather was less than ideal.  Cold and cloudy. #KindaSucked  


However, for the football players?!?  PERFECT conditions...Especially for the big fellas!


When one is a defensive or offensive lineman, everything about football is easier when it’s cooler outside.  It’s easier to breathe, one needs less water, and the day to day struggles of camp life are less draining mentally.  I’m sure you’ve all heard your favourite coach’s yell out the phrase, “Ya gotta fight through!” well a lot of that has to do with conditions and things one can’t control (like the weather).  Linemen will take the low 20s any day of the week.


As far as actual camp goes, players needed to come out during Day 2 and show their ability to retain the information given to them during positional/unit meetings last night. 


If a coach wanted to see an offensive lineman get his hands up and inside a target during 1v1s, then that Offensive lineman needed to put that on tape today.  If a DB was getting into his backpedal too early against a waggling Receiver, well then that better be an adjustment that can be captured on tape this afternoon.


It’s all about being coachable.  One has to demonstrate that they can keep up with the installation of a professional playbook, and be a player that can play within what’s being asked.  


That’s the thing about camp folks.  The players that are on the field are there because of the endless hours of film that scouts and staff have watched until the wee hours of the morning.  Chris Jones knows that a guy can catch in traffic, or a certain linebacker is a solid tackler in open space; they wouldn’t be here if they couldn’t play.


The front office is looking for PROs.  They’ve already identified the guys who they think are football players.  Now it’s all about finding the guys that fit.  #TakeTheCoaching


One characteristic that is a requirement as far as finding ‘a fit’, is athleticism, and that’s something that we’ve made note of every time we’ve referenced the new front office here in Riderville.  Oddly enough I don’t think the search for athletes’ narrative hit home until people finally got an opportunity to witness who guys were and where they were being played.


I’ll give you a few examples of Chris Jones’ intent to exhaust every resource that his staff has at their disposal.  The logic is simple...Find the best athletes, and put them in a position that they feel will benefit the team, and the player.


We’ll start with Graig Newman.  When the Riders plucked the homegrown talent off the Bombers roster this off season pundits rejoiced because they saw him as the Canadian Safety that we’ve all been missing.  

Weelp!  That may still be the case, but thus far Chris Jones and his staff have had Newms working at the boundary corner spot.  


This may not be a permanent shift but it as a fantastic opportunity to see just what type of player Newman can be.  The majority of his film is from the Safety spot in the CFL; why not see how he reacts in a different spot?  

This staff is looking to utilize athletic ability, not adhere to cookie-cutter images.


Another example of extracting athleticism can be seen with the case of Kevin Francis, the Receiver out of North Carolina A&T, that the Riders grabbed in the supplemental draft before camp broke.  If one is looking for Francis on the offensive side of the ball now, one won’t find him.  The NY native is taking reps at the Safety spot as part of the defense.


Again, get the most of out of your athletes.  Considering the size of CFL rosters, it seems like it would behoove a staff to follow that type of guideline.


When camp breaks Francis may very well be a pass-catcher for the 2016 Roughriders, but there may also be a fit defensively for a tough football player who loves, and excels, on Special Teams.  #NoHarmInLooking


Former Baylor Bear Tre’Von Armstead also signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders during the off-season...As an Offensive Tackle.  He also took part in the Florida Mini-Camp at that position however anyone looking for the 6’6 280 pounder will find the TE/Lineman with Coach Ed Phillion and the Defensive Linemen.  Yet another case of Chris Jones finding a potential fit by looking outside of the box.


There may also be situations where a player simply may be too good of an athlete not to find a place for him, or at least find an opportunity for him.  


This may be the case with the attributes that Jordan Reaves brings to the table.  Reaves is a RAW athlete standing at about 6’4, 220 lbs from Brandon Manitoba.  He showed up to the Florida Mini-Camp as a DB, where Chris Jones put him all over the field from Safety, to Corner AND…at Defensive End.


Sure enough, this June, Mr. Reaves is wearing a 77, and lining up against the likes of Thaddeus Coleman.  The youngster definitely has the speed (being a guy who’s used to playing DB) and with good coaching, people may be in for a surprise if he settles into the role.


AND THERE’S THE KICKER…Did you catch it?  Reaves has to find a way to settle into the role.  Francis has to approach the potential switch with a positive attitude.  Armstead has to relish in the fact that he may not have gotten an opportunity on the offensive side of the ball and attack it with a new lease on life!


At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how much the coaching staff want to tinker with lineups and positions, the players themselves can’t worry about where they are being played at.  One has to attack it with the same attitude they would have had if they were competing at their “natural” position.


Guys like Graig Newman can’t let their mind wander into wondering why they’re not getting a look at the positions they’re used to playing.  CONTROL THE ELEMENTS THAT YOU CAN CONTROL.  I’ve said it every chance I get.  In a nutshell, that’s professional sports.  It won’t get old folks.


Unfortunately it takes a mature PRO to fully understand this, so we all have to hope that whichever players are moved around from time to time, that they have someone to help them through the process.  It really is a good spot to be in.  #TheMoreYouCanDo


If one’s mind does venture into questioning the coaching intentions, they’ll miss an unbelievable opportunity to showcase their ability to play football, and we talked about this yesterday; they’re looking for FOOTBALL GUYS.


Thankfully, guys like Newman seem to be taking the challenge at hand the right way.  The players we’re talking about here aren’t the first, and they won’t be the last to get looked at in various spots.  


I can’t wait to see how all of this stuff plays out.  It’s something that we should keep an eye on!


Now that we’ve straightened all of that out, here’s a few of my notes that you might fancy a look at from Day 2 of the Saskatchewan Roughriders Training Camp. #CoorsLight


Full pads during the first practise today!  One of the first noticeable changes we saw right off the bat was the change in the demeanor of the Olinemen.  

The Hoggies relished in the fact that they had full body armour on and it made for a beautifully violent run game.  As a matter of fact, one of the first runs plays of the day went for a huge gain as the big fellas finally were able to put a helmet on someone with full intentions.


Onlookers will notice the score clock is fully operational during practise with the score changing with every team or skelly period.  In keeping with the COMPETITIVE narrative of camp, Chris Jones and his staff have found a formula to use in order to keep score.  Offense vs. Defense.  Defense had won the day after the final snap of Day 2.


We talked about the coaches (especially on D) stressing the need to FINISH every rep, well the defenders were out in full force today getting to the rock and going in for strips at every chance they could get.  Their efforts yielded a few loose balls that were quickly gobbled up.  They defensive communication was also a touch better today, and the crowd was treated to a couple of INTs.


Something that auditioning players can do to better their chances at a roster spot is pay attention to details in the meeting rooms, and to the materials posted in the locker rooms like Special Teams Depth Charts.  For a coaching staff that clearly holds Specials in the highest regard, any coaches pet peeve is when they’re expecting certain spots to be filled with a certain body, and that player isn’t paying attention, or doesn’t know that they’re the body that everyone is calling for.  The worst thing one can do is miss any one of the few opportunities to show out on Special Teams.  ONE HAS TO BE ABLE TO PLAY IN THE KICKING PHASE OF THE GAME if one wants to play in the CFL.  WE ONLY TRAVEL 42.  

Camp rule 172…Always check the Special Teams Charts before you hot the field.  Olinemen included!


As far as camp battles go, we’ve established that pretty much every spot is up for grabs but one that I’ve got a close eye on is that Right Tackle spot.  Right now veteran Thaddeus Coleman is taking snaps with the 1st unit but Will Corbin (who’s repping at LT), Darryl Johnson, and Jarriel King have also seen action there on the right side.  Jarriel King definitely looks the part.  Long body type that typifies a Jones OT and fairly athletic.  He’s quick to, and hasn’t looked out of place during competitive drills.  He’s going to have to work on being a knee bender as some of the pass rushers he’ll see in this league are typical LB bodies with speed around the corner.  At one point today he jumped out too far anticipating the speed of his opponent and got beat with an inside spin.  He’ll get a good look at it on film tonight, along with all his other reps but one of the adjustments US Olinemen have to make early in this league is the dealing with a wide variety of skillsets from the edge rushers.


Doubles and Roosevelt continued to build on their chemistry today, hooking up for a couple of long TDs, however what may have gone unnoticed with all the long balls was how involved Rob Bagg is getting now that he’s closer to the rock.  When Defenses bring pressure the QB is going to look to his immediate routes quickly.  I’m sure #Ridernation has ZERO problems with Bagger touching the rock more.


Day 2 brought additions to the playbook and football enthusiasts got a detailed glimpse at the base of the new Roughriders pressure package today.  All the QBs were forced into quick decisions today during team period as the D constantly dialed up PLUS 1 schemes (bringing one more person than the offence can block).


The picture that accompanies this post is of Shawn Lemon talking to the media in the scrum after practise.  It made me think of how much the media atmosphere has changed over the years.  Nowadays players have to be just as adept off the field with their social media fees and while dealing with media as they are on the playing field.  How one represents themselves off the field has never been more accessible and I won`t be surprised when day comes that CFL teams begin adding detailed social media policies and guidelines.  Brand awareness is at an all-time high and unfortunately it seems that one has more eyes on them OFF the field these days than they do ON it.


Speaking of Shawn Lemon, we`ll end with him and his running mate Justin Capicciotti!  As it stands right now the Riders bookend off-season signings have all the chances in the world to showcase their talents.  Until the Riders find some pocket collapsing Defensive Tackles all eyes are going to be on them when it comes to pressure from a four man package. 


Both of these guys have looked solid thus far in camp, and it was refreshing to see Dylan Ainsworth (who got some looks at LB yesterday) come in and play admirably opposite Lemon while Capicciotti took the day to tend to his body.


There`s no pressure there either with the situation on the defensive line.  The scheme that Chris Jones employs involves a ton of interchanging parts and an emphasis on movement that puts the offensive communication under intense pressure.  Jones is going to find a way to get the ball out of a QBs hands as quickly as possible, so Ridernation shouldn`t begin over-analyzing the fact that interior pressure that we`ve become accustomed to with T. George and company looks like it`s in question.  

AC Leonard and Corvey Irvin may be two guys that really push for the spots available, but we`ve got to see more of a workload before we start anointing starters on the inside.


Check in with us tomorrow folks as we dive into the proceedings of Day 3!!!


Pro Perspective






Sunday, 29 May 2016

Views from DAY 1...



Finally #ItsJune (sort of) and we’re thrilled to be back here at Pro Perspective bringing you a twist of insight that you normally wouldn’t get, or at least that’s what we always aim to do!


What a great time to be alive!  Football is back, and the Saskatchewan Roughriders finally get to pay the bills where it counts, ON THE FIELD.


We’ll be with you every step of the way this year on properspective.ca starting with our daily Training Camp reports, combined with more social media output via Twitter (@lucmull95).


Let’s not waste any further time.  Welcome back folks!!!  CFL ball is back!!! 


I got on site today right as the 2016 Saskatchewan Roughriderhopefuls were getting finished with their walk-thru, and before I jumped upstairs to the spot I’ve occupied for the last 2 training camps I had a chance to sit and chat with some elder statesmen of the #Ridernation.  


Not going to lie here folks, it was good to get back to the football talk so I was looking forward to hearing about where everybody had travelled from and what they were looking forward to etc. etc. 


I should have known that all the questions were going to be from their end of the conversation however one of their inquiries in particular stumped me briefly because I had never been asked about it from a fans perspective.  


The question was simple…”What should we expect?!?” which was far from the “How are the Riders going to do?!?” question that I usually get throughout the off-season.


My response after 5 seconds of thought was, “Well I can tell you one thing fellas; pay attention because things are going to be moving at 1000 miles an hour out here in some phases.”


Now I’ve already witnessed a Chris Jones practise tempo after being fortunate enough to travel down to their Vero Beach Fla mini-camp, so I knew what was coming, but I knew that this was going to be a very new experience to a lot of the supporters who came out in droves today.


Sure enough, after the first couple of competitive phases (like 1v1’s, and team drill) I peered down from my press box perch and saw people frantically looking up and down their printed depth charts in a frenzy trying to keep up with the amount of guys that were in and out of the huddles.  As soon as they had located some names of the players that were doing the rep it was like the next group of athletes was up instantaneously running through an entirely different play on the other side of the field.  


Eventually many fans just stopped trying to get a handle on everyone and became immersed in the volume of plays that were being put on film.  


I tweeted (from @lucmull95) the hashtag #OrganizedChaos about halfway through the first team period.  That should have been my initial response to the group of gentlemen I had the pleasure of meeting before warm-ups.


I love the tempo.  It’s very NFL, and NCAA-ish.  Maximizing the time allotted and getting the most reps possible in order to give everyone a fair body of evaluation material and teach tape.  


Chris Jones is a football guy, and that’s not to say any of the coaches before him weren’t, however there’s something about his competitive fire that’s infectious.  We talked all off-season about what it meant to have Jones’ whole staff follow him from his previous stop, however what the fans got to see for the first time today is how bought in this coaching staff is to the culture that they’re installing.  All of the coaching staff here, including the front-office guys, have had a little of that Chris Jones Kool-Aid rub off on them.  The result is an exciting and fast environment.


On the flip side of things as I look at the practise tempo from a player’s perspective, all I can think about is what an incredible opportunity these athletes have in front of them.  Chris Jones and his staff want guys that LOVE the game of football.  That’s why there’s so many reps available.  This coaching staff wants to see the guys who are lining up whenever the chance presents itself.  


Trust me.  Coaches notice who’s taking all the reps, and who’s pacing themselves.  One of the reasons Deon Lacey became an Eskimo, when Jones and co. were in Edmonton, is because they couldn’t get him off film!


I remember Chris Jones commenting on what the types of guys he was looking are and he mentioned Lacey as being in ‘every rep available,’ it seemed like Lacey was the one they were watching at times.  The guy LOVED the game of football! #SeizeTheMoment #BeHungry


Coaches can always work with guys that are hungry to compete.


Other than the noticeable practise tempo, and the great job that the coaching staff did with emphasizing the need to FINISHeverything that this team does within the white lines, there was a lot of good things that the guys are going to see on film tonight as they begin their caffeine filled unit and position meetings. 


Let’s take a look at some of the notes I felt like you guys would want to know about


There’s always a lot of oooh’s and aaahhh’s that surround the Receiving core during the first day of camp, and as talented as this group is, onlookers should account for the fact that it takes a day or so of seeing themselves on tape for defenders on the back end to get their communication down properly.  

There were a couple of assignment busts in the secondary that were communication challenges more than individual faults.  

People also have to keep in mind that some of the DBs out there are seeing the nuances of the CFL, like the waggle and certain formations, for the first time.  Things will get better as the coaches get into the film with their groups.


All the talk that I heard about camp this year usually involved the new crop of wideouts that are in Saskatoon this year, and the new guys didn’t disappoint.  


Joshua Stanford looked good in 1v1’s and Ryan Lankford continued to build on his showing in Florida mini-camp by coming into main camp and catching a few long balls displaying the speed that may have initially impressed scouts.  

I also noticed guys like Kyle Kawamoto out there stretching the field, but as much as the new crop of pass-catchers showed out, it was really nice to see that one of the guys that stood out and set the tone during team periods was a familiar face, #82 NaamanRoosevelt.  


The 2nd year man out of Buffalo and Durant connected a few times for chunks of yardage.  

That’s a huge positive for this squad to have one of the hold-overs from last year come out and make an impact on the first day.  

You’ll hear me say it all year, but especially early, this team needs the players that have been here for one or two years to really step up and provide leadership and productivity while the rest of this team comes together on and off the field.


I’ve also been pretty repetitive with my thoughts on Otha Foster.  He had a good day 1 as well knocking balls down and demonstrating his ability to close a gap between him and a receiver in any situation.  The Roughriders are getting this young man during the prime years of his career and the sky’s the limit as far as productivity goes.  #FutureAllStar


Looking in at what the guys in the trenches did today and there wasn’t a whole lot that stood out, but that isn’t a bad thing at all. Olinemen are like DBs at training camp in that it takes them a film session or two to get their feet and hands in sync.  Usually the Dlinemen start out on fire in things like the 1v1 pass rush drills (I was no different) and then after a couple of practises the hoggies start stonewalling any defensive linemen that thinks that they’re going to be able to rely on 1 o2 pass rush moves.


Kudos to vets like Dan Clark, Brendon Labatte, and Chris Best for being pros and really trying to buy-in to what their OlineCoach Mike Scheper is asking of them.  Schep is a ball of energy that is persistent in his requirements for the small details of the process.  

It’s never easy going from one coach to the next and this veteran group is working on their 3rd positional coach in as many years.  

These guys understand how important they are to the big picture and it was nice to see them really trying to ensure that they were taking care of the small things like running through the line of scrimmage after every 1v1 rep.  #Leadership 


On the Dline AC Leonard showed some good speed and dexterity coming off the edge during 1v1s and during team periods.  3rd year player Kalonji Kashama also flashed some glimpses from his impressive bloodline that seen three brothers Alain, Fernand, and big Hakeem all play in the CFL.  Alain and I played on teams that have competed against each other since high school!


Hasan Hazime has the potential to be an absolute GEM of a pickup for the Green and White.  Playing behind a talented group in Hamilton lead by fellow National Ted Laurent obviously limited Hazime’s reps but in Sask he’s got an opportunity to legitimately compete for a large role in a defensive linemen friendly environment.  Keep an eye on him during June.  For you ratio-minded folks, Hazime could be the piece of the puzzle that many people felt that the Riders were lacking last year.


Overall it was a good first step today at the U of S campus for the 2016 Saskatchewan Roughriders.  A brand new year that brings an entirely new journey.  

From the eyes of an old pro I really appreciated the investment that this coaching staff is willing to put in to this talented group of football players, and it all starts at the top.  

Chris Jones doesn’t move around a lot during practise and that ensures that he doesn’t miss a thing.  He’s always has his finger on the pulse of the process and his controlled demeanor provide fantastic benefits to the productivity of practise.


There’s a different feel to this year.  And much like the question that the group of men asked me this morning, I had to sit and think about what the actual feeling is for a second.


Sure, things were moving fast, but that benefits the players and as much grief as it may have caused some fans that are used to absorbing numbers and names, it made time fly by for the warriors on the gridiron.  


It wasn’t a feeling of uneasiness either.  I think that the amount of change throughout this organization panicked many people on the outside of the Green and White walls, but Ridernation also recognized the necessity for a shift.


After a while I settled on this and I’ve mentioned it a couple of times already so it should have come to me sooner…There is a significantly different level of COMPETE out on the turf this June compared to the last few training camps.  


One gets the feeling that nobody is fully entrenched in a spot, save for the face of the franchise (#4) who welcomes competition anyway, but this is a team that clearly has more potential talent than they have roster spots.


Maybe the chaos wasn’t as organized as I thought…maybe that tempo can be attributed to athletes that know that this job opportunity in front of them isn’t one where there is a favourite already penciled in.


What an opportunity.  Come in and compete you’re a** off.  We’ll take the best guys.  That’s it.  There’s the deal


I can’t wait to watch this whole process play out in front of us.  


New Year, New Journey, new emphasis on a tried and tested variable for success…




Can’t wait for tomorrow.