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






1 comment:

  1. Super report there Luc! Really gets us fully immersed in training camp and the goings on. Thanks.