Via Pro Perspective
Q: Could you please give us a more detailed breakdown of the strengths, weaknesses, and trends in our backup quarterbacks, especially what you are seeing this week in training camp?
A: Here’s what we’ll do with this question...The strengths and weaknesses aspect is hard from an analyst’s point of view strictly because we don’t have the luxury of the camp film, and neither Coleman nor Smith has any live game (CFL) experience.
Right now all I could tell you is the stuff that I’ve written about the guys in the previous weeks (which is available in the posts below this post).
Instead of regurgitating what we’ve talked about over the span of camp, let’s look into what each QB may be putting on his “to-do” list for Saturday’s game in an effort to WIN A SPOT ON THE DEPTH CHART.
It’s important to keep Brett Smith’s age in mind when we talk about him. Darian Durant is 32, and has many years of CFL experience under his belt, so changing Offensive Coordinators isn’t as big of a deal as it would be to a guy who’s still relatively fresh out of college. We’re quick to point out that he has “a year of experience” under his belt, but honestly, that year probably did him more harm than good from a developmental standpoint. As much as we talked about Brett Smith needing to make the next step, there was still an element of “starting from scratch” that came along with it, and this is a YOUNG QB that is now learning his 2nd PRO playbook in as many years.
Brett Smith needs to slow down in the huddle on Saturday, and really absorb the play that’s being signalled in. We all know that Brett Smith can escape the pocket, but what the front office wants to see is whether or not the QB can win games from the pocket. This weekend is a huge chance to prove to coaches that not only does he understand where his reads are but that he is willing to PULL THE TRIGGER. What Brett Smith brings to the table athletically with his legs is an added bonus. The best QBs in the world have the athletic ability to adjust the launch point (move to open spaces) should they feel pressure but they also possess the discipline to keep their eyes on their receivers and execute passes.
With limited reps to go around on Saturday two-and-outs are potentially crippling because the QBs never know when, or if, they’re going to get back in. Brett Smith needs to go into the game knowing where his Oline protection will be, and trust that they’ll give him the time to make the right decisions. He’s got the arm to make EVERY throw. They don’t all have to be bombs, he just needs to start stringing a few passes together and find his comfort zone. Brett Smith has all the potential in the world, and you can tell that the coaches know that he has it in him.
Coleman has the upper hand on both Smith and Simms in that he’s got the most PRO experience, and it really showed as camp wore on. In his first game as a CFL QB he may have thrown 3 INT’s but the positive part was that he looked like he always had a pre-snap plan, he understood what the play was asking him to do, and he knew where his 2nd and 3rd option was going to be. Coleman’s problem was that he simply wasn’t hitting on all cylinders.
After learning the hard way about how big this CFL field really is, and how fast the defenders cover ground in this league, one would expect the teach tape from the Lions game to benefit Coleman the most. One should anticipate Coleman faring a lot better during any reps he gets in the final Exhibition game against the Eskimos and with a good showing he may be able to wrap up that 2nd string spot behind the Face of the Franchise, Darian Durant.
The former Green Bay Packer has all the tools. Arm strength, size, and deceptive speed. The attribute that may separate himself from the other two back-up QBs is his ability to lead a huddle. Now that he’s a lot more comfortable with the Stephen McAdoo playbook his pre-snap management of the guys around him has also elevated.
It’s been tough to get a bead on Sims simply because he got into camp so late. It was only over the last few days that he started to get significant reps in practise.
The one thing that was noticeable about the former Winston-Salem State QB is that when he does know what to do, he has a really deft touch on the ball. He also shares the same trait as BJ Coleman in that he wants to operate out of the pocket, and hasn’t shown that he’s in a hurry to use his legs.
I’m not sure how the coaches plan to dole out snaps in the final Exhibition game, but for Sims’ sake I hope he gets a shot to show off his talents and demonstrate that he’s caught up to the other QB’s as far as the playbook goes. The coaches are excited to have him in camp, and the fact that he’s a signing from THIS regime, speaks well to his chances to stick on this roster, and maybe even make some noise with a few good offensive possessions.
Via Pro Perspective
Q: What does Chris Jones (and players and other coaches) think of the TC environment in Saskatoon? (Staying in dorms. Is that good a good thing? How are the meals, meeting rooms, locker rooms, etc.) How does it compare with other organizations?
A: I haven’t talked to Coach Jones personally but I have had the conversation with other members of the football staff, and can speak from experience.
What makes training camp in Saskatoon so special, ESPECIALLY FOR THIS TEAM, is that everyone is on sight at all times. It promotes team building, it’s much easier from a logistics standpoint, and like Gordie Gilroy quipped as we were shooting the sh*t one day, “If Coach wants to call a meeting, he can just walk up and down the dorm halls with a megaphone!
When the Roughriders used to do Training Camp here in Regina, most of the vets would be out of sight at their own homes unless we were in practise or meetings and it pretty much stuck 1st year guys by themselves. Having everyone in the dorms, walking back and forth together to meetings and eating together for all meals goes a long way in building a locker room, something that is IMPERATIVE to the Green and White in 2016. Its 100% football focused.
The only drawback to holding camp at the U of S Campus is that the cafeteria where the guys eat (and the food is GREAT) is quite a hike when one is banging around in pads for 3 weeks. If one can find a bike it makes EVERYTHING easier.
Other teams have this same sort of set-up. When I played my last year with Les Alouettes, I felt like they had the best set-up in the whole league. They run their camp out at Bishops University and everything is within a 5 minute walk from the residence halls where the players stay. The dorms were huge, and me and the Dlinemen I was rooming with always held little playbook study groups and made the trek over to meetings together. We developed bonds and friendships at Bishops that we not only carried throughout the season, but we still have to this day.
Off-Site Training Camps are the best case scenario for Football Teams.
Via Pro Perspective
Q: Man there has to be some crazy nerves going on waiting to see who gets cut, how did you deal with those nerves?
Honestly, the time period between the last exhibition game and the announcement of final cut is ABSOLUTELY BRUTAL if one isn’t an established vet or prized free agent (even then it’s still a bit nerve-racking). All one can do is sit around the hotel or dorm room praying that the phone doesn’t ring. One can try and go about the day as if it’s any other day but until one’s butt is planted in a seat during the FIRST OFFICIAL TEAM MEETING, one just has to sit there and play the world’s worst waiting game. It doesn’t help that while this whole process is going on, a player is hearing about other guys who have gotten cut.
Sometimes even the first team meeting is no safe haven.
In 2007, as guys (who hadn’t gotten the phone call) trickled into the 1st official team meeting of the season the feeling of relief quickly got replaced by mind numbing anxiety as we realized that the Front Office had actually fallen behind a bit and they were plucking guys they hadn’t notified yet out of their seats! I’m naturally paranoid so I spent a good 10 minutes frozen in my seat next praying that I didn’t lock eyes with Eric Tillman.
Only after the doors jarred closed, and Kent Austin walked up on stage and proclaimed, “Anyone who’s not here to win a Championship this year, get up and leave,” did I feel somewhat safe!
Via Twitter (@lucmull95)
Q: Jeff Knox Jr. was certainly the breakout star of the 2015 Rider season. Is there a player in camp right now that you think has the potential to go from unknown to CFL star this season?
A: I’ll tell you what, DEFENSIVELY, I really think that Kevin Francis has the chance to be special in this league. It may take him a couple of games to get this whole thing figured out but I think that this staff has found a gem there. Calling for him to be a STAR this year may be a stretch but he’s got all the makings of one.
As for the Offensive side of the ball, I think Ricky Collins might mess around and surprise some folks operating out of the slot. Again, predicting him to be a STAR is a little much, however I wouldn’t be surprised if he became a go-to guy for #4 over the 2nd half of the season…
Fortunately for us some of the other questions that we got were items that we’ve actually scheduled for discussion during our NEXT OFFSIDES podcast that we’re dropping on Sunday. So not only do we save some writing time, we’ll get a former coaches perspective on the topics as well!
Make sure you catch it this weekend, and while we’re on that subject, we’re a heartbeat away from the podcast being available on Itunes!