Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday Morning 'Rider Blogging

Most of the commentary on Friday's loss to Edmonton has focused on the common traits between the Saskatchewan Roughriders' last three losses. But the more important developments may have been some new weaknesses which figure to make it much tougher for the 'Riders to get back in the win column.

To start with the points which might serve as a distraction, let's note that Friday's game offered a prime opportunity to confuse cause and effect when it comes to late-game turnovers. Yes, Darian Durant was intercepted twice - but only with the 'Riders already well behind in the game, and at a point where playing it safe wasn't an option.

Which isn't to say Durant had a great game overall. While his numbers looked much better for a few big plays (Taj Smith's circus catch and a couple of brilliant runs by Kory Sheets), Durant was once again somewhat off target with many of his throws and decisions (with a completion thrown from across the line of scrimmage serving as a particularly ugly drive-killer). And aside from Sheets, the rest of the offence was equally inconsistent.

But the 'Riders' have shown they can win with a modest offence if the team's other units play well. And that's where Friday's result raised some real cause for concern.

On special teams, Tristan Jackson had by far his worst game of the season. In some cases, that could be traced to obvious missed blocks; in others, it simply looked like Jackson wasn't finding the seams which he normally exploits as well as any returner in the CFL. But it's not an accident that the 'Riders were able to pile up large yardage totals without scoring a lot of points - and much of the problem has to do with the team starting with far worse field position than it has in most games this season.

Likewise, a defence which throttled the Eskimos just a few weeks earlier suddenly looked helpless against Steven Jyles' offence. And while most of the commentary so far has focused on the secondary, it wasn't only the Eskimos' passing attack that was unrecognizable compared to week 2: Hugh Charles also had a strong game thanks in large part to poor tackling by the 'Riders' run-stoppers.

Which is to say that rather than merely focusing on their late-game weaknesses, the 'Riders also look to have some work to do in rebuilding what seemed to be their strengths. And with nearly every team in the CFL clustered around the .500 mark, the 'Riders can't count on making the playoffs if they aren't able to regain at least part of their early-season form.

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