Both the Riders and the CFL are off to a rough start in 2015. In Week One, the Riders, Edmonton and Montreal all lost their starting QBs to injury. The Alouettes also lost their back-up QB. Toronto’s starter, Ricky Ray, was already injured, then on Thursday Winnipeg lost their starting QB Drew Willy after he took a shot to head.
In Kevin Glenn, the Riders have an adequate back-up. But it’s likely the team will be be looking to run the ball more than had originally been planned under new offensive coordinator Jacques Chapedelaine (whose offence Darian Durant had previously described as basketball on grass).
Last Saturday in the loss to Winnipeg, Rider RBs Anthony Allen and Jerome Messam racked up over 200 yards on the ground, so there is some hope there. Receiver Weston Dressler is supposed to play in this afternoon’s game against the Argos as well, so he should provide an offensive spark. On defence, the Riders were sloppy with a capital “S”, and Winnipeg took advantage of poor tackling to put up tons of yards and points in their 30-26 victory. All-star safety Tyron Brackenridge is supposed to play today, although having sat out training camp and the preseason it’s questionable how effective he will be.
The Argonauts are coming off an impressive “home” win against Edmonton in Fort McMurray. Because of the Pan Am games, the Double Blue won’t play their first true home game in Toronto until Aug. 8 (against the Riders, as it happens). But replacement QB Trevor Harris looked good in the team’s 26-11 victory over the Eskimos — although defensively, Toronto was helped when Edmonton QB Mike Reilly had to leave the game with a leg injury that will sideline him for 10-12 weeks.
On special teams, the Riders made a splash this week when they signed 45-year-old Paul McCallum to take over place-kicking duties from Chris Milo. If you crunch the numbers, McCallum does have a better success rate, although for the last 10 years he’s had the benefit of playing half the season in climate-controlled conditions at B.C. Place whereas Milo has faced the exact opposite situation at Mosaic Stadium where wind, rain and cold often wreak havoc with the kicking game. The Riders also re-signed QB Tino Sunseri to put a third quarterback on the roster now that Durant is gone for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon.
Prior to Calgary losing in Montreal Friday night (against a rookie QB, no less) I had the Stampeders and the Hamilton Tiger Cats as early favourites to meet in a Grey Cup rematch in Winnipeg in late November. Hamilton still looks solid, and Calgary still has to be favoured in the West. But other teams, such as the Riders and Edmonton, could challenge depending on how they cope with the loss of their starting QBs.
Kick-off for today’s game at Mosaic Stadium is 1:30 p.m. You can find out more on the Riderville website.