Practice is one thing – game performance is quite another

June 1, 2017 - 9:05am

The 2017 Rider training camp is in full swing and glimpses of what this team may be like are leaking out, but no one should be jumping to any conclusions.

In some aspects the Riders are being pretty decisive, already cutting quarterback Matt Mauk and adding former UNC quarterback Marquise Williams, where one Darian Durant used to play. Mauk apparently was having problem with his throws while Williams seems to be a dual throwing and running threat.

Where he ranks or will rank with the quarterbacks in camp remains to be seen. Kevin Glenn has staked his claim to the starting position while the question on Vince Young is, he seems to have a lot of ground to make up, including getting used to a new league and rules.

Bryan Bennett seems to be moving into the back-up spot, while Brandon Bridge has been showing flashes of perhaps being able to move up from a third down quarterback. Young has great size, but his arm seems to be feeling the effects of throwing hundred of balls a day and judgement seems to be suspended until Young is seen in a game situation.

If Young doesn’t show much more, and at this point he seems to be more a back up than anything else, then the Riders may be asking whether they would be doing themselves and Young a favor by letting him go after training camp. If Bennett and Williams show potential and Bridge continues to show development, then the Riders may want to go with younger quarterbacks and let them grow and take their lumps as they learn their craft. The young quarterbacks the Riders have now have more upside than Young, except in maybe a marketing sense.

Whoever is quarterback will be getting a fantastic receiving corps to deal with, with Naaman Roosevelt, Duron Carter and Caleb Holley leading the way. There are some like Jensen Stoshak, who the Riders uncovered at a free agent camp, who have been catching everything thrown their way.

At this point the name of Terrence Nunn needs to be reintroduced to Rider fans. Nunn was a receiver who a few years ago in training camp caught everything in the air that didn’t sting and seemed like a can’t miss prospect coming out of camp.

Then Nunn lined up for real and couldn’t catch a thing. Thus was born the Terrence Nunn Trophy, going to the can’t miss prospect in camp who fails to deliever when the lights come on in the stadium. So therefore any discussion of players will have to wait until they line up on the field and we see how they do under real game conditions.

Other interesting Rider news had to do with Justin Cox, the former Rider defensive back who was acquited of domestic assault charges this past week, but got news from the club they would not have him back. Maybe a criminal trial south of the border played into the decision not to allow him back, but whatever the reason, Chris Jones saying no to Cox means while the Riders may be hurt in solidifying their defensive secondary, they saved themselves some PR points by not defending someone who has obvious problems, even though he might help the football team.

There are other defensive backs who might bear watching, including Mark Roberts, a rookie who is making interceptions, and other of note include Canadian Tevaughn Campbell. Again, who lines up depends on who not only can cover, but can also understand the defense and what Jones is trying to do.

So the Rider scrimmage is Saturday and the first game is June 10 in the new stadium, which is not televised because they want to save it for the Canada Day opener against Winnipeg (Satan’s Team). Here are the first week or games with some very brief and foolhardy predictions.

BC at Calgary? Will Mitchell Gale establish himself as the back up to Bo Levi (the Real Commissioner of the CFL?) will Calgary’s offensive line find some continuity after losing Derek Dennis? Will BC replace Adam Bighill? Is Jon Jennings for real? I’d expect draft picks and free agents to mostly staff this game and with Calgary having a bigger roster due to a home game, they will play more people and have more continuity errors leaving the BC Lions with a shorter roster and not as many players to get in with the margin of victory. BTW, BC has an amazing receiving corps this year as well. If Jennings can cut his interception ratio, the Lions will do more than roar.

Montreal at Toronto – be a fascinating game to watch with Kavis bringing his road show to Toronto to face off against Jim Popp and Marc Trestman and apparently Bear Woods. The Woods thing was just badly handled and if it was a casualty due to the Durant contract, then karma in the form of whatever injuries Durant suffers, seems to be in effect. I’m glad Toronto fans are enjoying the professionalism of the new regime, but Cory Chamblin is not a defensive coordinator. He had one shot in Hamilton years ago, and sucked at that. He worked under Chris Jones in Calgary apparently learned nothing, and then he forced out Richie Hall here in Riderville to take over and sucked yet again. I would not let Chamblin manage a change toilet in a bus depot never mind another defense. Enjoy your offense TO, because your defense will just suck, but on this night, Argos will rule the roost, or whatever it is you call your stadium these days ;)

Hamilton at Ottawa –Keeping Zach Collaros upright will be the focus of whatever success Hamilton enjoys, which means ensuring they have a quality back up quarterback because we see how teams cannot win with just one QB. Kent Austin is apparently an abrasive character to work for, judging from the defections of Orlando Steinhaeuer and Tommy Condell, but the addition of Jeff Reinbold may work out because he did do good on defense in Winnipeg, it’s just when you give him the keys to the team car, it comes back looking like a refugee from a NASCAR car crash. Hamilton has muscled up on defense while Ottawa now faces the challenge of being the home host team for the Grey Cup. That is a fine line to walk as the Riders sold their souls for the 2013 win, which I can live with, but Toronto failed to muscle up for a cup run last year. The removal of Henry Burris to the rubber chicken circuit puts it in the hands of Trevor Harris who has Drew (Kate’s Date) Tate, the professional back up, now in his corner. I would have stuck with Brock Jensen. I’d go with Hamilton on this one because they bulked up more and have the shorter roster leash which for win/losses purposes means more continuity. Ottawa fans won’t notice current Grey Cup drought.

Winnipeg (Satan’s Playground) at Saskatchewan – I was selling 50/50 tickets for the Bryan Adams et al test event at the new stadium and we sold $116,000 of tickets for a pretty amazing prize. I am expecting to get over $100 K for this game as well.

Who will emerge as the back up to Kevin Glenn will be front and centre on the field, as well as the potential emergence of the running game and the defensive secondary. The Riders did the right thing in not having Justin Cox back, since he is facing a trial in Mississippi in July, so their defensive secondary will be a work in progress. The receiving corps is real and they are spectacular and if Glenn has these guys to throw to, a running game that is actually there, and an offensive line that keeps him upright, he may actually be a good game manager, which is all anyone is asking.

The interesting thing is seeing who emerges behind him, Bennett and Bridge are having their moments and Williams is an interesting addition, considering he broke all of Darian Durant’s records at UNC. As far as Vince Young goes, how he responds in game speed will go a long way to determining if the Riders keep him on or cut him. Either way, he will be a back up, but if he can’t bring the whole package of mind and body, then he might as well go back to Texas. Riders win this one because Satan will never be able to hear the call from Matt (Ice Berg) Nicholls and jump offside.

Calgary at Edmonton – Watching Jason Maas on the sideline is like watching a small yappy dog. He wants to be a big dog, he thinks he is a big dog, but he is not that bright. The same with Maas, whose sideline antics last year with a roster essentially intact from a Grey Cup champ allowed him room for error. Now with a new GM and more players gone south, Maas will have to see if he can tune down his combustible nature to actually do some good as a head coach. One welcome step is handing over the play calling duties to a coordinator. A head coach who is also his own coordinator is doing a half assed job at both (looking at you Chris Jones) and after installing a system last year, Maas will have to learn to get his new team to buy into the changes the Esks are facing this year, like no Derel Walker, and will hype this game as a measuring stick for his team. Which means I will pick Calgary because they will have fewer players to review and can use this to tune up for the regular season.

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