Oh Winnipeg, don’t book that Grey Cup parade just yet

August 23, 2017 - 5:43pm

Riderville Report August 23: Oh Winnipeg, don’t book that Grey Cup parade just yet

By Greg Urbanoski

I guess 27 years of looking in from the outside would do that to a fan base.

The outburst of jubilation over Winnipeg beating Edmonton with a depleted roster but with a quarterback who doesn’t want to lose is understandable as the initial reading of the win meant Winnipeg must now be considered to be on the “big porch” as Matt Dunigan likes to put it, with Edmonton and Calgary.

However with the season at the one-third mark, booking spots on the big porch seems kind of premature, at least speaking from the experience from a Rider fan who has seen the odd 7-2 start morph into outtakes from Night of the Living Dead.

Again, looking at Edmonton’s injury list and who was out of their lineup for the game against Winnipeg and the question is not does Winnipeg belong on the big porch, but with all those people missing, how could Winnipeg not beat Edmonton?

Another interesting question was something raised by CFL Stats Guru Derek Taylor who pointed out the percentage of scoring done by Winnipeg in the three point variety. Now with Justin Medlock, long field goals are a nice weapon to have in your arsenal, but when those three pointers make up a majority of your scoring, well consider this.

Looking at field goals and touchdowns (passing and rushing) Winnipeg has made 28 field goals while racking up 24 passing and rushing touchdowns. Toronto has also made 28 field goals while amassing 16 passing and rushing touchdowns.

Calgary on the other hand has made 22 field goals, but scored 24 passing and rushing touchdowns. Ottawa also has 22 field goals and 24 offensive touchdowns. Edmonton has made 21 field goals with 23 offensive touchdowns and BC has made 20 field goals and 25 offensive touchdowns.

Montreal has made 17 field goals but only 15 offensive touchdowns, while Saskatchewan has made 14 field goals but scored 20 offensive touchdowns. Hamilton has made 12 field goals and scored 12 offensive touchdowns.

Field goals are nice, but if you want to score more touchdowns than field goals because that shows your offense is getting the job done. If Winnipeg continues to rely on Medlock to carry the load offensively while relying on its defense to keep the score down, they will pay a price for not being efficient.

So while no one is doubting the psychological importance of Winnipeg beating Edmonton, the game and their season to date shows Winnipeg still has work to do to end their Grey Cup drought.

Meanwhile in Riderville, it would be nice if the Riders would get off this kick of dredging up every NFL bust and comeback story in their effort to find sustained success. The latest installment was the Trent Richardson story, the running back who was picked by Cleveland, traded to Indianapolis and faded into obscurity only to reemerge this week when it was reported he was on the Rider Negotiation List and even on his way to Regina until he discovered he would sign a year plus an option contract.

Richardson is 27 so in his effort to make it back to the NFL, that sounded like an oops moment and he backed out. Which begs the question of why the Riders were looking at him in the first place?

The Riders had waited out Kavis Reed and traded for Vernon Adams Jr. for Tevaughn Campbell and a draft pick. Apparently the price went down on Adams as Montreal hit some Canadian defensive injuries and Campbell, while a speedster, seemed to lack the upper body strength needed to battle receivers for those jump balls.

That awareness may be behind why Campbell looked into rugby to develop more physicality to go with his sprinters speed, but it didn’t seem Campbell would be in a position to get into the lineup either contributing on special teams or in some defensive backfield spot. But landing Adams meant the Riders had a full complement of quarterbacks, with Adams even beating the Riders last year with his legs.

So while the Riders might be waiting for the Eskimos to trade James Franklin, which if he is traded would likely be to Toronto or Hamilton rather than to a western rival and even then only with a contract extension already agreed upon, they seem dedicated to the proposition of competition amongst their quarterbacks, a situation somewhat similar to that of 2008 where Darian Durant emerged as a dark horse and took the starting job mainly by the virtue of winning games, the bottom line for any moderately successful quarterback.

The Riders running game ranks eighth in the league, but with Cameron Marshall and Greg Morris, the potential is there for a good game if the Riders offensive philosophy is so inclined. If Kienan LaFrance gets off whatever milk carton he has  been hiding on since he signed a free agent contract, in theory the Riders could have an interesting running game, again, if they were so inclined.

The Richardson situation makes sense only if you consder John Murphy in his last solo venture in Winnipeg. There Murphy was big on guys like Pacman Jones as signings perhaps to demonstrate his ability to get the most out of once formidable players. Murphy may be looking  at demonstrating his talents to an NFL audience, but in this case, the Richardson efforts don’t necessarily meet any pressing need in Riderville, other than perhaps some resume building.

Richardson backing out doesn’t hurt the Riders, but they may want to rethink their recruiting strategy, especially with NFL cuts just around the corner. The Riders have a fairly healthy mix of drafted players in NFL camps and some of those may be coming loose and then again, the Riders made a big deal of setting up a grand scouting network and maybe its time they started identifying players coming loose who might add to a legacy of sustained success.

The Richardson thing just seemed unnecessary and a potential distraction in a week when the Riders might be in a position to move forward in the Western Conference and if not, teeter on the verge of another lost season. So with no further ado, let’s see how this week might unfold.

On Thursday Winnipeg goes to Montreal and while Winnipeg is riding sky high after beating a depleted Edmonton team, Montreal got beat like a gong on Darian Durant’s 35th birthday. If Winnipeg is finally sitting on the big porch, then beating Montreal shouldn’t be too much of a problem, especially since Winnipeg seems to play better on the road. Montreal on the other hand plays better at home and then again, Nik Lewis is eight receptions away from becoming the top receiver in CFL history. Montreal and Lewis would like to do it at home and even better during a win, and while Montreal gave up an early 35 point lead to Toronto and Ricky Ray, they did give Winnipeg fits during their visit to Dollarama Field. In the spirit of lost causes and thinking that sooner or later, relying on field goals to get you through games is going to catch up, let’s pick Montreal to win 28-26.

Then we have the Riders going to Edmonton and the Riders coming off a bye week are nothing to sing about. Edmonton lost a close game to Winnipeg with a depleted lineup and they seem to be getting some of their players back to amn the barricades. Which Riders show up is anyone’s guess, but here is a tip – in the Chris Jones era, the Riders have played the Eskimos pretty close. The Riders would like to move further into contention with a win against Edmonton to set up the home and home with Winnipeg.

With Edmonton getting some players back, you would have to think they have the advantage, but if the Riders are going to make things interesting, they need to do it in this game and as mentioned, they seem to play Edmonton pretty close. So let’s go out and say Saskatchewan 27-26 under the probable delusion the Riders showing against BC is closer to who they really are as opposed to who they want to be.

BC goes to Ottawa and while Ottawa won the desperation bowl against Hamilton, BC seemed to be stuck in some strange gear against Calgary, losing their second in a row. Part of the responsibility for the loss seemed to be the new receivers in the BC receiving corps who were not running the right routes, part of it seemed to be some post traumatic stress disorder experienced by Jonathon Jennings of BC who realized his offensive line was not as good as advertised.

Ottawa has kept things close in defeat and seem like they are on the verge of being a credible team in the east. BC may be teetering on the verge of going from the front porch to perhaps being stuck in the driveway, looking for a ride home. If previous experience is any indication, this should be a tight game and let’s say Ottawa wins a tight game 28-27.

Finally we have Toronto going to Calgary and anyone who questions the importance of Ricky Ray to Toronto needs to look at the first half of Toronto’s win over Montreal. Toronto used the reappearance of Ray and some pretty good defense to soundly thrash Montreal while Calgary seemed to have problems with Bo Levi Mitchell and his shoulder.

Whether that continues is an open question, but the big question in all of this is whether Toronto’s offensive line can keep Ricky Ray upright against a pretty good Calgary defense. It will be interesting to see if Calgary continues to have some kind of weird growing pains on offense, but let’s assume that Calgary’s defense is up to the challenge and Calgary beats Toronto 29-22.

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