|Darian Durant is attended to by the Roughriders training staff on June 27.|
If you live in Saskatchewan, you know you can talk about the CFL’s Roughriders at any time, all the time and get heated dissecting every facet of the team.
Since taking the field and falling in their regular season opener 30-26 to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on June 27 at Mosaic Stadium, there is no shortage of things to discuss surrounding the green and white in Rider Nation. Everything is not all good, but everything is not all bad.
• The worst news revolves around starting quarterback Darian Durant, who ruptured his left Achilles tendon shortly before halftime in the season opener. Durant completed 13 of 18 passes for 165 yards, two touchdown passes and no interceptions before being carted off the field.
Durant tore a tendon in his right elbow last season in a 30-24 win over the Blue Bombers on Sept. 7, 2014 in Winnipeg. That injury occurred when the officials didn’t blow a play dead at the snap with certainty in a loud Investors Group Field, which saw half the players stop and half continue on the play. Bombers defensive end Bryant Turner continued with the play and nailed Durant to cause the injury.
The elbow injury was created by an unfortunate set of circumstances. The ruptured Achilles occurred due to bad luck. Durant dropped to the turf after following through on a pass, and he wasn’t even contacted on the play.
The 32-year-old has already cemented his place as a Roughriders legend leading the team to a Grey Cup championship at home in 2013 and Grey Cup appearances as a starter in 2009 and 2010. He was also part of the Roughriders 2007 Grey Cup championship team as a third stringer.
For anyone that has dealt with Durant for a number of years, you know he legitimately cares and enjoys being the starting quarterback of the Roughriders, and he has excelled in that role. That hasn’t always been the case for a club that endures arguably more scrutiny from its fan base than any other sports team outside of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens.
Here is hoping Durant’s luck changes on the injury front in 2016.
• The Roughriders need to play tougher and more aggressive defence going forward in 2015, if they want to have any shot of challenging for the Grey Cup. Against the Bombers, the Roughriders defence gave up 28 first towns, 325 yards passing, 145 yards rushing and failed to force a turnover. Winnipeg running back Paris Cotton had 108 yards on the ground on just 13 carries.
The Roughriders defence missed numerous tackles and was non-existent. The fact the Bombers were able to drive the ball at will was also disheartening. Safety Tyron Brackenridge is expected to return to the Roughriders defence for Sunday’s game against the 1-0 Toronto Argonauts (1:30 p.m., Mosaic Stadium), so that should help Saskatchewan’s defensive unit.
• Offence wasn’t a problem for the Roughriders in their season opener. Under Durant or backup
|Kevin Glenn (#5) calls out signals for the Roughriders.|
Glenn has put up Hall-of-Fame numbers in his 14 seasons in the CFL. With a full week of practice with the first-team offence, expect Glenn to be that much more efficient going forward.
Life is also coming full circle with Glenn, who started his CFL career with the Roughriders before moving on to play with Winnipeg, Calgary, Hamilton and British Columbia. The 2003 West Final looked at one time to be Glenn’s last with the Roughriders. As a backup, he entered the contest with the Riders trailing the host Edmonton Eskimos 23-2 for an ineffective Nealon Greene.
Glenn gave the Roughriders a chance to in that contest, who eventually fell 30-23. During that offseason, the Roughriders brass of general manager Roy Shivers and head coach Danny Barrett backed Greene, who had been erratic his whole Roughriders tenure, as the starter going into 2004.
That decision led to Glenn’s departure from Rider Nation, as many felt he should have been elevated or given the chance to compete for starter status. Glenn resurfaced in 2004 with the Bombers after a couple of transactions.
Now a cagey veteran, Glenn will have his chance to lead the Riders as the starter.
• Kicker Paul McCallum also had a back to the future moment, when he resurfaced with the Roughriders this week. The 45-year-old last played for the Roughriders in 2005 before moving on to excel with the B.C. Lions.
McCallum’s name was linked with one of the most infamous moments in the Riders’ history. After he missed a chip shot field goal in overtime of the 2004 West Final helping the host B.C. Lions pull out a 27-25 win, his home was vandalized, he was threatened and manure was dumped on his neighbour’s property.
McCallum was brought back to add more consistency with the kicking game, which wasn’t there with Chris Milo. Milo, who is well-liked by the Roughriders organization, struggled last season hitting 71.4 per cent of his field goals, and he often hit the post. He was 1-for-2 in the team’s regular season opener, but it is obvious the Saskatchewan coaches still have big concerns.
Since 2009, McCallum hasn’t had a campaign where he has made less than 84.6 per cent of his kicks. Last season, he made 38-of-42 field goals for a 90.5 per cent success rate.
Any one that has followed football for any length of time knows an accurate place kicker will always find work and age won’t be a barrier.
Over the long term, the Roughriders would love for Milo to regain his form from 2013, when he made 46-of-52 field goals for an 88.5 per cent success rate.
• As the Roughriders go forward, the coaches also have to step up their game.
Since becoming the Roughriders head coach in 2011, Corey Chamblin has done an excellent job overall. With that said, the coaches always have to get better too. Chamblin preaches that to his players and that also has to stick to himself and his staff.
In the opener with the Roughriders down 30-26, they faced a third and three from midfield with under three minutes to play. Chamblin went with conventional wisdom, and the Roughriders punted hoping to get a defensive stop and one last possession.
Coaches are responsible for putting their players in the best positions to win the game, and this looked like a smart move. Unfortunately, Chamblin didn’t do a good job in reading the flow of the play.
The offensives on both sides were running the show. At that time in place, the Roughriders needed to get the go-ahead score, as time was running out.
Chamblin needed to mirror Bill Belichick, who is the head coach of the NFL’s New England Patriots, and gamble at this point in time. With the way the Bombers were moving the ball, the chances were high the Roughriders would not get another possession, and Winnipeg did indeed ground out the clock.
A good head coach knows that each game contains its own story and makes the best decisions to try and win with what is occurring. He can’t worry about making a decision to slight one side of the ball or the other, and he is able to get that message across to his players no matter what the outcome.
Belichick always has the message that he always expects to make it when he gambles. Chamblin can say the same thing, if the gamble doesn’t work.
At some point in time, the game hits a critical juncture, where you have to go for it. Chamblin needed to gamble on that third and three.
• Penalties. As far as penalties go, the officials should go back to calling things the way they did in 2013. The tweaks that have been made to calling penalties in 2014 and this season have helped grind the CFL game down. The way calls have been made in 2015 really hasn’t led to more scoring in the early going outside of the Hamilton Tigers-Cats bombing the Blue Bombers 52-26 on Thursday night in Winnipeg.
The only other squad to score 30 or more points was when the Bombers beat the Roughriders on June 27 at Mosaic. Offence wasn’t really broke in 2013 and didn’t really need fixing.
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