Saturday, 20 August 2016

Roughriders are a big joke

Saskatchewan’s CFL franchise deserves all the criticism it gets

QB Darian Durant calls a play in the huddle for the Roughriders.
    You have to think some Saskatchewan Roughriders fan somewhere is getting the urge to throw his or her jersey on the field.
    While I don’t condone that type of behaviour, all you have to do is check social media lines and sports talk shows in Saskatchewan to feel the frustration of Rider Nation. After Saturday’s 53-7 stinker of a loss to the Tiger-Cats in Hamilton, it is getting harder and harder to see the light at the end of the tunnel for the Roughriders, who fall to 1-7 on the season and are 6-29 in their last 35 outings in the regular season and playoffs.
    A lot of TV viewers undoubtedly switched over from the game telecast on TSN over to see the impressive and heartfelt final performance of the Tragically Hip live from Kingston, Ont., on CBC. The iconic performance of Hip frontman Gord Downie, who is battling terminal brain cancer, will ensure the Roughriders performance will be forgotten for a short moment. The criticism for the “Green and White” won’t stay at bay for long.
    Outside of a handful of plays against the Tiger-Cats at Tim Hortons Field, the Roughriders weren’t in Saturday’s game at all. The second half really felt like it was mail it in time. You would like to see signs of improvement, but the team just keeps regressing.
    In the worlds of legendary former NFL head coach Bill Parcells, “You are what your record says you are.”
    Right now, the Roughriders are a very brutal CFL football team.
    There have been a number of things that have been hard to stomach, and a handful of them are as follows.

Release of Chick a huge mistake

John Chick signs autographs at Roughriders training camp in 2015.
    In the loss to the Tiger-Cats, Roughriders fans again had to mull over the fact that defensive lineman John Chick was no longer part of the team.
    Chick was cut by the Roughriders back on Jan. 14. During his time with the Roughriders, Chick became a fan favourite thanks to the combination of his stellar play and the fact he was very active representing the team in the community.
    The 33-year-old product from Gillette, Wyoming, was with the Roughriders from 2007 to 2009 and was a key cog in the club’s 2007 Grey Cup championship win. After a stint in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars, Chick rejoined the Roughriders in 2013 and helped them win the Grey Cup later on that year on home turf at Mosaic Stadium. He remained with the Roughriders until being released in January.
    A day after releasing Chick, the Roughriders signed defensive lineman Shawn Lemon as a free agent. Lemon helped the Calgary Stampeders win the Grey Cup in 2014 and was a key member helping the second year Ottawa Redblacks reach the Grey Cup last year. At age 27, he was also six years younger than Chick, and a lot of people saw Lemon as Chick’s replacement.
    Lemon played one regular season game with the Roughriders and was traded to the Toronto Argonauts.
    If you are going to bring in a younger player to replace an established star, you better be sure the younger player stays with your team longer than the established star does, if the star player signs with another team.
    Chick resurfaced with the Tigers-Cats and has 16 tackles, seven sacks and two forced fumbles in eight games. He recorded two of his sacks on Saturday against the Roughriders.
    To make matters worse, the Roughriders defensive line has struggled all season especially with getting pressure on the quarterback.

Departures of Dressler and Getzlaf also hurt

Chris Getzlaf signs an autograph for a young Roughriders fan in 2008.
    The Roughriders lack of success on the field also has fans missing receivers Weston Dressler and Chris Getzlaf.
    Dressler was released the same day Chick was and Getzlaf was allowed to become a free agent after last season. Dressler, who turned 31 in July, is currently on the six-game injured list with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Getzlaf, 33, signed with the Edmonton Eskimos.
    The Roughriders have gotten good production from their receivers for most of the season, but there is a feeling among the fans the presence of Dressler and Getzlaf would result in more points. In Dressler’s case, he is also an accomplished kick returner, and if he wasn’t going to be used as a receiver, he is better than any returner the Roughriders currently have on their roster.
    Both Dressler and Getzlaf played with a lot of heart and genuinely cared about the team and the fans. Without Dressler and Getzlaf, the fans feel less connected to the team.

Roster fines were earned

Stamps QB Bo Levi Mitchell escapes the Roughriders rush.
    On Aug. 11, the CFL fined the Saskatchewan Roughriders $60,000 for roster violations and deducted $26,000 from their 2016 salary cap.
    The CFL said the Roughriders were in violation of policies that prohibit practice with ineligible players, having players participate in practice who are on the six-game injured list and having free agents practise with players who are under contract. The league’s investigation spanned over several weeks.
    Since those fines were announced, it seems like everyone has chimed in with their thoughts.
The bottom line was the Roughriders were caught violating the rules, and they paid for it. The whole situation also brought out Jones’ weakness on the personnel front.
    After Jones came on board, it seems players have be coming and going out of the Roughriders dressing room through a revolving door. At some point in time, you need to stick with a group of players and run with them. If you are shuffling guys on and off your roster, you can’t build any chemistry on and off the field that is needed to win.
    Roughriders fans got their backs up for a short time regarding a Twitter comment Calgary Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell made about Saskatchewan's roster situation a couple of days before the fines were announced. Mitchell's words didn't have a lasting impact as the losses mounted.
    When the Stampeders beat the Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium 19-10 on Aug. 13, the hecklers weren't even that harsh to Mitchell.

Defence is brutal

Members of the Roughriders suspect defence get ready for a play.
  In too many games this season, it feels like the Roughriders defence is non-existent.
    Over eight games, the Roughriders have held their opponents to under 30 points twice and under 20 points just once. If you are looking for you offence to score over 40 points a game to win in the CFL, you are in a lot of trouble.
    Against the Tiger-Cats on Saturday, the Roughriders allowed 421 yards through the air and 88 yards along the ground. You might think the rushing defence would be a strong point, but the CFL has been more of a passing league than normal this season.
    The Roughriders have been giving up huge amounts of yards through the air all season comparable to the yards given up to the Tiger-Cats. Besides the fact their defensive line has struggled, there are times when the receivers from the opposing team have been wide open to the point you can’t see a Roughriders defensive back anywhere.
    Jones built a reputation as being an outstanding defensive coordinator in the CFL with the Calgary Stampeders and Toronto Argonauts before becoming a head coach first with the Eskimos and now with the Roughriders. When you become a head coach, it is never a good sign when the side of the ball that is your specialty is not getting the job done.

Can the Roughriders break their funk?

Roughriders QB Darian Durant stays cool under pressure.
    You never say never.
    While star quarterback Darian Durant had a rough outing against the Tiger-Cats throwing his first four interceptions of the season, he gives the Roughriders a chance to win every time he steps on the field. His composure was evident on Saturday even when things went downhill.
    Unfortunately, losing has become a habit for this team, and as anyone can see over the Roughriders last 35 games in the regular season and playoffs, losing is a hard habit to break.
    The Roughriders travel to Edmonton on Friday to take on the defending Grey Cup champion Eskimos (4-4), who appear to be getting on track after two-straight wins.
    For the moment, it seems like things are going to get worse before they get better.

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