Friday November 28, 2014

Will the Riders repeat championship?


View from the Cheap Seats is kind of an extension of the newsroom. Whenever our three regular reporters, Calvin Daniels, Thom Barker and Randy Brenzen are in the building together, it is frequently a site of heated debate. This week: The legacy of D-Day.

Heart over head

As a Saskatchewan roughriders fan of a certain, ahem, vintage, I all too well remember the perennial mid-season lament, “well, there’s always next year.” And there always was. No matter what the team looked like on paper, come June the optimism was palpable and genuine that somehow, the team would rally. It’s just the way Riders fans are.

It was a long haul, though, between 1966 and 1989 and again between 1989 and 2007. Not that we didn’t have our chances. Since that first Grey Cup in ’66, we’ve been to the final 10 times, losing seven.

The most heartbreaking for me was the 1976 game at the CNE in Toronto when a last minute Russ Jackson to Tony Gabriel  touchdown pass snatched the victory out of our hands.

It really should be the 13th man fiasco in 2010 against Montreal because we beat ourselves that time, but maybe by then I had become more hardened to heartbreak.

In any event, it would be easy to get down, especially after losing Sheets and Dressler to the NFL during the offseason. And after two bad losses to follow up a season opening win, things were not looking great for a repeat especially with the strength of the West, including a surprisingly revitalized Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Now though, with a record of 5-2 (I am assuming we beat Montreal on Saturday), I don’t see why we can’t repeat. Oh sure, I could do an intensive analysis and come up with a different conclusion, but I prefer to speak from the heart when it comes to the Green and White.

In the old Roughriders fan mindset, one Grey Cup, much less back-to-back wins, may have seemed just too much to ask for, but in recent years, we have almost always been a contender. We’ve been to the playoffs seven years in a row, been in the Western final five times since 2003 and four Grey Cups since 2007. We won half of them.

Finally, despite the fact Darian Durant doesn’t get his due respect, he is a great quarterback. He’s a winner and the defence is going to give him the time he needs to get the new receiving corps clicking.

That’s right, you heard it here first, folks, the Roughriders will repeat as Grey Cup champions this year.  Go Riders!

- Thom Barker

Ready to win

With a third of the season in the books, the Saskatchewan Roughriders are struggling.

That might surprise some people given the 2013 domination by the ‘Riders, especially through the Canadian Football League playoffs, and the Grey Cup. The Cup final was simply never in doubt, although we Roughie fans found ways to sweat given some of the strange ways the team has lost big games over the decades.

But to have expected the 2014 version of the team not to regress somewhat was being over optimistic.

You do not see the likes of Kory Sheets and Weston Dressler defect to the National Football League without it impacting a team. They were after all the CFL’s top rusher and the ‘Riders best receiver respectively.

In the case of Sheets, the Saskatchewan offence was built around his skill set, and even in 2013 when he was out of the line-up the team sputtered.

While the combo of Will Ford and Jerome Messam might actually offer more versatility in style than Sheets alone, it has taken a big chunk of the season to get the pair in the fold and on the field.

The retirement of Geroy Simon didn’t help the receiving situation either, nor did the free agent loss of Craig Butler, and expansion draft loss of Keith Shologan.

It’s a lot of parts to replace and expect not to have the motor miss a few times in the process.

That said the defence is proving stingy, led by a fierce pass rush from John Chick.

Quarterback Darian Durant knows how to win, and had his best games in the playoffs last year.

And the running game is molding into form, which will aid the receiving corps, which may well see Dressler back from the NFL camps soon.

The west is tough this season. Calgary is very solid and Bo Levi Mitchell is for real at QB.

Mike Reilly is maybe the best pivot in the CFL as of today, and that means Edmonton is back as serious contenders.

British Columbia has a strong defence and a healthy Travis Lulay returning at QB stands to make them better.

Winnipeg is much improved with former ‘Rider Drew Willy surprising as the quarterback.

So it will be a dogfight to make the playoffs, although four teams from the west are likely to make it. Saskatchewan will be among them.

Once in the playoffs Durant gets tough, and if Dressler is back, then a Grey Cup repeat is a solid expectation, even after a so-so start to the season.

- Calvin Daniels

No big win

The question ‘Will the Riders repeat as Grey Cup champions this year?’ has been thrown around a lot recently, especially since the team has strung together a few wins in a row.

However I still truly believe that they’ll fail in their quest for another Grey Cup.

And why do I think that, you ask? Well, the answer is simple: Their offence is complete and utter garbage right now. They have zero passing game and if it wasn’t for their running backs they’d have a record that would rival that of the East division leading Argonauts at 3-5 (maybe)

As of right now  it’s their running game and their defence that is keeping them above water. But just barely.

Eventually the opposing defences will figure out how to stop the running game. And when that happens Darian Durant STILL won’t be able to connect with a pass (no Dressler no pass threat).

I know the old saying that defence wins championships and, believe it or not, I actually truly believe that.

However you need a somewhat half capable offence to get a few points on the board so that the defence has a little bit of a cushion to work with.

Wil the Riders make the playoffs? Most likely.

But will the Riders repeat as Grey Cup champions? Not. A. Chance.

- Randy Brenzen



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