Wouldn’t expect the Riders to have a ton of difficulty with the Edmonton Eskimos today (Mosaic Stadium, 5 p.m.)
It’s the home opener, so the crowd will be jacked. Edmonton’s finished out of the playoffs four out of the last five years, and under GM Eric Tillman, who took over from Danny Maciocia last August, and new head coach Kavis Reid, the Esks are still in rebuilding mode. Plus they lost a few players to injury in the pre-season.
The Riders had their share of upheaval in the off-season too. Some of it, like Andy Fantuz signing with the Chicago Bears and Luca Congi and Rob Bagg starting the season on the injury list, was forced on them. Other changes, like revamping the coaching staff and jettisoning veterans Omarr Morgan, Marcus “Chunky” Adams and Chris Szarka, were by choice.
Heading into the season, the uncertain situation at placekicker is the Riders’ #1 concern. And while the receiving corps shows promise, they can ill-afford another ten-drop game like they had in Vancouver against the Lions on June 22. On defense, the Riders should fare well against the run, but they may be vulnerable to the pass as they’ve yet to find a consistent formula for pressuring the quarterback. And if Ricky Ray gets time, he’s been known to cause Rider defenders fits.
As of 10 a.m. on July 2, the forecast called for a 28 degree temp and a breeze out of the south at 20 k.p.h. at game time. So a far cry from the June 17 pre-season game which was played in winds gusting to 80 k.p.h. and, in the fourth quarter, a steady rain. Heat and humidity will be a factor, though, although over the last week of practice the Riders have had a bit of a chance to acclimatize to the warmer conditions.
Thus far in the opening weekend of CFL action, the Alouettes downed B.C. in Montreal 30-26 on Thursday night. Then on Friday, Winnipeg upended the Tiger Cats 24-16 in Hamilton and the Argos upset the Stampeders 23-21 in Calgary. In the latter two games, turnovers and special team flubs played decisive roles.
I’ll be at the Rider and Eskimo game, and will file a post-game report on the blog.