Riders at Eskimos – Week 8 Preview
Published: Thursday, Aug 2nd 2018, 7:08pm
By: Stephen Safinuk (@Safimod)
In the 2nd game of tonight’s Thursday Night doubleheader, the Saskatchewan Roughriders travel to Edmonton to take on the Eskimos, and something tells me we are in for a great football game. The 4-2 Eskimos need a win to keep pace with the 6-0 Calgary Stampeders, while the 3-3 Riders need a win to jump in to 2nd place in the West in the midst of a difficult stretch of games.
Let’s look at a few keys to this game for the Riders
Great vs Great and Bad vs Bad
As bad as the Eskimos defense has been this year, the Riders offense has been worse. Through 6 games, the Riders have averages 1 offensive touchdown per game. Their defense and special teams are only 1 touchdown behind their offense with 5. That’s not going to win you a ton of football games in the CFL, even with a championship level defense.
On the flip side of the ball, we have Mike Reilly and the high powered Edmonton offense going up against Charleston Hughes, Willie Jefferson, and a great Roughrider defense. The CFL is more exciting when we get to see best vs best, and in this game we have the best offense going up against the best defense. For the Riders to win, they cannot allow Edmonton to move the ball through the air at will.
For the first time since week 2, the Riders will have their starting QB Zach Collaros behind center. It was clear to most that the coaching staff didn’t have much faith in Brandon Bridge, so the return of Collaros should open up at least the 2nd page of the offensive playbook. Add in that Nick Marshall’s return flips Duron Carter back to offense, and you have a much better offense than we saw in the 2nd half versus Calgary. Especially when you factor in that Naaman Roosevelt is in the lineup after an awkward fall on his head last week. I predicted on twitter that the Riders would score 3 offensive touchdowns, and I stick to that.
Speaking of the returning pivot, the Riders will need to do a solid job of keeping him on his feet this week. The last thing the Riders need after bringing Collaros back is to see him go down to injury again. With the QBs behind him, Collaros is our best option at a championship run. The offensive line has done a better job in recent weeks, and will need to continue that.
Use the Run/Stop the Run
The Eskimos don’t hide the fact that Mike Reilly and his exceptional receiving corps is the key to their offense. Having said that, you cannot allow CJ Gable to get anything consistent going in the running game, if you want to keep the Eskimos offense off the field. The Riders sit at number 1 against the run, and the Eskimos are near the bottom when it comes to rushing the ball – let’s keep it that way.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Riders need to stick to the run. Having said that, it cannot be shotgun runs up the middle each time they hand it off. We need to try and get to the outside, especially with a speedy guy like Thigpen. The Riders seem insistent on continuing with their short game/ball control offense, but that is only going to work if you give the Eskimos multiple looks. Run up the middle, followed by screen pass, will often be followed by punt.
Stretch The Field
On top of outside runs, the Riders need to consider the fact that they are legally able to throw the ball more than 10 yards in the air. Riders OC Stephen McAdoo may not be aware of this, but it is in fact true. Mix in the occasional deep ball and keep the Eskimos honest. Outside of Aaron Grymes, the remainder of the Eskimos backfield is not great, and we’ve seen their defense susceptible to penalties. Test them early, and test them often.
Contain Duke Williams
You cannot stop Duke Williams, you can only hope to contain him. The 2nd year receiver is on pace for almost 2100 yards, 6 games in to the season, with 5 consecutive 100 yard games. For the Riders to come out of Commonwealth with a 4-3 record, they will need to do their best to contain him. Keep Duke Williams out of the end zone. Not as simple as it sounds, but it has to happen.
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