Apparently they could still get better.
After the Saskatchewan Roughriders' 43-16 victory in Hamilton in Week 1, head coach Corey Chamblin said he was looking for improvement from his defence in their Week 2 game at home to Edmonton Sunday afternoon.
After all, they gave up a touchdown against the Tiger-Cats!
Chamblin made three defensive changes for the Edmonton game, including replacing his starting cornerbacks, and boy did they ever improve. The Riders almost pitched a shutout against Kavis Reed's Eskimos on a steamy prairie day, squeaking out a 17-1 victory before the largest crowd to ever witness a Rider home-opener at 31,459.
This time they did not allow a touchdown.
"I told the guys it was gonna be a 42-man effort and it was," Chamblin explained after the match. "It was a defensive battle. I said they were gonna do ball control and they did. On offence, Kory Sheets, I told him to keep grinding, and he did."
But the position which created the most excitement was the Rider defensive end spots as Brent Hawkins and Odell Willis had a field day. They each had a sack while Brent Hawkins recovered a fumble and Odell Willis knocked down a pass.
"I told Hawkins after the fumble recovery that I'd have been happier if he'd scored," Chamblin laughed. "He said 'Coach you always want more!'. But I'm real happy with the production on defence."
It's becoming evident to anyone who watches this team on a daily basis that Chamblin is a relentless taskmaster. He sat down a player this week because he didn't care for his effort level in practice! Under normal circumstances you'd think players would be getting fed up with the level of commitment that Chamblin demands but just the opposite is happening.
The results speak for themselves. After two weeks the Riders are 2-0 and tied for first in the CFL West with the B.C. Lions. For anyone who watched the game, it's pretty clear how excited these Rider players are becoming with the new attitude. The frowns of 2011 on the sidelines have been replaced by grins and high-fives in 2012.
Now the Riders face their toughest challenge to date; a match-up with the CFL's best team, the BC Lions.
"BC got after us pretty good in the pre-season (a 44-10 Rider loss) but they're a good football team," Chamblin maintained. "They're the Cup champs. They're going to bring a good game and we'll have our hands full."
So far it doesn't look like anything the Riders can't handle and Chamblin has certainly done his part to rile his group up.
On Day 1 of the practice week on Monday, Chamblin distributed an oversized game ticket to every player and coach on staff. For the rest of the week Chamblin referred to this game as "the big ticket - like the Yankees and Red Sox, the Heat and the Celtics and Green Bay versus New Orleans".
On Day 2, Chamblin called the Lions a "mouthy bunch" and said they have been since he got into the league in 2007.
The Lions just shrugged it off and the ones I talked to said "Corey's right".
For the first time in Chamblin's young coaching career, he's talking the talk. It will be interesting to see if his team can walk the walk.
Rod Pedersen is the Voice of the Saskatchean Roughriders on 620 CKRM. You can check out his award-winning blog at www.rodpedersen.com. Follow Rod on Twitter @sportscage.
|2||Blue Bombers||DE||Mulumba, Andy|
|3||Alouettes via EDM||LB||Edem, Mike|