July 7, 2014

Nye: Riders learn valuable lesson early on

Adam Gagnon

Add the Saskatchewan Roughriders to the list of teams still trying to figure it out through two weeks of the season.

It didn’t appear that way after week one. Whether it was the energy created by the over 19-thousand who showed up in the torrential down pour, the home opener, celebrating the 2013 Grey Cup, the Riders came out and thumped the Tiger-Cats. In Saskatchewan, we thought some of the major questions were answered.

The running game will be just fine behind the offensive line, the receivers are finding themselves and the holes on defence had the same tenacity that helped win the Grey Cup.

Then Saturday came and here we are pondering all those questions over again after the 48-15 ‘spanking’ they received by the Argonauts. Darian Durant’s words, not mine.

And right now, none of them have been answered and we’ll be a lot more hesitant to say they’ve been answered the next time those thoughts come back – whenever that may be.

After the game though, another problem arose through the post-game thoughts of Head Coach Corey Chamblin. Practice. Yes, to Allen Iverson’s disappointment, we will talk a bit about practice.

Chamblin saw it all week, albeit a short one. The Riders were struggling to find the energy and the drive in their workouts that allow them to be successful on game day.

The result, however, was likely beyond what even Chamblin could have ever imagined happening. Offence, defence and special teams were all out played.

“We didn’t have the best practices in terms of the mental aspect, there were a lot of ups and downs in it.”

But with only two practices, Chamblin wasn’t using the short week as an excuse.

“This league has had short weeks ever since I came into it. That’s not an excuse, that is what tests you and sees what you are made of as a team and right now we’re not good enough to win on short weeks.”

What was missing was the fundamentals of football. Tackling was the most glaring problem. Though it’ll be hard to find the specific number, the Argonauts compiled much of their yardage after first contact.

It was the defence that had the biggest 180-degree turn from last week. They couldn’t miss a tackle, a sack, a loose ball against Hamilton. Their coverage was as good as it got. On Saturday, they got schooled by Scott Milanovich, Ricky Ray and Chad Owens.

It’s easy to chalk it up to, it just wasn’t there day or maybe their week, but veteran defensive tackle Tearrius George says you can’t just sit back and accept that you can’t be energized and motivated every day through the season.

“It’s your job day in and day out to come there and do your job, practice hard and prepare for the next opponent. This week, whatever went wrong, went wrong and we ended up here.”

Now what for the Green and White. Day one of practice should be interesting as they prepare for next Saturday’s game against the B.C. Lions.

Head Coach Corey Chamblin says everything will be on the table so early in the season for evaluation.

“Right now, I can’t say who the door will be and won’t be open for. It wasn’t just one guy, there is a lot of things we have to clean up.”

Other than tackling, running back Anthony Allen put the ball on the ground again. His third lost fumble in four games (including pre-season) so far. Allen got the message by being benched for the rest of the second quarter and with veteran Hugh Charles and newcomer and pre-season standout Keith Toston behind him on the depth chart, it opens the running back battle even more.

Without Chris Getzlaf and Chaz Schilens, receivers had a hard time getting open and left Darian Durant open to taking some big hits. While Getzlaf may be ready to return, Rider Nation will want to see one of these new receivers start to show flashes that they have what it takes to replace the two other slot receivers that departed in the offseason.

For Chamblin, this is the worst he has seen a team play since he took over the team in 2012. The 33-point loss Saturday beats the Riders previous biggest loss by two touchdowns (24-5 vs B.C. on August 19th, 2012).

An early season reality check for a team in transition still trying to find an identity.