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Hello, players who wear a hoodie underneath your football jersey during games. No. Nope, nope, nope. That’s the football equivalent to wearing socks and sandals. Might as well just put some cleats on a pair of Crocs while you’re at it.
Here are this week’s takeaways.
1. DAVE DICKENSON ISN’T HAVING IT
Beating the BC Lions and securing home field for the Western Semi-Final is nice, but not nice enough to have Calgary head coach Dave Dickenson in a celebratory mood.
His post-game comments came dripping with frustration – some of it due to the struggle the Stamps endured in securing the win, and some of it over an injury situation that saw his team shorthanded when it came to key starters – and he sounded like a dad who’s had it up to here with his kid’s continual sloppy lawn-mowing sensibilities.
“I didn’t think our receiving corps played a really good game at all,” said Dickenson. “When you’re leaning on a rookie to come up and make all the plays for ya….”
Of his team’s defensive backs, many of them understudies, he professed to be underwhelmed.
“If they do get to play,” he said of the semi, “hopefully they play better and cover and do a good job against Winnipeg.”
What about the offensive line?
“Our O-line didn’t play a great game,” he said.
Whatever this week has in store when it comes to Dickenson-led practices, and you have to conclude it will be a week of task-mastering, you can expect whatever Calgary earns against the Blue Bombers to be of the tooth-and-nail variety.
“We can’t blow anybody out,” said Dickenson. “We’re not good enough.”
Coach is laying down the groundwork for some higher intensity from his players.
2. CRAIG DICKENSON IS HAVING IT
In Regina, the other head coaching Dickenson was also not thrilled with his charges, but he was in a bubbly mood, nevertheless. A secured spot in the Western Final on home turf no doubt blunted the sting of a dowdy, last-ditch win against Edmonton, complete with a field goal kicker who had a miserable day.
“I didn’t think we played very well,” said Craig Dickenson, the brother with fewer problems on his plate and two weeks with which to figure out those problems.
“I think the guys knew the gravity of the game and knew how much it meant. But we found a way at the end. That’s all we want is good effort,” he said, easily locating a glass-half-full perspective.
Asked how he thought his team might be, mentally, when the Western Final kicks off, Dickenson replied: “They’ll probably be tight again.”
That’s a problem that can be overcome, of course, but it would be extremely helpful to the Riders if Cody Fajardo’s back wasn’t also tight when kick-off arrives.
BONUS TAKEAWAY: If I were programming a radio station in Saskatchewan right now, I’d have my announcers do “traffic every ten minutes on the ones, and Cody Fajardo back updates every ten minutes on the twos.” Actually, flip those two. Traffic could wait.
3. THESE GUYS ARE READY FOR PLAYOFF FOOTBALL
There were some very good performances in the great northern league over the final weekend of the regular season, and a few guys stood out as being playoff primed and ready.
No one sent a stronger signal than Saskatchewan’s A.C. Leonard, who was all over the field against the Eskimos. Six tackles, three of them for losses. Two sacks. A forced fumble and a recovery. A.C. should really be named D.C. because his current is flowing one way and one way only; directly to the ball.
Montreal’s Vernon Adams was tight and tidy in a shortened work night against Ottawa, going 13-for-16 for 126 yards and two touchdowns, with a 144.3 quarterback efficiency rating.
Hamilton receiver Luke Tasker, in his second game back since returning from a long injury layoff, pulled in seven catches against Toronto for 90 yards. With three second-down conversion catches, Tasker looked like his usual, defence-gutting self.
In the Ticats’ backfield, Cam Marshall was a thunderous force, with 109 yards rushing on 18 carries. Imagine that, folks. The Ticats’ offence with even more weaponry to break out. Could they have both Marshall and Tyrell Sutton pounding the rock on Eastern Final Sunday? It might not be a bad idea in a stadium that is known to be pissy to the passing game when the gales of November come slashin’.
Dave Dickenson might be concerned with the status of his team, overall, heading into the playoffs, but he has at least two players he needn’t worry about. Rookie receiver Hergy Mayala assumed the role of go-to guy in the Stamps’ win over the Lions and Dexter McCoil is already ramped up and ready to go after just two weeks in town.
On Saturday night, McCoil snuffed the Lions’ comeback bid with an interception, provided a pass knockdown on a blitz, and chipped in with a special teams tackle on his way to being given a game ball by his teammates. All the stuff he used to do in Edmonton before he left for life in the NFL three years ago.
4. TIME TO PAY THE PIPER IN OTTAWA
This has been a most dismal season in the nation’s capital, with the REDBLACKS losing eleven straight to finish the season with a league-worst record of 3-15.
There’s a lot of work to be done in order to get the REDBLACKS back to formidable opponent status, including rectifying a sub-par starting quarterback situation. That, as they say, would be job number one.
Hang on, now. That would actually be job number two, with Monday’s news that the team needs a new head coach, with Rick Campbell deciding to opt-out.
According to TSN’s Dave Naylor, general manager Marcel Desjardins will be retained and he will be the one to try to sort through the wreckage that he had a controlling hand in creating.
While there will be no shortage of criticisms of Desjardins’ handling of the REDBLACKS since last year’s Grey Cup appearance, and that a number of those criticisms would be merited, it should be noted that he is also the man who built the team from scratch back when he was appointed general manager in 2013, designing a club that appeared in three title games, winning one.
This stands to be a tumultuous, uncomfortable off-season in Ottawa, one that will demand that Desjardins make big moves that strengthen the team in a splashy, obvious fashion. Subtlety is not a luxury he’ll be able to afford this winter.
The news that five players had already signed two-year contract extensions in order to stay with the team came as a kind of optimistic balm on the wounds of the team’s faithful fans.
That guys like Brad Sinopoli, Alex Mateas, Nigel Romick, Brendan Gillanders and Jean-Philippe Bolduc would all opt to lengthen their stays in the wake of such a hugely disappointing campaign says a lot about their commitment to bringing back the sunny days of competing for Grey Cups.
No one would have blamed any of them for wanting out. Sinopoli’s commitment, in particular, should send a signal to free agents that what happened in 2019 will not be allowed to stand. There’s that to build on, at least.
That is, provided he didn’t sign with the expectation that his head coach was returning…
5. THESE TAKEAWAYS AREN’T AN EXACT SCIENCE, YOU KNOW
That last takeaway was the 104th I’ve written through the 2019 regular season. When you factor in five more takes from pre-season, and dozens of other “bonus takeaways,” all throughout the year, you’ve got more than 150, all totalled.
Some were brilliant if I do say so myself, but there maaaaay have been some misfires here and there.
Time to own up to a shank or two.
Week 2: With the REDBLACKS at 2 and oh, I wondered “are the REDBLACKS a force in the East?” At least I had the good sense to pose it in the form of a question so I could look back and say “hey, I was just askin’.”
Week 7: When Jeremiah Masoli went down with a season-ending injury, I headlined a take this way: The East No Longer Fait Accompli. And I quote: “With the Montreal Alouettes looking like a competent bunch on the rise, it would appear that being titleholders in the East in 2019 won’t be a walk in the park for the Ticats.” Whatever, Don. Whatever.
Looks like I haven’t made a single mistake since then, however, so there’s no need to go over any of the other columns searching for stains on my reputation. You’d just be wasting your time, really. Seriously, though, don’t do it. You have better things to do and your time is much too valuable.
BONUS TAKEAWAY: One more mistake. After Week 11, I wrote that “Willie Jefferson’s first step on a pass rush has been known to halt the earth’s rotation completely.” Apparently that is untrue. But it feels true, doesn’t it?
AND FINALLY… I spotted Montreal Defensive Coordinator Bob Slowik doing a little dance after one of his guys came up with a sack. Wouldn’t be surprised if Khari Jones issued a “more dancing, Bob,” edict prior to the game.