Luc’s Week One Key Indicators

By the time the Riders and Elk kick off on this afternoon, there’s a chance that teams in the CFL’s WEST Division will still be winless on opening week. Despite both Winnipeg and Calgary both being at home, the Bombers and Stampeders not only have tough matchups- but both teams go into their games with more and more people questioning their trajectory every day.  

Now although it’s funny to picture Kyle Walters browsing Long Term Care sites for his aging Winnipeg squad, or exciting to think that the Whaampeders are no longer a juggernaut, we need to mind our own business in Ridernation because there’s nothing humorous about what’s waiting on the Roughriders, in Edmonton

For my money, the Riders and Elk are two of the most intriguing teams in the CFL. 

Admittedly there was nowhere to go but up, in Saskatchewan, but there’s no way anyone could’ve predicted the amount of excitement and anticipation new Head Coach, Corey Mace, would be able to generate. This team was in desperate need of some sort of foundation and they have it in Mace, who’s gotten everyone in the locker room bought in.

There’s also a ton of excitement in Edmonton. But it’s very different. Fans, Media, and the CFL (for ownership purposes) are expecting Edmonton to make noise this year. I for one think they’ll be really good- however I’ve got nothing invested. The Green and Gold fan base is on the verge of anarchy if Chris Jones doesn’t turn the corner in 2024. It doesn’t help that the Oilers have reminded everyone in the city what it feels like to have a franchise that one can be proud of. 

Let’s jump into our Primer. As this is the first game, I’m going to simply list THREE KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS (KPIs) that I think will not only go a long way in winning THIS game, but they’ll also bode well as “box checkers” when it comes to having success in the marathon that is the CFL season. 

KPI 1: Marc Muellers ability to navigate the critical CFL game situations.

•So far so good when it comes to rolling out the offensive scheme during camp. By all accounts the players are comfortable with it, and I’ve enjoyed watching Coach Mueller engage his guys. He reminds me a lot of a young Gary Etcheverry, in that one can see how hard he’s willing to work to give his guys a chance at success. 

The question is how Mueller will respond schematically in the unique situations of the CFL game. For example…If the Riders get down early, does he abandon the run game despite having an RB that needs his early touches to be the finisher the league knows him as, in the latter stages of a game. 

OR

How does Mueller call a game in the final three minutes of a close 4th quarter; coincidentally one of the phases of the game the Riders have lost countless opportunities. 

It’s the in-game scenarios I’m really excited to see Mueller in. He’s got a ton of talented playmakers at his disposal. In a league where Coaching Matters…all eyes on the rollout. 

KPI 2: Can the Riders Defence get QB Pressure with FOUR rushers?

Over the last couple of years I’ve watched Corey Mace roll out one of the most effective defensive schemes in the CFL. It’s aggressive, guys are coming from everywhere (no Diddy), and it causes turnovers. What’s more is that he seems to be one of those coaches that really identifies where his strengths on the roster are, and accommodates that ability. Again…#CoachingMatters

One of the challenges that we saw during the exhibition games in late May was that the Riders were really only able to pressure the QB using basic stunts and blitzes. Now, it’s the exhibition season so take it with a grain of salt, but we rarely saw the defensive line hunting the QB going straight up Oline vs Dline. 

That’s going to be a huge Key Performance Indicator early on. If you want an effective blitz and stunt package, you have to be balanced. That’s how Mace will be able to

mix up the looks the QB sees. This team will be a monster to deal with if they can be multiple in their approach. Let’s see how that front four debuts on Saturday. I’m optimistic. The biggest reason why is that Anthony Lanier is back inside and him and Micah are going to give the Defensive Ends plenty of 1v1 looks against Tackles. Let’s HUNT.

KPI 3: Can the Riders STAY OUT OF THEIR OWN WAY?

At the top of this piece (that is bordering on thesis length now) I mentioned how important that it is to see Coach Mace installing a foundation. Well, one of the pieces of that foundation Coach Mace has installed is an emphasis on discipline. He hasn’t allowed any discretion, small or big, go unaddressed. 

To the point where the team ended up running gassers after an undisciplined moment from a Dlineman in camp. 

Getting out of their own way doesn’t start and stop with stupid penalties either. It goes beyond that. Discipline issues, untimely turnovers, and poor clock management all played roles in the Riders basically giving away games. 

If Saskatchewan can move the needle in this category alone, the turnaround will rival the Cody Fajardo heel to face turn in Montreal last year. It’s that big. 

STAY OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY.

So let’s take those KPI’s into account as we get situated for the marathon that is the CFL season. 

I for one think the Saskatchewan Roughriders have a real shot at a home playoff game this year. That not a green-goggles statement either. The West is going to be a dogfight, but the teams featured in Saturday’s tilt have just as much of an opportunity as the BCs and the Montreals of the world. Especially if teams start losing critical pieces due to injury.

I’ll end this the same way all year. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is getting a WIN. 

So let’s pour one up for the boys and tip our cups to going 1-0 this week. #GetTheDub

Luc Mullinder  @lucmull95

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