Vanstone: It’s redemption time for Roughriders after Montreal mess
It was the kind of game that might compel future ticket-buyers to clamour for Mosaic Stadium’s obstructed-view seats.
Chris Jones, for one, was not seeing the entire picture.
That was painfully evident — except, perhaps, to the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ head coach — on Saturday when the Green and White inexcusably bowed 23-17 to the otherwise woeful Montreal Alouettes.
Quite understandably, there was exasperation in Rider Nation as fans and commentators excoriated Jones for his strategic and personnel decisions.
Jones, who moonlights as the Roughriders’ defensive co-ordinator, has left the offence so short-handed that he might want to recruit some penalty killers.
The offensive line, largely a liability last season, has regressed. Yes, it has.
As a result, the pass protection is porous and the run blocking is not much better.
Exacerbating the problems, the No. 1 quarterback — the already-concussed Zach Collaros — has quickly landed on the six-game injured list.
Running back Jerome Messam, who figured prominently in a season-opening, 27-19 victory over the visiting Toronto Argonauts, was rarely used in Week 2 and welded to the sideline when the offence was on the field in Week 3.
The rationale, we are told, is that Jones wants to keep the 33-year-old Messam fresh with late-season games in mind. At this rate, however, the Roughriders’ season could effectively conclude on Labour Day weekend.
Messam is on a “pitch count,” according his coach, and accordingly saw as much game duty as Sandy Koufax on Saturday.
And then, as always, there is the omnipresent Duron Carter. One of the league’s elite receivers, Carter is poised to make his third successive start at cornerback when Saskatchewan plays host to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Thursday.
An offence that is in desperate need of weapons, especially with Brandon Bridge starting in place of Collaros, has been left to languish by a head coach who is experimenting with or simply ignoring two established talents.
And to think that, at the outset of the 2018 CFL season, this team looked well-positioned to take the next step.
Off a cliff, perhaps?
There is ample time, of course, for the Roughriders to reverse their flagging fortunes. Under Jones, Saskatchewan was two games under .500 on three occasions last summer (sporting records of 0-2, 1-3 and 2-4) before ultimately going 10-8 and flirting with a Grey Cup berth.
Based on evidence gathered last season, Jones is clearly capable of arresting his team’s tailspin.
But, from a perception standpoint, the revival has to begin Thursday — against an infinitely tougher opponent than the Roughriders encountered on Saturday.
After losing to an Alouettes team that was quarterbacked by Drew Willy and Jeff Mathews, Saskatchewan must now contend with a high-powered offence that is piloted by Jeremiah Masoli.
Good luck with that.
Somehow, Jones must quickly repair a team that is built entirely to his specifications. In Year 3 with the Roughriders, it is his show now.
A meeting of the head coach, defensive co-ordinator, general manager, vice-president of football operations and cornerback whisperer is a solo session. Jones wields absolute power, and not inexpensively — or productively of late, in the sombre aftermath of back-to-back defeats.
The buck stops solely at Jones’ desk. The time has arrived for his Roughriders to turn the corner.