June 24th, 2024

Inside the CFL: Playing Carter at corner a bad idea

By None on June 26, 2018.

What is Roughrider coach Chris Jones thinking?

Twice now — Oct. 20, 2017 in Calgary, and last Thursday in Ottawa — Jones started all-Canadian receiver Duron Carter on defence. And my, oh, my didn’t the 6-foot-5, 205 pound boy-child and his legion of fans have fun? Two starts, two interceptions for touchdowns. I almost feel bad raining on this parade.

But let’s mention a few other details. After taunting formidable 5-foot-8 Redblacks receiver Diontae Spencer for over a half, the little guy beat him on a long pass and run to the end-zone. In the fourth quarter with his team trailing by 19 points, Carter took two pass interference penalties, keeping a drive alive that led to a touchdown.

Don’t get me wrong: Saskatchewan didn’t lose the game 40-17 because of Duron Carter. He had plenty of help, including a porous offensive line that couldn’t protect either Riders quarterback or open holes for their running backs. Zach Collaros was driven from the game late in the second quarter with a suspected concussion. Redblacks quarterback Trevor Harris looked like the second coming of Russ Jackson against the Green and White defence. Bottom line: with Carter on the corner, the defence gave up 40 points.

What was Jones thinking? Perhaps Collaros might have foregone some punishment if he had been able to find an open receiver? Perhaps the presence of one of the best deep men in the league would have expedited a fourth quarter comeback. But no. Stubborn as a Missouri mule, he left Carter in the game which they lost.

He should never have put him on defence in the first place. Rookie corner Nick Marshall got hurt against Toronto and so Jones opted to use Carter. Every other team would use a regular defensive back to replace an injured one. Jones instead played one of the very finest receivers in the CFL. What if he had got hurt playing corner? Great corners aren’t easy to find but Carter is not a great corner. He is a great receiver.

The media, egged on by the loquacious Carter, loves this circus and it sells tickets. However, I don’t recall any time in the past when Jones sought to please the media or the fans, for that matter. So it was a football decision and, in my opinion, a bad one.

His overall strategy wasn’t great either. In the season opener against Toronto, Rider defensive ends Charleston Hughes and Willie Jefferson terrorized Ricky Ray. How do you slow down a rampaging pass rush? By running the ball. That’s what Ottawa did to Saskatchewan last Thursday. Although Collaros and Brandon Bridge were under pressure from the beginning, Jones called Jerome “the tank” Messam’s number three times in the first half. His game total came to seven carries for 28 yards. His running mate Tre Mason picked up 53 yards on seven carries. When you are way behind you have to throw. But during the time the heat was on Collaros, Messam only got the ball twice. Jones is a good coach who occasionally mystifies me.

The Roughriders have a chance to make up for their football failures Saturday when they host the moribund Montreal Alouettes with a former Rider behind centre, Drew Willy. Winnipeg ate him alive while their rookie quarterback Chris Streveler plucked the Lark defence to the tune of 56 points.

After Sunday’s tilt, the Riders play Hamilton twice and have a bye week. Saskatchewan and Calgary don’t face a Western opponent until they play each other July 28 at Mosaic Stadium. Given Eastern teams lost six of the first eight games against the West, the schedule seems to give the Stampeders and Roughriders a huge advantage.

Quarterbacks were front and centre in Calgary’s 41-7 thumping of the Argos in Toronto last Saturday. Bo Levi Mitchell showed that he has no equal when he’s on his game, passing brilliantly against a pretty good defence. The game was out of reach when great veteran Ricky Ray was sandwiched by two defenders and had to be taken to the hospital, immobilized on a stretcher. As of yesterday, he had feeling in all his extremities and had cleared concussion protocol. I hope he retires soon and becomes the offensive coordinator in Edmonton.

Graham Kelly has covered the CFL for the Medicine Hat News for 46 years. Feedback for this column can be emailed to sports@medicinehatnews.com.

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