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Thursday, May 25, 2017

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10 BURNING QUESTIONS

With the countdown on to the start of Saskatchewan Roughriders 2017 Training Camp presented by Coors Light which begins Sunday in Saskatoon, here are some questions going into camp:

1 - IS THIS CAMP ALL ABOUT VINCE YOUNG?: Absolutely not. However that question was posed on Global Regina's sports roundtable on Wednesday. For anyone outside of the 306 - particularly Young's vast amount of fans in America - the #1 focus is Young. However for the 70-some other players in camp, the attention on Young is a disservice.

Early on, everyone's eyes will be on #8 however just like the Florida minicamp, that interest will likely tail off and other names will emerge as camp wears on.

2 - WHAT'S THE BIGGEST CAMP BATTLE?: Chris Jones surmised last week that it's the receiver group, and he may be right, but my focus will be on the offensive line. Right now the 1's will likely be made up of DENNIS-LABATTE-CLARK-ST.JOHN-COLEMAN and that's unlikely to change right through the preseason. However the Riders drafted four linemen in this year's CFL Draft which tells you they'd like to beef up the competition. They added former Alouette Ryan White in free agency and have brought along Dillon Guy as he rehabbed from injury all of  last season.

Labatte's neck injury, which ended his season last year, has seemingly come around to the point that he's entrenched as a starter, and rightfully so. However there are several questions around this position and the team's fortunes continue to be tied to it.

If Labatte goes down and/or Josaih St. John isn't ready to take the next step, this could quickly become a problem area.

3 - WHO STARTS AT QB IN WEEK 1?: It's a great question and a reasonable one at that. However it's farrrrrrr too early to make any assumptions. Kevin Glenn's veteran status and efficient performance in the Florida minicamp proved that he's the #1 quarterback going into camp. But will he stay there? That will depend on the play of the pivots behind him in Saskatoon and in the preseason. The Riders will go to camp with Glenn, Young, Brandon Bridge, Bryan Bennett and Maty Mauk and it'll be a delicious battle.

A juicer question may be, "Can the Riders win a Grey Cup with Kevin Glenn at QB?" K.G. may be the oldest player in the league, but it's only by a few months over Toronto's Ricky Ray. However Ricky boasts three Grey Cup rings while Glenn is still searching for his first CFL title.

Will it come with the Green & White? There's no reason why not. Chris Jones knows defense wins championship and that will be the Riders' bread & butter this year. If Glenn successfully fills the role of "game manager", this team could achieve great things.

4 - IS ROB BAGG UNTOUCHABLE?: Probably, yeah. The 32-year old just continues to bring too much to the table. He's only missed two games the past four seasons which is a testament to his durability and, physically, he said he's never felt better than he did last year. He's got PLENTY left in the tank and he also provides off-the-charts leadership. If you're looking to buy a jersey, it's a good bet to go with #6 BAGG.

5 - WHO WILL BE THE RUNNING BACK?: With apologies to the quarterbacks, receivers and offensive line, this may actually be the most intriguing competition in Saskatoon. With the tragic loss of Joe McNight in December, the starting tailback job became a wide open race because it was going to be McKnight's job to lose. Canadians Kienan LaFrance and Greg Morris provide a tantalizing ratio-busting option however if they're out-performed by Americans Daniel Thomas and Cameron Marshall, the Riders may be forced to start a Canadian elsewhere.

We'll have to wait to see how they fare in the exhibition games before we rush to judgment.

6 - WHO WILL BE THE SEVEN STARTING CANADIANS?: Don't look now, but the Riders have built a quality stable of starting calibre non-imports. With three on the offensive line, potentially two receivers and Canadians starting at DT (Eddie Steele), MLB (Henoc Muamba) and S (Marc-Olivier Brouillette), they're at eight right there. There's talk of two starting Canadian linebackers as well, so Saskatchewan is in far better shape with "Nationals" than they were a year ago.

7 - WHO'S IN THE FRONT SEVEN?: The talk in the CFL is that not only may the Riders have the best group of receivers, but they may have the best front seven as well. DT Eddie Steele's resume is unquestioned and his interior partner Zach Minter may end up being the team's most-prized free agent signing. With the likes of Willie Jefferson, Jonathan Newsome and A.C. Leonard coming off the edge, the defensive line is stout. In the linebacking corps, the team needs to replace Jeff Knox Jr. and Otha Foster but Glenn Love and Sam Eguavoen are ready to step right in.

When you throw in Canadians like Muamba, Dillon Grondin, Alexander Gagne, Cameron Judge and Kevin Francis, you start to see the options which are available.

8 - THE DEFENSIVE BACKFIELD: The Riders have never stated that this is an area of concern, but it's one which bares close scrutiny. The loss of Justin Cox was a big one but if rookie Zavian Bingham picks up where he left off in Florida, the club may not miss a beat. Ed Gainey returns to halfback, Brouillette should have the safety spot locked down and Kacy Rodgers returns to patrol the corner. After that, there's a wealth of names to look at including Mike Edem, Tevaughn Campbell, Royce Adams, Mark Roberts, Eric Allen, Regis Ball, Eric Dargan, Alfonzo Dennard, Jeff Hecht and Tyler Hunter. None of these bodies are filler. They're on the roster because any one of them has the ability to start.

9 - HOW ARE WE ON SPECIAL TEAMS?: Special Teams Coordinator Craig Dickenson should be sleeping well. The kicking and punting game are handled by veterans Tyler Crapigna and Josh Bartel while Jorgen Hus returns to do the long-snapping. Chad Owens isn't mentioned with the receiver group because he was signed to be the primary returner however Nic Demski has shone in that role as well. There was also talk of Michigan Wolverines star Dennis Norfleet coming to Saskatchewan but that buzz seems to have fizzled. Perhaps his name will resurface at some point. However as far as overall talent goes, Dickenson should have his pick of more-than-capable athletes to fill out his Special Teams Units.

10 - WHAT'S THE OUTLOOK?: The Roughriders go into the 2017 season flying under the radar, which suits them just fine. While a blindman can see the Riders have vastly improved their talent level, the prognosticators figure it'll be tough for the Riders to fit into a playoff spot in the ultra-tough West Division. And with big improvements expected in the East Division, a crossover playoff berth seems unlikely.

I've gone on record as predicting a 10-win season and stand by that. CFL-types from across the league have scoffed, "Who are they going to beat?" but my reply is, "That's why they play the games". The Riders are going into the season with a quiet confidence about them and Jones' staff feels this will be a breakthrough year.

My expectation is a third-place finish which carries with it a playoff spot in the West.

After what this team's been through the past three seasons, I think we'd all be satisfied with that. Please vote in the Titan Auto Poll at the top left of the page regarding where you think the Riders will finish this year.

THOSE ARE MY THOUGHTS. WHAT ARE YOURS?
RP
@rodpedersen
IG: rodpedersenofficial
SC: Pedersenmedia

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just like last year it all looks good on paper with the green koolade - but then they have to play the game and reality sinks in,,,,,,, last place in 2017 for the riders is a done deal.

Anonymous said...

2017 Roughriders camp absolutely not about Vince Young! If the media makes it out to be, that's a dis-service to the rest of the team moving forward. If Mr Young can't grasp the CFL game, cut him asap! Don't need the distraction.

Sincerely,
Rod's uncle, Mr. Grumpy.

Anonymous said...

Only in Saskatchewan is a third place finish considered acceptable

Anonymous said...

Darn good column! So excited that Rider season will soon be upon us at last and look forward your training camp coverage. July 1 is going to be FANTASTIC!

Anonymous said...

Best recieving core?lol best front 7? Lol a wealth of quality names in def backfield ? Ive never heard of majority of them lol no quality starting QB I give them 6-7 wins and last place AGAIN.

dom said...

Well Rod. I see you woke up all the negative nelly morons. Now all you so called sport minded people are professional gms and scouts of talent. Give me a entertaining team; win or lose and I will keep renewing my 4 season tickets. I will stick with this team through thick and thin like most LOYAL sports fans do. Have a good day Rod and don't let these morons belittle your great colomns.

Anonymous said...

Well, if anonymous hasn't heard of them, they must be terrible. We're all doomed.

Anonymous said...

Rod I agree with all your comments except for the one about 2 starting national receivers.That will never happen as the talent level of import receivers is possibly the best in the league.

John Moore said...

Going to be one interesting camp. QB remains big concern for me. Lines look to be improved. 3rd place will be a fight 9 wins may not be enough to get into the play-offs. Should be very entertaining season and top coaching calls will be needed to get us there; there will not be much room for mistakes or lack of discipline in the penalty taking area.

CFL Fan said...

This team will be highly competitive this year. The Riders will surprise a lot of doubters.

AUZZSTRIKER said...

Sask fans are so positive come training camp...awww i think it's cute lol

Anonymous said...

Riders finish 2nd in the west behind Calgary...go rush go...go rush go..

Anonymous said...

My attitude has to be wait and see as we had so many big name free agents last year that were completely ineffective.

DJR

Anonymous said...

Way too many question marks on this team. Don't see Vince Young sticking around past Labour Day and Kevin Glenn's days as a starter are over. Can have all the receivers you want but if you got nobody to throw them the ball and no line to block, it doesn't matter.

Best case for Rider Nation is a edging out the Eskies for a crossover this year.

Anonymous said...

No wonder people scoff. First, a correction - Ray has 3 Grey Cup rings, Rod. OK, where are our 3 "quality" Nationals at receiver - there's Bagg, Demski who struggled last year, Stanford who hardly played & Baines, an unknown. Best DL in the CFL-c'mon. Even most Rider fans don't see this. Steele was a backup last year, Minter is on his 3rd club in 3 years-another career backup. Newsome @ DE had 2 sacks. We have Jefferson & that's it. Are you gonna compare our DL to Calgary - Hughes, tops in sacks, Law 18 sacks, 23 games, Michah Johnson & Hall. Not even close. Eskimos have Sewell, 11 sacks @ DT, Cummings, Howard, Willis, Hunt & Whiteside. Hamilton may have a better front 7 than either of those clubs. Riders lost BOTH their nominee for Defensive Player in Foster & top tacklers Knox & Jones. There's zero comparison Rod. As for QB behind Glenn there's 1 QB with CFL starts - Bridge with ONE career start. We have a lot of guys who can't make other clubs & are trying to establish themselves - prospects. As Durant pointed out, all the change last year killed them. Cue the rewind. Sorry, Rod, love your enthusiasm & good for sticking your neck out but that's a homer talking - 4th place tops & there WILL be a crossover. You're always a good read.

Anonymous said...

I hope I'm wrong but I think it all boils down to the QB position.

I'm not convinced the Riders have a QB that can compete with those other guys on a consistent basis.

SWC

Anonymous said...

All the players look really good before they have even played one game so who knows but one thing that I know for sure is if after 6 games jones has a losing record he and his entourage should be fired and maybe the season can be saved.

Anonymous said...

It's all about the QB position. My NFL team hasn't had one for years and they suck. Not sure about any of the camp invitees.

Anonymous said...

Given Chris Jones' acumen. I feel the biggest disappointment last year was our defense. We were 8th or 9th in all defensive categories. I will thus temper my enthusiasm for the Jones defense until I see something on the field that tells me otherwise. Jefferson, Newsome, and Leonard have to show they be consistent. They all showed promise last year, and I like that they're all still with the Riders.

CB said...

Its absolutely laughable that you would claim the Front seven is the best in the CFL. They are, in fact, the WORST front 7 in the league. Only Henoc M. and Willie Jefferson could start for other teams. The rest are all back-up material and have been released by numerous clubs

Anonymous said...

Pay attention Pedersen, CB has spoken.

Anonymous said...

Labatte standing up to the rigors of the game plus game speed... he hasn't played in awhile. He's another team question mark moving forward. Here's hoping he can contribute to the team in a big way 2017. Go Roughriders!

Rod's uncle, Uncle Grumpy

Anonymous said...

Thanks Rod, great to have the info before training camp. Excited to get camp done and the season started. We don't get to a lot of games but most definitely will be listening to CKRM game day coverage. Until then, thanks for keeping Rider fans informed on players to watch. It doesn't take long for the really good ones to make an impact.

Anonymous said...

The Riders are definitely the least scary team out of everyone in the league. All other teams can circle SSK on the schedule and expect a win. I don't think the Riders can do that with any opposing teams.

I'm hoping that Jones, Glenn et al can keep the games close and squeeze out the tight ones instead of shooting themselves in the foot. They're inexperienced and have gone through a ton of change. Sounds too much like last year.

That said...I see 7 wins max and out of the playoffs unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

Rod...how come no comment on the Carm Cateri situation? Have you been asked to keep quiet on the topic by the Riders?

Not that it matters but since you work 18 games with a guy you would think you would have something to add to the change?

John Knight said...

Be happy everyone, we are still undefeated and still tied for first place

Rod Pedersen said...

I've spoken with Carm about it twice at length. Other than that, I have nothing to say publicly about it at this time.

Gene kessler said...

Carm was number one in my book. Sorry to see him go and understand why you can't comment.
Hoping that Bridges gets a fair share at QB. It always makes me smile when commentators say it takes American born qbs to learn the Canadian game. Here is a huge that has played his whole career in the Canadian system. He also finished the season marching the team down the field for a touchdown which were few and far between last season.
Go Brandon.

Anonymous said...

The Carm thing is the reason Rod makes outrageous analysis and predictions. If he doesn't peddle green cool-aid he'll join Carm.

Anonymous said...

Good on you Rod. Nobodys business.

Anonymous said...

8-10 is a dream , 6 - 12 is reality. You don't win in football without a quarterback .

Anonymous said...

You pick Riders for third but you haven't predicted who they're going to beat out in the West. What are your predictions for the West standings, Rod? It's not enough to say the Riders finish third without telling us who finishes ahead and behind. Or do you not have an idea on this except to say the Riders will finish third? I believe you said Edmonton will finish fifth so who else are they going to beat? Give us the complete list 1 to 5.

3RD and 1 said...

Go ahead CB. Tells us with your infinite wisdom the names of each player on the front 7 of the other 8 teams and why they are better. Do you honestly think every other team is going to have the exact same front 7 as last year? All you have done is make a blanket statement if your own opinion with zero to back it up.
Opinions are like Azz holes. Everybody has one.

Anonymous said...

I haven't heard anyone outside of Rod say the Riders may have the best front 7 in the CFL - maybe sidekick Luc, you know what I mean? Now there's a blanket statement. Where are the stats for these guys to support this? Outside of Muamba &Jefferson none of them have done much of anything to date.. Just an opinion with no real data to back it up. Here's a fact - 2 Jones' castoffs, Lemon & Chick, had 1 less sack than the ENTIRE Rider team last year, front 7 & all. Another fact - ONE All- Star career selection among everyone on our front 7. Sewell himself has been a 5 time all-star., prior to turning 30. Get real guys.

The Professor said...

Someday, years hence, when Rod pens his memoir titled, "My Rider Daze", there is sure to be a chapter about the 2017 stop to the Rod/Carm partnership in the booth, perhaps the chapter will be titled, "It Ends At Start".

CM said...

we want the VY updates. It is all about VY. No matter how much you spin it, hard to get excited about Kevin Glenn (DD's backup!) leading a team. He is the definition of "moderate success".

Anonymous said...

Rod, love the optimism - keep it up.

The comments from the Debbie Downers on here just make me laugh. Are they other teams fans, are they Trolls or are they only happy when everyone else is unhappy - like Oscar from Corner Gas.

Always entertaining.

Newt from YQR

Anonymous said...

This is only year 2 of the rebuild, I can't believe how you fans expect the riders to be in 1st place automatically. Jones has done a good job in bringing players in to compete. This years team if glen stays healthy will be 9-9. I see young getting some playing time each game and progressing as the season goes along. Defence will be improved and should create pressure this year.

Anonymous said...

Hey, dude, Kevin Glenn is a good quarterback, although I will admit he's had some bad luck in his career....Look at how the Riders were doing last time he was here before he got traded to Mtl. Who knows what would have happened if he were here for the whole yr?????

Anonymous said...

Vast amount of fans? Where are you seeing this? Literally zero mentions of Vince Young anywhere but this blog. Why do you keep pushing this as something?

Anonymous said...

This is the CFL, there are only 9 teams. U dont need 3-5 years to rebuild.

Jones chose to blow it up and start from scratch and use Year1 as an full season training camp - fine.

Now hes decided to start over at the QB position in year 2. Okay Fine - BUT he should be expected to field a playoff qualifying team, THIS YEAR.

You can guarantee if Durant was here that would be the expectation. Jones cut him going into year 2- so he is saying he can do as good or better with someone else.

Jones chose his path, its on him to deliver.

Anonymous said...

Demski excelled as a returner??