Thursday, May 17, 2018
10 THINGS ON RIDER TRAINING CAMP
1 - While other CFL teams across Canada are already on the field conducting rookie camps this week, the Saskatchewan Roughriders eschewed the idea of Rookie Camp and are going directly to Saskatoon for Day 1 of training camp on Sunday. The Riders haven't had Rookie Camp for years and feel a lot of that work was accomplished last month in Florida.
2 - Things seem a tad frenetic in the days before camp. In visits with assistant coaches from other CFL teams, the moving up of the season by a few weeks has rocked these creatures-of-habit. Roughriders training camp is opening at least 11 days earlier than ever before, and the team is playing an exhibition game just eight days into camp. (Normally it's two weeks into camp). Everybody's scrambling to get ready.
3 - The Riders released their complete training camp schedule earlier this week and, as usual, the workouts will rotate between Griffiths Stadium and SMF Field depending on availability. The Riders will be on the field at 9:00 AM each day. Green & White Day is Saturday, June 2.
4 - It's a good year to have a veteran team coming into training camp with not many holes to fill. My guess is Chris Jones has a pretty good idea who's going to be lining up where on Friday, June 15 when Canada's Team opens the 2018 season at home against the Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts. At the very least, he's got a good idea who his starting 24 will be on May 27 at Edmonton.
5 - While discussing the Riders on TSN 1260 Edmonton Wednesday evening with host Dean Millard, it struck me how much the Riders have upgraded over the off-season. When CFL fans awake from their winter hibernation, they'll discover the Rider roster has been fortified with CFL stars Zach Collaros, Jerome Messam, Travis Bond, Charleston Hughes, Zack Evans and John Ojo. Forgive me for saying, but it reminds me a bit of 2013.
6 - While most CFL prognosticators have the Riders in the Top 3 in the West (which is great since that hasn't been the case for a long time), not many have the Riders at #1 in the CFL's toughest division. If possible, this team can fly under the radar. At least, in the early going.
7 - With RB Trent Richardson not coming to camp, the tailback position figures to be a 2-horse race between Jerome Messam and Cameron Marshall. Both are grand players. The QB position will draw the most attention; not so much at the 1-2 spots with Collaros/Bridge but moreso at the 3-4 spots with Watford/Williams. The offensive line is clearly a work-in-progress, but we're told not to worry.
8 - Defensively, this could be the top front in the CFL. Jefferson-Evans-Steele-Hughes. Why even have camp? We'll need to closely watch the LB position because there's some auditions to be conducted there. The DB group will feature a mixture of old and new faces but that position - under Jason Shivers - was probably the most-improved area of the club as 2017 went along.
9 - The Riders got the majority of their draft picks signed on Wednesday which has to be a relief. Still unsigned however, is 1st Round Draft Pick Dakoda Shepley who remains property of the New York Jets. I like the long-play in this one. These players almost always become available at some point (with the exception of the Saints' David Onyematta), and if the Riders didn't feel they had enough OL depth they wouldn't have gambled with their #1 pick.
10 - See you in Saskatoon! It's a highlight of our year and CKRM colour commentator Luc Mullinder and I will be in the Bridge City throughout training camp, broadcasting the SportsCage live and reporting on the goings-on. With Bonanza having burnt to the ground - and still not having been replaced - we're up for suggestions on hot eating spots! Can't wait.