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Monday, June 11, 2018

OUT OF THE TUNNEL: 2018 RIDER SEASON PREVIEW


By: RodPedersen.com Staff

A very pedestrian Saskatchewan Roughriders training camp ended with a weekend whirlwind of news.

It all began with an incredibly unimpressive 39-12 preseason loss to the Calgary Stampeders on home field Friday night. It wrapped up with a slew of veterans seeing their time with the Saskatchewan Roughriders end.

First to the pre-season game. Defensively the Riders played pretty well. The only Calgary major of the first quarter was a punt return touchdown, but it was all downhill from there. All four Stampeder quarterbacks threw for a touchdown, combining for 17-for-28, 281 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.

1881 Scarth St. Regina, 306-789-0011
Many in Rider Nation are up in arms with the performance of both Zach Collaros and Brandon Bridge. The two combined for 8-for-21 and just 62 yards.

Yes it was difficult to watch (or listen to if not for the job of Rod and Luc making chicken salad out of chicken doo-doo), but it did help the coaching staff make the numerous difficult decisions needed to get the team down to the 46-man roster (47 including the suspended Marcus Thigpen), nine-man practice squad, as well as the six-game injured list.

Gone are veterans Chad Owens, Bakari Grant, Travis Bond and the one that hurt the most, Rob Bagg. With those veterans another 21 players were officially released by the Roughriders on Sunday morning.

Seeing Rob Bagg’s name on that list broke the hearts of Rider Nation, but it was something that was coming.

It was a difficult decision for head coach Chris Jones to make, "That was a tough one," Jones said on Sunday. "Rob Bagg has been a good player here for a long time. Certainly, he has been a loyal player to us during our tenure here.”

The leadership baton will now be passed in the locker room. It will be up to veterans like Brendan LaBatte, Ed Gainey, Charleston Hughes, Naaman Roosevelt and even Duron Carter to step up and make this team accountable in an incredibly important season for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Now to the 46 players currently on the active roster:
We took some liberties with the depth chart and it will change by Thursday’s official depth chart for the season opener against the Toronto Argonauts:

- With the release of Rakeem Cox, let’s assume two of the seven Canadian starters will be at defensive tackle (Zack Evans and Eddie Steele) with the two other Canadians starting on defence being a combination of Mike Edem or Marc-Andre Brouilette at safety and Sam Hurl at middle linebacker. Cam Judge will see time on the defence as well.

- Offensively, your Canadians will be Brendan LaBatte and Dan Clark on the offensive line (with Dariusz Bladek being the primary backup), and Devon Bailey at the Z-receiver position.

- Running back Jerome Messam along with Josh Stanford and Denzel Radford rotating in.

- Spencer Moore remains an anchor at fullback.

All of this gives the Riders some wiggle room with their Canadians, but not much.  One or two injuries and it will be scramble mode for the Green & White. Some teams win with Canadian depth, and some win by surviving their Canadian depth.

A lot of heads were turned with the release of highly touted free agent guard, Travis Bond. The high-priced American interior lineman’s play wasn’t up to the associated price tag. Two new faces will be on the offensive line. Former 5th round New York Jets draft pick Jarvis Harrison at guard and former Stephen F. Austin Lumberjack standout Terran Vaughn at tackle. Both can play multiple positions, which is also a benefit to the offensive line rotation.

A lot of weapons on offence with 1,000-yard receivers Duron Carter and Naaman Roosevelt along with potential 1,000-yard receiver Caleb Holley. They will have a couple of new names joining them: former NFL cast-offs Shaq Evans (UCLA) and the 6-foot-3 Jordan Williams-Lambert (Ball State).

Christion Jones will be the primary returner and will be key in flipping the field for the Riders as well as adding some spark to the Rider offence.

Defensively, no real surprises. New face Nick Marshall joins a veteran defensive backfield led by Ed Gainey and ageless wonder Jovon Johnson. After a solid 2017, Crezdon Butler returns at half.

The linebacking core will be led by Sam Eguaveon who looks like he is back to his mid-2016 form and Derrick Moncrief on the other side of the group.

Two Canadians, Adrian Clarke and 2018 2nd round pick Micha Teitz, will provide special teams depth at linebacker.

The difference maker at linebacker may be Eric Striker. The former All-American has the size and strength to make plays all over the field as well as line up along the defensive line. A former Rider comparison for you old-timers would be Billy Jackson (but for you regular readers, this praise maybe the kiss of death for Striker in the line of Taylor Mays a couple months ago).

The defensive line will be anchored by Willie Jefferson and Charleston Hughes on the ends with 2017 breakout player Tobi Antigha, and Chad Geter rotating through. Rookie Curt Maggitt will see time in the middle and Jordan Reaves provides special teams depth.

The big news of the weekend finished with the announcement that Tyler Crapigna will have leg surgery and will be out for the season. That means Brett Lauther will be your kicker for the 2018 season with Josh Bartel the punter/holder and Jorgen Hus the long snapper.

It’s going to be a fun year!! It all begins Friday night with the defending Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts coming to town.

The Riders are still smarting over the dramatic loss to the Double-Blue in the East Final a year ago. Hopefully a lot of that emotion will spark them after not playing well during the pre-season.

Ricky Ray will lead the way again for the Argo offence with James Wilder running the rock. They too have weapons catching the ball. S.J. Green and Armanti Edwards lead a group that is jam packed with Canadian pass-catchers.

It’s a big test for the many new faces of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, most notably Zach Collaros. If he does get the nod to lead the offence, he will need to quickly erase his pre-season performance from his mind and be fearless throwing the ball to the many weapons at his disposal.


2018 PREDICTIONS

Out of the Tunnel isn’t much for predictions, but let's have some fun and take a guess anyway.

Here is the Out of the Tunnel CFL season prediction for what will be an incredibly unpredictable season that may be the closest one in recent memory:

West Division

1.     Edmonton Eskimos – A healthy team with one of the best quarterbacks in the league and a solid young defence.

2.     Calgary Stampeders – Bo Levi Mitchell is the best quarterback in the CFL. He will need to be at his best in a bit of a transition season.

3.     Saskatchewan Roughriders – An incredibly talented team that will move up to a home playoff game by having good quarterback play.

4.     Winnipeg Blue Bombers – Having Matt Nicholls out for the first six games of the season may be too much to overcome for a veteran filled team.

5.     B.C. Lions – So much to overcome in Wally Buono’s final season with the Leo’s in a stacked division.

East Division

1.     Toronto Argonauts – A legend at quarterback and a solid backup and a ton of returning vets will make the defending champs hard to beat.

2.     Ottawa Redblacks – If Trevor Harris is healthy and ready to go, it will be a solid season for a team that has good Canadian depth.

3.     Hamilton Tiger-Cats – A ton of publicity surrounding Johnny Manziel, but its Jeremiah Masoli’s team and almost a brand-new coaching staff.

4.     Montreal Alouettes – It’s a big hill to climb for the Montreal Alouettes. There is some talent here, but still needs a couple more seasons.

(RodPedersen.com Staff)

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

No crossover this year, Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa make the playoffs in the east.
Calgary and Edmonton are both in in the west. Matt Nichols' injury costs Winnipeg a playoff spot, so that leaves B.C. and Saskatchewan fighting it out for 3rd in the west.

Anonymous said...

So much for that 13 win season in Regina, Rod??? There's no way a 3rd place team wins 13. Nice to see some reality in your picks. Riders depth is very thin especially at Nationals. They can not afford injuries on OL & WR in particular. Can"t argue with your picks for once.

Anonymous said...

Hi Rod......I am confused on your prediction for the Riders. I like and agree with the suggestion that they move up to a home playoff date but you show them as third in the west.

Sean Criddle said...

I think Bc will figure much higher folks ! And Edmonton and riders lower .... but Winnipeg is bottom

Anonymous said...

We kept hearing from all the analysts not to read anything into Rob Bagg not being dressed. So much for those guys.

Anonymous said...

As I look at this 46 man roster now ,I believe that the western teams no longer need to worry about this riders team which scares nobody.Your predictions look pretty good but I see the west as 1-Eskies,2-Calgary,3- BC,4- Sask,5-Winnipeg and if Nichols isn't out too long 3,4,5 could be different.What is everybody's thoughts?This could be Jones last year if he doesn't make the playoffs.

Anonymous said...

Humm... the above article was prepared by (RodPedesen.comStaff) it reads at the bottom.

@mrt_man said...

THE PRE SEASON GAMES ARE SUPPOSED TO BE TERRIBLE... THIS LAST ONE TOOK THAT TO THE EXTŔEEEME.

CALL ME CRAZY, BUT I FIND IT DIFFICULT TO BELIEVE THAT ANYONE OUT WORKED ROB BAGG. HE ONLY SEEMED TO GET MAYBE 2 TARGETS A GAME LAST YEAR, BUT ALWAYS SEEMED LIKE A GREAT GLUE TYPE GUY.

I WOULD HAVE BEEN LESS SURPRISED IF IT WASN'T FOR THE REPORTS OUT OF TRAINING CAMP THAT HE LOOKED AMAZING AS ALWAYS AND HE AND OWENS HAD TAKEN MORE REPS THAN ANYONE AT CAMP, SINCE THEY WERE STILL IN ON ALL THE DIFFERENT SUB PACKAGES WITH THE ONES... WOULDN'T IT BE MORE NORMAL TO HAVE BEEN PLAYING THE YOUNG GUYS WITH THE ONES AT CAMP TO SEE IF THEY CAN REALLY HANG?... AND THEN AXING THEM IF IT WORKED.

SEEMS LIKE WE ARE AN INJURY AWAY FROM DURON CARTER BEING THE LEADER IN THE LOCKER ROOM FOR THE RECEIVING GROUP... THAT KINDA SEEMS LIKE GIVING THE INMATES THE KEYS TO THE INSANE ASYLUM.

MAYBE IT IS ALL ABOUT MORE HEIGHT AND CHEAPER BODIES... I GUESS WE WILL FIND OUT. PERSONALLY, I TOOK COMFORT IN THE FACT THAT SOME VETS WOULD BE GOING BACK IN AFTER THE COMPLETE LACK OF OFFENSE AGAINST CALGARY... FOR A FEW HOURS ANYWAY.

HEART, GRIT, DRIVE, DETERMINATION, EXPERIENCE, INSPIRATION... NAH... WHO'S THE CHEAPEST GUY WE CAN FIND THAT STILL HAS A PULSE.

HERE'S HOPING WE CAN FIND SOME O-LINEMAN THAT ARE ACTUALLY CAPABLE OF BLOCKING

Anonymous said...

How does a team finish 3rd and get a home playoff game?

Anonymous said...

Lol love all you Rider fans writing off the Bombers already. You realize that Ross, Streveler and Bennett all played better against BC's #1's than Collaros and Bridge did against Calgary backups right? Riders have no Cdn depth whatsoever and it's going to be their undoing. Gonna be laughing when the Blue and Gold finish ahead of Sask by season's end

Anonymous said...

If he keeps 30 somethings then the team is old built for a year then rebuild. This is what a reload looks like, something shouter has never seen. The Canadian depth is there but spread in various positions. Jones is true to his word that the best play as he now has several combinations of personal to use.

Anonymous said...

it is actually nice to see that someone has the balls to make hard decisions based on ability and contract. These guys didn't play their way off the roster, it is a case of a younger guys with skill and smaller contracts played their way on the roster. I really don't think that we will miss the 339 yards receiving that Bagg had in 2017! Watch for Williams-Lambert to be a beast this year. This happens on every team...remember when Wally cut Geroy?
Did any of the commenters here today see who was not dressed for the PRE_SEASON game on Friday. A completely different team will show up this week....talk to ya Saturday morning negative nellys.

Anonymous said...

Regardless of who played, the RIders had it handed to them in 2 consecutive games. Lots of excuses after Edmonton but Reilly played 2 shifts. He, Gable & a few others got sat down after that & by the 2nd half no first stringers were playing. Eskimos played 86 different players in that game. So the Esk backups still outscored the Rider backups in half 2 & I suppose none of you noticed that Carter, Roosevelt, Grant & Holley were on the field in Edmonton & the first string OL played in the 1st half. Playing their 1st stringers vs Calgary must have given some of you a clue that, be it the 1st team or backups, the Riders managed 1 TD (not with Collaros or Bridge on the field) in 2 full games. You should be happy that your 2nd stringers had some time vs the 1st team in Edmonton. If they are on the team, wouldn't they be playing against THOSE players in the regular season? Don't you want them to be able to play well against them? Or do you expect, come injury time, the opposing teams will put their own 2nd stringers on the field to make it more fair? Really? Stop making excuses. You talk it up about all the talent brought to camp & then make excuses when they have to play against other teams' starters. That says a LOT about your scouting. I don't hear the Eskimos making excuses for being beat by the Bomber regulars.

Scott Thompson said...

10-11 wins, in the playoffs, after that anything is possible.

Anonymous said...

I have a feeling we have not seen the last of Rob Bagg.

He will stay in shape and get picked up mid-season due to injuries.

Just not sure if it will be the Riders picking him up.

Good luck Rob. You were truly one of the good ones.

Newt from YQR

Anonymous said...

Not a bombers fan in anyway but remember that if they utilize Harris and Flanders properly while Nichols is out that it will leave the rookie Qb less on his shoulders. This will screw the bombers of first I believe but it won't keep them from 2nd or 3rd.

Anonymous said...

Tough as hell but it would happen sooner or later. BTW ... the prediction comment says that with good QB performance SK could 'move up' to a home playoff game.

Anonymous said...

Winnipeg is finished. They will be 0-6 maybe even 0-7 to start the season. Even Montreal with Willy will best the Bombers without Nichols. No 1st year CFL QB has stepped in and took them to the promised land. Not Flutie, not Ricky Ray. Both were second year before anything happened.
Only the Dunce that sits in the corner will put anything into preseason football.
I can name a multitude of seasons where the eventual Grey Cup winner lost their preseason games and didn’t show well.

Anonymous said...

West will be competitive all season. BC will be better than folks are predicting. MTL will be 1 - 17. You can bet on that, winning their last game of the year in a meaningless affair.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Scott!

Anonymous said...

Anon "Promised Land". Ricky Ray actually did win the starting job in his rookie season. That year, 2002, Ray was the starter in the Western FInal & Grey Cup. So somehing "happened" the first year. He went to the Cup.

Anonymous said...

Why is everyone so horny on Edmonton. Sure they have Reilly but he'll likely get hurt. Their O-line and defence is certainly nothing special