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.
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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:
- 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.
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:
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.
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.