Preseason football is a time to evaluate players, to acquire game film on the opposition, to work out the kinks in the playbook, and to win games. Yes, I said it – to win games. All of these goals that CFL teams have, going into a preseason game, contribute to building the winning formula for the regular season, when it counts. It’s probably fair to say that the Saskatchewan Roughriders lacked urgency throughout large portions of their pre-season games. It’s an understatement to say the Riders are still trying to figure it out headed into the week one bye. Therefore, there are some very big questions remaining. What will the quarterback depth chart look-like for this football club? How about the defensive backfield?
Roughriders Not Urgent
The Riders faced their final test of the preseason against the Edmonton Eskimos. It would have been nice to come out playing. After losing the coin toss the Riders kicked off to the Eskimos but like a hot knife through butter. Just three offensive plays later, Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly found former Rider Chris Getzlaf in the endzone. The defence did tighten up coverage as the clock rolled on, but nothing seemed to be working on offence. Missed opportunities on first down plays lead to less-manageable second down plays and many two-and-out series’. After the first quarter, the score was 12-0 for the Eskimos. For whatever reason, the were not playing with any urgency throughout the preseason.
Who Emerged Behind Centre?
A big question headed into the second preseason game was the backup quarterbacks job. The media and fans were highly critical of both Brett Smith and B.J. Coleman after the first preseason game against the B.C. Lions.
Newcomer Phillip Sims saw limited action and turned the ball over throwing a single interception. There is not much to say yet about the young pivot who has been in camp for a week. He was 3-6, 43 Yds, 0 TD/0 Int. Those numbers, and how he arrived at them, has earned him a practice roster spot.
Smith got into a skirmish with an Eskimo defender after he was the victim of a roughing the passer call. It appeared Smith was pulled by head coach Chris Jones in order to cool down. That, in addition to his happy-feet, is not the type of behaviour you expect from a veteran quarterback. The numbers — 2-2, 43 Yds, 0 TD/0 Int. — were much more flattering this week. He threw a beautiful ball to receiver Ryan Lankford that was called back due to a penalty on the line of scrimmage. His future in the CFL, immediate and long-term, is anyone’s guess at this point but he did not survive the cuts. He will look to catch on with another team.
Coleman did not play nearly as much as Smith. He did not throw two interceptions this week, so that’s a marked improvement for the rookie. Unfortunately his passing numbers — 3-13, 37 Yds, 0 TD/0 Int — were only a bit better than horrible, thanks to the mistakes both he and his receivers made. In addition, the way he’s been talked about favourably by the coaching staff this training camp, you knew he had made the team.
As long as we are talking about less than stellar quarterbacking performances, Darian Durant had only decent numbers — 11-19, 153 Yds, 0 TD/2 Int. — in a little more than a half. The two passing turnovers are very concerning for fans. Consider that one of them was due to being tipped by teammate Spencer Moore before being intercepted. The veteran quarterback would have benefitted from some playing time in the prior preseason game, as he appeared to be shaking off the rust early.
The Final Roster Shave
After returning home from Edmonton, the Riders management staff of Chris Jones, John Murphy, and Jeremy O’Day had a long night of film watching and decision making. Here are the final roster moves and a trade, via two Press Releases, that include some serious head shakers:
- National offensive lineman Kadeem Adams
- National defensive back Troy Adams
- National defensive lineman Tim Agbaje
- International offensive lineman Tre’Von Armstead
- International wide receiver Damarr Aultman
- International running back Terrance Cobb
- International defensive back Victor Dean Jr.
- International wide receiver Clarence Denmark
- International defensive back Marquis Drayton
- International running back Michael Dyer
- International wide receiver Qudarius Ford
- National linebacker Dillon Grondin
- International defensive back Tyree Hollins
- National wide receiver Kyle Kawamoto
- National offensive lineman Aaron Picton
- National wide receiver Randy Roseway
- International linebacker Marte Sears
- International quarterback Brett Smith
- International defensive back Xavier Walker
- International defensive lineman Markus White
MOVED TO 6-GAME INJURED LIST
- National defensive lineman Dylan Ainsworth
- International quarterback Phillip Sims
- International offensive lineman Jarriel King
- International defensive lineman Eric Norwood
- National offensive lineman Matt Vonk
ADDED TO PRACTICE ROSTER
- National defensive back Joel Brtka
- International defensive lineman Tony Criswell
- International defensive back Johnnie Dixon
- National offensive lineman Kennedy Estelle
- International offensive lineman Marcus Hall
- National defensive lineman Hasan Hazime
- International wide receiver Ryan Lankford
- National offensive lineman Alex McKay
- National linebacker Alex Ogbongbemiga
- National wide receiver Josh Stanford
Trade Winds Blowing
The Saskatchewan Roughriders have acquired international defensive back Brandon McDonald from the Calgary Stampeders in exchange for a negotiation list player.
McDonald (5’11 – 185) will be entering his third CFL season after splitting the previous two years with the Ottawa Redblacks and the Calgary Stampeders. The 30-year-old Mississippi native has started 16 of 17 regular season games played while picking up 65 defensive tackles, four interceptions and one quarterback sack.
Before coming to the CFL, the University of Memphis product spent six seasons in the NFL playing 80 regular season games while registering 178 defensive tackles and one quarterback sack.