The Saskatchewan Roughriders are entering their first bye week with more questions than answers after an ugly win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Week 4. By now, everyone is aware of the problems that have plagued the Riders thus far this season. A carousel at the quarterback position and Duron Carter playing at his second-best position on the football field. However, the biggest storyline mentioned plenty of times before the season is the Roughriders Offensive Line.
How They Got Here
At the end of the Riders dismal 2015 Season, left on the offensive line were Xavier Fulton, Chris Best, Dan Clark, Brendon LaBatte, Corey Watman, Jermarcus Hardrick and Matt Vonk. Clark and LaBatte are the mainstays, however, Chris Jones, Jeremy O’Day and John Murphy have little to show for their work. Josiah St. John, the first overall pick of the 2016 CFL Draft has yet to prove his worth. He also finds himself on the six-game injured list to start the season. They most recently drafted lineman Dakoda Shepley who is looking to fulfill NFL aspirations when NFL camps open up. 2017 Second-Round Pick Dariusz Bladek has been the most “successful” of the bunch working his way to the starting spot at Right Guard this season. Other late round picks have yet to make a name for themselves on the Roughriders offensive line.
Free Agent Swings…And Misses
The current regime’s free agency success isn’t much better than what they’ve produced in the draft. Andrew Jones, a highly touted signing in the 2016 off-season lasted just one season in Riderville. One year later, Derek Dennis was expected to anchor the line at the tackle spot but in a similar fashion to Jones, was gone one year later. While these may seem like quick stops, it pales in comparison to the trip Guard Travis Bond experienced being released after just two pre-season games in 2018. Failure to bring in a veteran all-star on the line has costed the Riders dearly. Even attempts at a simple stop-gap veteran have worked to no avail. Thaddeus Coleman has been the brightest spot for free agent lineman signings for the Riders. Coming over from Edmonton with the Jones regime, Coleman has been a mainstay on the offensive line for Saskatchewan.
The Last Word
It speaks volumes that the two best linemen are from the pre-Jones era (Clark & LaBatte). Jeremy O’Day, John Murphy and Chris Jones all shoulder the responsibility of failing to put together an adequate line that has allowed nine sacks in four games (Third worst in the CFL). While also leading to the head injury starting pivot Zach Collaros suffered in Week Two versus Ottawa. It is also not a stretch to assume that poor offensive line play has led to the Riders league-leading 10 turnovers this season.
The Roughriders offensive line desperately needs to elevate their performance to make it out of their next four games above .500. Ahead is another duel with Hamilton, two games against the Stampeders in four weeks and a date in Edmonton. The Riders can emerge from the scrum anywhere from 6-2 to 2-6. If they don’t, it could be a rough stretch of games through Labour Day.
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