After a tumultuous bye week, the revamped Saskatchewan Roughriders are back in action Sunday for a battle against the undefeated Stampeders. The Riders did themselves no favours last time these teams met, digging themselves a 24-0 hole in the first quarter. A lot has changed since then. This matchup will be a telltale sign if the Riders are any more prepared to compete in the West.
Let’s address the elephant in the room, shall we? On Saturday, August 11th, at roughly 9:43 pm EST, Chris Jones decided to crush Rider Nation’s soul. He did so by releasing star wide receiver Duron Carter. While plenty of chatter has already taken place as to why this occurred, the focus going forward should be what this means in the weeks ahead. The Roughriders offence is already used to operating (albeit ineffectively) without Carter. Jones supplemented the loss of Carter with Rob Bagg, however, this appears to be more of a locker room more than a direct replacement. Look for Naaman Roosevelt, Caleb Holley and Jordan Williams-Lambert to fill the void.
Of the three Roughrider quarterbacks that have taken snaps this season, four passing touchdowns have been scored between them. If there’s a glimmer of hope going forward it’s that Zach Collaros looked more than serviceable against the Edmonton Eskimos. Collaros went 22/34, 261 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions, which evidently is the highest yard total by any quarterback for the Riders this season. With an extra week to prepare, Collaros may be able to put together a solid game against a very good defence. A defence that leads the league in points allowed (86) and forced fumbles (10).
Speaking of Defence
One of the few lone bright spots for the Riders three-win season thus far has been the defence. Charleston Hughes has turned back the clock terrorizing opposing quarterbacks with his league-leading nine sacks. That’s four more than the next best in the league. Tack on two fumble recoveries and you have a 34-year-old as your best defensive lineman in the CFL. One the other side Willie Jefferson has a respectable three sacks on the year, if he can turn it up down the stretch, this defence can get even better.
DEFENSIVE TD ALERT ??
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) July 6, 2018
The biggest story on the back end of this defence has been consumed by Duron Carter (you didn’t hear? He’s been released). However, Ed Gainey, Nick Marshall, Crezdon Butler and new signee Loucheiz Purifoy are the players that are going to determine where this defence goes. The front-seven can only do so much, the Roughriders are second last in the league with a team five interceptions on the year. That’s going to have to change against elite quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell who’s thrown just four interceptions on the season.
— Saskatchewan Roughriders (@sskroughriders) August 18, 2018
The Last Word
A few weeks ago it was mentioned that this pivotal stretch of West Divison matchups would dictate the course of the Roughriders season. So far they are 0-2 in that stretch, the next four games (vs Calgary, @B.C., vs Winnipeg, @Winnipeg) are crucial. A 6-5 record after the Banjo Bowl is likely to be needed to keep pace, anything less and it’s almost safe to pencil the Riders in as a cross-over team at best barring any significant injuries from other key West Division players.
No one from the outside can save this team, it’s going to be Chris Jones, Charleston Hughes, Ed Gainey, Willie Jefferson, Zach Collaros, Naaman Roosevelt, the offensive line that takes this team to where it needs to be. After much scrutiny over the past week, Jones needs a statement game Sunday night to keep hope alive in Riderville. Only time will tell if the revamped Saskatchewan Roughriders have what it takes to keep pace in the West.
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