Offence Will Determine Saskatchewan Roughriders Fate

Saskatchewan Roughriders

It’s been the worst kept secret throughout the season, the Saskatchewan Roughriders offence is not good. With even that most basic of stats to tell the story found here, the Roughriders rank sixth passing yards (3,875) and second last in passing touchdowns (11). The saving grace for this team’s offence has been the rushing attack where they rank second in yards (1,815) and fifth in rushing touchdowns (13). However, in instances like last weekend’s 31-0 loss, the running game had to be abandoned. Tre Mason was having himself a decent start averaging 6.2 yards-per-carry on just eight touches. Yet, Mason would go on to rush the ball just once in the second half for 17 yards.

However, the story was different Saturday evening at McMahon Stadium as Zach Collaros was able to produce 352 yards through the air. Completing 68.6% of his passes in the process. The Riders offence has been hit and miss all season long, which begs the question, how far can this team go in the post-season with an inconsistent offence and strong defence?

Quarterback

John Hodge of 3DownNation made a strong point when he cited the struggles of Zach Collaros this season compared to Darian Durant’s 2016 and Kevin Glenn’s 2017. While the change was needed at the position it has come at a hefty price tag, Collaros’ base salary is a reported $430,000. Collaros has not played up to what his salary warrants out of the most pivotal position in football. His stat line of 9 touchdowns to 13 interceptions is nowhere near numbers that the elite echelon of quarterbacks is putting up.

Take a look at the last 10 Grey Cup winning quarterbacks:

Ricky Ray, Henry Burris, Mike Reilly, Bo Levi Mitchell, Darian Durant, Ricky Ray, Travis Lulay, Anthony Calvillo (x2), Henry Burris.

There’s a lot of Most Outstanding Players and Grey Cup MOP’s on that list. The old adage of “defence wins championships” may not be the case when it comes to the Canadian game. As will be seen below, there have been some strong defence’s to win Grey Cups, but many have been supplemented by elite quarterback play. You would be hard pressed to find a “Trent Dilfer” situation where the defence carried an offence to a Grey Cup title.

Defensive Ranks of Previous Five Grey Cup Winners

Team Defensive Ranking Points Against Sacks Interceptions Forced Fumbles
2017 Argonauts 4th (456) 1st (50) 5th (15) 7th (11)
2016 Redblacks 6th (498) 5th (42) 3rd (16) 7th (15)
2015 Eskimos 1st (341) 3rd (49) 3rd (23) 3rd (17)
2014 Stampeders 2nd (365) 5th (50) 2nd (20) 4th (20)
2013 Roughriders 1st (398) 3rd (57) 1st (24) 1st (23)
2018 Roughriders 6th (428) 3rd (43) 4th (19) 5th (13)

The last five Grey Cup winners have all had varying success on the defensive ball in each category. The two teams that stand out the most are the 2016 Ottawa Redblacks and the 2017 Toronto Argonauts. Both ranked third or lower in every defensive category listed (minus 17′ Argos interceptions.)  However, each of these teams had solid play from their quarterback on top of good defences.

Regular Season Stats of Last Five Grey Cup Winning Quarterback

Regular Season Quarterback Stats of Grey Cup Winner Yards Touchdowns Interceptions QB Rating
Ricky Ray (2017) 5,546 28 11 102.9
*Henry Burris (2016) 2,419 12 9 98.0
Mike Reilly (2015) 2,449 15 10 89.8
Bo Levi Mitchell (2014) 3,389 22 8 98.3
Darian Durant (2013) 4,154 31 12 95.7
Zach Collaros 2,947 9 13 79.5

*Burris only started in eight games in 2016.

The Last Word

There is more definitive evidence out there as it pertains to the importance of a strong defence compared to competent quarterback play. This is a quick glance at the contrasting teams and quarterbacks to win previous Grey Cups and if there are any indicators as to what to expect from the Riders as they enter the post-season presumably in the West Division for the first time since 2014. It remains to be seen which Riders offence will show up week-to-week, but they stand a fighting chance against any team in the league if they can do exactly what they did against Calgary. Get timely stops on defence, take care of the ball on offence and control the field position.

Main image credit:
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