Tuesday Takes - January 23, 2018 - Saskatchewan Roughriders Defensive Backs
Published: Tuesday, Jan 23rd 2018, 8:01am
by Alex Dormuth (@RealAlexD)
In 2017, there is no doubt that the best overall unit for the Saskatchewan Roughriders was the defensive backs. While the receiving crew is absolutely loaded (we'll have a look at them next week), it was the defense that carried the team in the back half of the season. The DB's struggled in the first part of the season, but once the calendar flipped to August, they were one of, if not THE best defensive backfield units in the league.
All but 1 of the current DBs listed on the Riders is under contract for 2018, so after a rough 2016 and growing pains in at the start of 2017, we finally have continuity in the backfield and should see them be that elite group that they were at the end of last year.
Mike Edem – Acquired in a trade from BC before the season started, Edem will compete for that rotational role at Safety with Jeff Hecht and Marc-Olivier Brouillette.
Jeff Hecht – Probably the best of our Canadian DBs, Hecht will be back and will rotate in at Safety
Marc-Olivier Brouillette – Brouillette surprised us all by signing with the Riders and then retiring the day before Training Camp got underway last year. He later rejoined the team in the last half of the season and immediately played a rotational role with Hecht and Edem. I expect him to be a cap casualty this year, but if not, will be back at the rotation at Safety.
Kacy Rodgers – The only free agent defensive back the Riders have, Rodgers is getting some NFL looks. I think he had an up and down 2016, but bounced back in 2017 and ended up being quite consistent. The only issue was his health as he did miss time (and was replaced by Duron Carter at Cornerback a few times)
Crezdon Butler – Arguably the most underrated player in the entire CFL, Butler made a name for himself in a bad way in BC when he ran into the goalpost while covering a receiver. After that game, Butler was LIGHTS. OUT. He signed a contract extension through 2019 and is a key part of the defense as a shutdown halfback.
Ed Gainey – Gainey had a breakout year in 2017 with a CFL Leading 10 interceptions (could have easily been 15), including 4 in one game against the BC Lions. I don't think he gets nearly as many INTs in 2018, but he will continue to be the leader of the secondary and will play a huge role in the success of the team.
Jovon Johnson – The veteran of the group was let go by Montreal prior to Training Camp in 2017 because he was too old and didn't have it anymore. I think we can all agree that Montreal is out to lunch on quite a few things and this is one of them. Johnson had a very solid year at corner and will start again in 2018.
Erick Dargan – The pre-season pick of many to be a star DB, Dargan played the first few games before finishing the season on the injured list. I think he will stick around on the Practice Roster as he does have talent, but it needs to be worked on. He'll be in tough to make the actual roster unless we see a few injuries.
Chris Lyles – Another young player that got in games early in the season, Lyles didn't look too bad in his limited time. Like Dargan, he will be in tough to make the team, but he is definitely worth keeping around on the Practice Roster.
Sam Williams – Much like Dargan and Lyles, we only saw a little bit of Sam Williams in 2017 and will be hard pressed to make the team again as well. He'll be pushed by new recruits in Training Camp.
Taylor Mays – Spent 2017 on the Practice Roster and will likely come to camp to compete for a backup role.
Melvin White – See Mays, Taylor. Worth taking a look at and see if he can carve out a backup spot.
Overall, this is a VERY strong DB unit and will be one of the strengths of the team in 2018. I fully expect them to pick up where they left off in 2017 as the league's best DB unit. Heck, you can throw Duron Carter in there too! This defense is stacked and I expect them to be dominant all sesaon long.
Don't forget, you can catch up on all the positional groups I've looked at all ready. Running Backs, Defensive Line and Offensive Line. Next week I look at the biggest strength of the Riders on offense, the receivers.