Alex’s Take on Jake – The Next One or Just Another One?
Published: Monday, Oct 16th 2023, 1:10pm
By Alex Dormuth (@RealAlexD)
Much has been said this 2023 season about the Saskatchewan Roughriders coaching staff and upper management, and rightfully so. For the second straight year, the team has absolutely collapsed and when things don’t change, you have to look at the top. I haven’t really said much about the players during the Riders 6 game losing streak, because I think there are good pieces on this team that are being put in awful situations by their coaches. But at the same time, the players have to wear some responsibility as well. That includes Riders defacto starting quarterback Jake Dolegala.
Dolegala started the season as the third string QB behind Trevor Harris and Mason Fine, though he should have been QB2 after Training Camp. With Harris missing most of the season with his broken leg and Fine getting hurt as well, Dolegala was given the role of trying to keep the Riders season on the rails. And he did for a bit. And looked pretty good doing it. But lately? He hasn’t been good and has seemed to regress to the point where many fans are clamouring for Fine to start in the Riders season finale on Saturday against the Argos.
As we hit that final game of the regular season, I’m starting to look at the roster of players and if the Riders should keep them for next year or not (that article is coming soon). I think we can all agree that Dolegala should be brought back, but what is our expectation with him going forward? Is he going to be THE guy at some point? Or has he peaked and we’ve already seen the best of him?
I do believe Dolegala needs to be brought back as the direct backup to Harris next season. But he still needs time to learn defenses, because teams have started to figure him out. He’s got a cannon of an arm, but his accuracy is just ok. For some reason, the short passes are the ones he struggles with the most. He throws a great deep ball and his receivers have made some big plays when he pushes the ball downfield, but when the defense takes those away and is forcing you to take what they give you, he can’t sustain those drives of shorter plays.
Now, is that just a coaching problem? Is the cure for this an Offensive Coordinator who has been a pro level coach before? Kelly Jeffrey was given the Riders OC job because everyone else turned them down… would Dolegala automatically improve based on learning from someone with CFL experience? Short answer is yes, but it runs a bit deeper than that.
What Dolegala needs is someone that can work on his instincts, maybe a dedicated QB coach. He has abilities to be a good CFL QB, but his awareness is still lacking in his third season. I look back to the game on Friday night against Calgary… staring down his receivers, not recognizing where Cameron Judge was and throwing a pick-6 right into the waiting arms of Judge. A third year QB should not be making that throw. Then at the end of the game on 3rd down, while being pressured, he still didn’t chuck the ball up and took a sack to effectively end the game and extend the losing streak. You just can’t do that!
Anointed by many in Training Camp as “the next one” for Rider QBs, is the Dolegala we’ve seen the guy we had huge hopes for? I think he can be the NEXT guy and not just another QB that comes and goes. Right now, I think he’s a good backup that has some great experience now and should definitely be brought back in 2024, but I think we need to temper expectations of him… at least for now until he gets some proper offensive coaching to take him to the next level. If he gets that next year, I might fully jump onboard the Jake Train hype.
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