Positional Battles to Watch in Riders Training Camp
Published: Saturday, May 13th 2023, 1:05pm
By Alex Dormuth (@RealAlexD)
MERRY CHRISTMAS, CFL FANS!!! Training Camps across the Canadian Football League officially begin tomorrow! The Saskatchewan Roughriders are in Saskatoon for their Training Camp and with a huge roster turnover from the disappointing 2022 season, there are going to be some very competitive battles for starting positions for the 2023 team.
We have to start with the O-Line. It was easily the biggest weakness of the team last season and it’s the one that all of us fans want to see improved the most. I can’t tell you how many times this offseason on Rider signing announcements were fans commenting “but can he block?” or “this isn’t an O-Lineman!” It actually got really annoying. But it goes to show that this is where a big focus will need to be. The biggest questions are at the two Tackle spots. Will the Riders find 2 Americans to step into those roles? Or will Canadian veteran Philip Blake start at Left Tackle, giving the Riders 4 Canadians on the O-Line? Also, will any of the young guys be able to take Evan Johnson’s starting spot away from him? Johnson has been awful since joining the Riders from Ottawa a few years ago and the Riders desperately need an upgrade. Will Logan Bandy, Zack Fry, Matthew Derks, Diego Alatorre Montoya or Evan Floren step up and secure that Right Guard position?
Who is going to replace Mike Edem in the defensive backfield? It’s the first time in quite a while that the Riders do not appear to have a sure fire starter at Safety with the team moving on from Edem. Jayden Dalke or Nelson Lokombo seem to have the inside track to putting their names atop the depth chart, but don’t overlook 2nd round pick Jaxon Ford. While he may not start the season at the top, he could easily work his way up there throughout the year. My guess is Dalke gets the first crack at it and we’ll see plenty of rotation at that position as the season progresses, but I’m curious if one of these young guys can lock that spot down and keep it for years to come.
Staying with the DBs, who wins the other open spot? We don’t even really know if it’s a cornerback spot or a halfback spot. What we do know is that the Safety will be a Canadian, Nick Marshall will be at one corner and Rolan Milligan will be one of the halfbacks. Does Jeremy Clark play corner or half? If he plays half, will Amari Henderson win the other corner spot? If Clark plays that corner spot, does C.J. Reavis take over at half? The Riders are bringing in 15 (!) defensive backs (not counting some of the linebackers that can drop back in coverage) to camp, so it will no doubt be quite the battle.
I’m also hoping that the backup QB spot will be a really good battle. Will Mason Fine win it outright or will Jake Dolegala have another sensational camp and take the job away? Will one of the newcomers like Levi Lewis or Zerrick Cooper impress the coaches and push for more and more reps? Generally speaking you need 2 QBs to win in the CFL… do the Riders have one behind Trevor Harris that can come in like Chad Kelly did for the Argos in the Grey Cup?
And I haven’t even begun to talk about receiver spots, both American and Canadian. Will a young American receiver step up and be a Dalton Schoen? Who will take the place of Kian Schaffer-Baker to start the year? This is going to be one heck of a Training Camp and I can’t wait to discuss it on The Piffles Podcast!
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