Relax, Rider fans. The Sky isn’t falling
Published: Friday, Feb 15th 2019, 4:02pm
By: Stephen Safinuk (@Safimod)
Last year, the Saskatchewan Roughriders finished 2nd in the West (and 2nd in the CFL) with a 12-6 record on the back of dominating defense and special teams that propelled them to their first home playoff game since 2013. Rider Nation was riding high heading into this offseason, feeling like the only hole on the roster was a legitimate quarterback, and there were 3 big ones available come February 12th.
Then disaster struck on January 15th when twitter user @CFL_News broke the story that Chris Jones would be leaving the Saskatchewan Roughriders for a position with the Cleveland Browns. The Riders would need to find a replacement General Manager, Head Coach, and Defensive Coordinator, all while only filling 1 spot on the coaching staff, to abide by the new Management SMS.
It was clear from the start that the Riders would stay in house for all 3 spots, especially after the REDBLACKS and Blue Bombers declined the Riders request to interview their offensive coordinators for our Head Coaching spot.
(side note – I find it funny that the REDBLACKS would be so against letting their offensive coordinator go but would have no problems watching their entire offense go out the window on February 12th…but I digress).
An excited Rider Nation quickly turned on Jeremy O’Day on day 1 of free agency, after the Riders were shut out of the QB Sweepstakes and forced to stick with Zach Collaros as their 2019 starting QB. Shouts of “we’re doomed” and “In to next year territory already” comments filled social media. “Jeremy O’Day has failed Rider Nation” complained one twitter user, over and over. But has he? Let’s take a look at the overall changes in our roster from the 12-6 team from 2018 and see if we can’t find these “gaping holes” that people keep talking about.
LB Samuel Eguavoen – NFL
WR Jordan Williams-Lambert – NFL
DE Willie Jefferson – Winnipeg Blue Bombers
DL Tobi Antigha – Toronto Argonauts
WR Brian Jones – Hamilton
DT Poop Johnson – Toronto
WR Caleb Holley – Ottawa
LB Kevin Francis – Ottawa
I look through the additions and subtractions, and I’m having a very difficult time finding all of these massive holes in our roster (especially on February 15th, 3 months before we even get to training camp with mini camps and a CFL draft still to come).
Our defensive line looks to be even better than it was last year, with AC Leonard (2018 Eastern All Star) and Micah Johnson (2018 CFL All Star) coming on board to replace Tobi Antigha and Willie Jefferson. Even with the signing of Naaman Roosevelt, our receiving corps still needs a key #2 receiver, and there are still plenty of them available on the free agent market (I’m looking at you, Terrance Tolliver). With the exception of Samuel Eguavoen, our entire backfield from 2018 will return in 2019, though we could certainly use a depth pickup in the secondary. With Josiah St John still a free agent, the Riders will need a 6th/7th offensive lineman to help keep Zach Collaros on his feet when the injury bug undoubtedly hits.
1 – SAM LB
1 – #2 WR
1 – 6th offensive lineman
1 – backup DB
We have managed to improve our offensive backfield with the acquisition of William Powell, and our defensive line may be better than it was in 2018 with the signing of Micah Johnson and AC Leonard.
Players like Samuel Eguavoen and Jordan Williams-Lambert, among several others, have come from tryout camps in the past, and the Riders are scheduled to do several of these in the coming months. Who knows what diamonds those camps will unearth for the 2019 season? That’s not even factoring in the possibility that both players could return if they get cut, which often happens. Williams-Lambert, specifically, is under an option window signing and would have to return to the Riders if he gets cut and doesn’t latch on with another NFL team.
We were never going to sign one of the big 3 – look where they all ended up. Mike Reilly went home. Trevor Harris rejoined Sunderland/Maas. Bo Levi Mitchell turned down almost 900,000 from the Argos to stay in Calgary. None of those 3 were coming to Saskatchewan. Zach Collaros (10-4 last season) was our next best option, and we got him. Jeremy O’Day did not “fail the Riders” by not getting one of these 3. No part of me would be happy to see Bo Levi Mitchell here making 900,000. Unless the cap goes up dramatically, that would kill your salary cap.
Is there still work to do? Absolutely, this roster is far from polished. But it’s time to put down the pitch forks and douse the torches. We need to give Jeremy O’Day and his staff more than 3 weeks on the job to build his roster. This is not a roster that needed a full rebuild. This was a roster that was a few pieces away from being a legitimate Grey Cup contender. To quote Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, we need to R-E-L-A-X. This is a team that will compete in the West in 2019. Mark my words, Rider fans. The Saskatchewan Roughriders will be playing at home again in the playoffs in November.
**Piffles Podcast is loading up a bus and heading to Saskatoon on April 13th to watch the Saskatchewan Rush take on the Philadelphia Wings. Buy your ticket before March 1st, and be entered to win a Saskatchewan Rush jersey**
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