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Riders Positional Breakdown – Defensive Line

Published: Monday, Mar 6th 2023, 9:03pm

by Alex Dormuth (@RealAlexD)


Leading up to the CFL Draft, I’ll be looking at the roster put together so far by Saskatchewan Roughriders General Manager Jeremy O’Day. I’ll share my thoughts on what I like, what I don’t like and how I see that particular unit showing in 2023.


Let’s take a look at the Defensive Line (listed in alphabetical order).


Christian Albright – A Defensive End who will be looking for a rotational role, Albright went undrafted in the NFL Draft last year, but spent Training Camp with the Chicago Bears. He’s only 23 years old and that might be his best asset to hang around.


Stefen Banks – One of the more shrewd moves from Jeremy O’Day in free agency, Banks comes over from the Calgary Stampeders where he played rotationally the last few years. In that time, he did have 8 sacks, including a 3 sack game against Edmonton in 2021. Likely to be in a rotation here in Saskatchewan, I’m expecting a real breakout season and taking control of the DE spot opposite of Pete Robertson.


Miles Brown – The Defensive Tackle comes back for his second season in Green and White and showed some flashes last year in a rotational role. He’ll likely back up Micah Johnson and Anthony Lanier II, but he’s got some good size to plug up the middle and push the pocket, opening the DEs to get after QBs. I expect another rotational season with an uptick in playing time (and stats) to keep everyone on the D-Line fresh… if he can win the job over DeMarcus Christmas.


DeMarcus Christmas – Similar to Miles Brown, Christmas was a part of the Defensive Tackle rotation in 2022. I can’t see both being back on the active roster for 2023 and both have similar size and stats from last year. I do think that both Christmas and Brown will battle it out against each other for a backup DT spot in 2023. May the best man win.


Charbel Dabire – The reason I can’t see both Brown and Christmas being on the roster is that Charbel Dabire is one of two Canadians on the D-Line and I think the passport gives Dabire a job again in 2023. He’s shown a few flashes, but I would like to see more consistency. Maybe the Riders draft another D-Lineman to push Dabire’s spot on the roster. Honestly, I’m neither here nor there on Dabire. If he makes the team, great, but I think they can do better.


Nicholas Dheilly – The other Canadian on the D-Line, Dheilly had a good preseason last year and played mostly special teams. Assuming that he makes the team again this season, that’s how I see his 2023 going… special teams and spot duty in the games he is made active.


Valentin Gnahoua – The team hasn’t even listed him on the roster, despite announcing his signing a few weeks ago. That can’t bode well at all… He’s a Global player that played on Special Teams for Hamilton the last few years. Maybe he’ll do the same here in Saskatchewan.


Micah Johnson Third time’s a charm for Micah Johnson. Back in the middle of the D-Line, Johnson will bring his all-star level play back to the middle and be that big, mean guy in the trenches that forces double teams and opens up others. I’m excited to have Micah back in Saskatchewan and can’t wait to see him and Anthony Lanier II wreak havoc on opposing D-Lines.


David Kenney – He only played one game last season with the Riders, producing 2 tackles. The edge rusher will be really hard pressed to make the team in 2023 with Stefen Banks coming over and likely taking a bulk of the DE reps opposite Pete Robertson. I don’t think he makes the roster.


Weston Kramer – Anyone with the name Weston is A+ here in Riderville. He only played 2 games last season at the end of the year against Calgary and will be in a fight to make it onto the team, even in a Practice Roster spot. I don’t expect much here.


Anthony Lanier II – Arguably the most important signing for the Riders in the offseason. Lanier was one of the best players in the CFL before being injured and missing the back half of the 2022 season. Lanier’s best quality is that he can play tackle and end and both at a high level. The projected starting D-Line of Robertson-Lanier-Johnson-Banks is one that should be viewed as one of, if not the best in the CFL. Assuming he’s healthy, Lanier will be an all-star in 2023 and is on his way to superstardom in the CFL.


Pete Robertson – Speaking of superstardom, enter Pete Robertson. Another player who was among the best overall players in the league last year before he was injured, I expect the same and more this season from Robertson. Signing both Robertson and Lanier to new deals means that A.C. Leonard was let go and that’s a great set of moves from Jeremy O’Day. Robertson is the real deal and I fully believe he’ll deliver an all-star season in 2023.


Cody Roscoe – Roscoe returns after playing in 2 games late in the season at DE last year for the Riders. He’ll be in a fight with David Kenney for a backup/practice roster spot, but is likely a Training Camp body. Don’t set the bar too high, here, folks.


Kyshonn Tyson – A 23 (soon to be 24) year old tackle who just signed his first pro contract with the Riders. Could be a candidate for the practice roster if he shows well in Training Camp. 


Marcus Webb – See Tyson, Kyshonn. These guys will be battling it out with each other for a potential practice roster spot.


Overall, this group should be better than the starting group last year and THAT was a good group with Robertson-Marino-Lanier-Leonard. They’ll continue to be a strength of the team and should be a problem for opposing offences. I’m looking forward to seeing this group all season long. Jeremy O’Day put a focus on the trenches in the offseason and he has knocked the D-Line out of the park. They’re the best positional group on the Riders roster and will only get better. You should be excited about this group, Rider fans!


Previous Positional Groups:

Offensive Line 


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