Riders Positional Breakdown – Linebackers
Published: Monday, Mar 20th 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 each player and how I see that particular unit showing in 2023.
Let’s take a look at the Linebackers (listed in alphabetical order).
A.J. Allen – The Canadian had limited playing time last year, only playing in 12 games, but will definitely be pushing for a bigger piece of playing time this year. He won’t take over anyone’s starting spot, but should rotate with Tommy Bringi a bit if/when Micah Teitz is taken out of games for a breather.
Tommy Bringi – Another young Canadian (drafted in the 4th round in 2022) that got some playing time on special teams. He’ll be back doing the same this season unless the team drafts a linebacker or two in this year’s draft. Gotta have depth Canadians around and I expect him to be one of those guys the team keeps around and develops.
Larry Dean – If there was a Comeback Player of the Year Award in the CFL, Larry Dean would have won it last season. After coming off a missed 2021 season with a torn ACL, Dean was everything the Riders could have hoped for and MORE! As good as Darnell Sankey was, Dean was the better LB in 2022, IMO. He will return to his middle linebacker position and be the anchor of the Riders D in 2023. Outstanding job to bring him back, I expect another all-star type season from Dean.
Jerry Garner Jr. – He’s been assigned #78… that should tell us pretty much everything we need to know. He isn’t going to crack the initial roster, but at the young age of 23, if he shows enough in camp, he could be kept around on the practice roster. But with the American LB spots pretty much sewn up, he’ll be hard pressed to make this team.
Justin Herdman-Reed – If the Riders do go with Micah Teitz as the 3rd starting LB, you gotta have depth behind him. Herdman-Reed does that and plays quite well on special teams. He won’t light up a stats page by any means, but players like this are important to a team’s success. I hope some younger players can come in and push for this spot, but I’m perfectly okay with Herdman-Reed having a spot on the roster.
Alvin Jones Jr. – Going into his third season with the Riders (I know, right?), I think Jones Jr. will be finding himself on the outside looking in when the final roster is declared. He’s been in 2 games in the last 2 seasons, collecting 2 special teams tackles. Considering he is 28, I’d rather see the team go younger with a PR spot for a linebacker with Garner Jr. or Justin Rice.
Derrick Moncrief – I feel like he had a bit of a down season last year, but maybe that’s because my expectations for Moncrief are so high. He’s one of the best defensive players in the league and the Riders will need him to be excellent again this year. And I have zero doubts that he will be anything but excellent.
Justin Rice – Another returning player, Rice had 1 special teams tackle in 3 games last year. He’ll be fighting with Garner Jr. and Jones Jr. for a practice roster spot. Likely to be training camp fodder.
Micah Teitz – Teitz is going to reclaim his starting linebacker spot this year after the exit of Sankey. While Teitz isn’t going to put up the same numbers, he was very solid in 2021 before missing all of last year. A starting Canadian who doesn’t look out of place, I look forward to seeing how he fairs this year after the groin injury that kept him out. With that said, I hope the Riders do draft a linebacker or two in the CFL Draft that they feel can push Teitz for that starting LB spot later in the year or in 2024.
The starting LB unit of Teitz-Dean-Moncrief is a very solid group, but I have my questions about the depth behind it. You could argue that with just about every positional group on every team, but these three are going to need to stay healthy for this Riders defence to succeed. If injuries happen, it could get messy unless one of the new young players added turns out to be a stud. I expect there to be a lot of rotating from Jason Shivers’ defence, with some of the extra DB’s on the roster playing some LB as well. I’m a bit surprised they aren’t bringing in more American linebackers to training camp (at least, as of right now), but I’m sure some of the new defensive backs will get a chance in that second level of the Riders D.
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