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Riders Positional Groups – Offensive & Defensive Lines

Published: Thursday, Jan 25th 2024, 1:01pm

By Alex Dormuth (@RealAlexD)

 

Over the last two week’s I’ve done this series on the current Saskatchewan Roughriders roster, looking at who the team has under contract and who is a pending free agent so that we can all play Armchair GM and decide where the Riders need to be active in free agency. We finish it off this week with looking at the trenches… the Offensive Line and the Defensive Line.

 

Offensive Line

Under Contract: Logan Bandy, Jacob Brammer, Brandon Council, Logan Ferland, Evan Floren, Zack Fry, Peter Godber, Jerald Hawkins, Trevor Reid, Jordan Tucker, Noah Zerr

Pending Free Agents: Philip Blake, Evan Johnson, Colin Kelly, Eric Lofton

It’s no secret that this has been the weak link for the Riders over the last few years. Everything was GREAT in 2019… then retirements happened, NFL opportunities came up, the Riders walked away from a few starters. It’s been a massive trainwreck since then. And looking at who the Riders currently have under contract doesn’t give me much hope for 2024, either.

I like some of the young talent. Logan Ferland is a beast and will continue to get better. He’s the anchor of the line and his versatility is impressive (he didn’t look out of place playing tackle last year). They can line him up anywhere and be comfortable with that spot. Logan Bandy got plenty of experience at Center in 2022, but was relegated to backup last year after the signing of Peter Godber. I sure hope he can at least be the 6th O-Lineman this year, otherwise it seems like a waste… can he play Guard? Godber at Center is good, so we don’t really need to worry there.

After that… who the hell knows? Canadians Evan Floren, Zack Fry and Noah Zerr are all unproven, yet one of them currently stands to be a starter before we hit free agency. Yikes.

And the tackles? Woof. Literally none of the guys under contract do anything for me. Last year, the only TRUE Left Tackle that General Manager Jeremy O’Day brought in was immediately penciled in as the starting LT, ditched out on training camp, and when he finally came up here, got hurt immediately. Not surprising since he (Jerald Hawkins) hadn’t taken a game snap in years. O’Day NEEDS to bring in true LT’s to compete here. It’s as simple as that. Turning these American Guards into Tackles just isn’t working.

As for the free agents, I’d like to see Philip Blake back, at least for depth. He can play anywhere on the line and despite his age, can still be an asset. Evan Johnson is one I’m not a fan of, BUT he did improve near the end of 2023 to where he was a reliable piece on that line. I’d bring him back once more. I’d also like to bring back Colin Kelly. When he came in and started at Right Tackle, things seemed to get better. It was a shame he got injured.

Free Agency is where O’Day is going to have to be active to find a starter or two on the line. As a former O-Lineman, you’d think that this would be a priority for the team. Spend all the money here, Jeremy. And get some nasty up front again.

 

Defensive Line

Under Contract: Christian Albright, Habakkuk Baldonado, Miles Brown, Bryan Cox Jr., Charbel Dabire, Nicholas Dheilly, Roman Lee Harrison, Lake Korte-Moore, Caleb Sanders, Brayden Thomas

Pending Free Agents: DeMarcus Christmas, Micah Johnson, Anthony Lanier II, Pete Robertson

The list of pending free agents is basically the starting lineup. It appears the team is moving on from DeMarcus Christmas at tackle and at least one of Anthony Lanier II or Pete Robertson. I wouldn’t be surprised if both hit free agency, because there’s no way the Riders will pay them what they did last season. Honestly, I’d let them both go. This team hasn’t really had issues finding pass rushers. I DO hope we bring back Micah Johnson in the middle. I don’t care how (football) old this guy gets, he’s a monster out there. He’s made Regina his home and is still doing community appearances, so I hope that means he intends to still be around and the team wants him.

I like some of the pieces that are signed. Canadians Charbel Dabire and Lake Korte-Moore can be good pieces. Hopefully Korte-Moore stays healthy and we can start to really see what he has. Miles Brown will be another good one at tackle, but currently needs a running mate beside him in the middle. On the outside, I really liked Bryan Cox Jr. last year. Hopefully we get a healthy year from him. Same with Christian Albright. But like I said, the team finds good pass rushers fairly easy, so I’m not too worried about the ends just yet.

But much like the O-Line, I think that O’Day will be busy with the D-Line in free agency. Coach Corey Mace is a former D-Lineman, so I’m sure emphasis will be put on getting meaner and more physical on the D-Line. Will we see a guy like Shawn Oakman or Dewayne Hendrix follow Mace from the Argos to Saskatchewan? I sure hope so. We need the help here and I’m sure that will be addressed early in free agency.

 

Both sides of the trenches are where the team needs to most help. Fitting, since games are won and lost in the trenches and the Riders have done more than their fare share of losing lately. Both Corey Chamblin and Chris Jones had nasty (and I mean that in the nicest way) O-Lines and D-Lines. Time for the Riders to get back to that and start pushing teams around.

Jeremy, spend all your money here in free agency. Do whatever it takes to get the guys that Coach Mace wants.

 

Previous Positional Groups

Quarterbacks and Special Teams

Running Backs and Linebackers

Receivers and Defensive Backs

 

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