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Riders Positional Groups – Running Backs and Linebackers

Published: Friday, Jan 19th 2024, 12:01pm

By Alex Dormuth (@RealAlexD)

 

I started out this week by beginning 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 started out with the Quarterbacks and Special Teams and we will continue on today. Time for the Running Backs and the Linebackers.

 

Running Backs/Fullbacks

Under Contract: Jerrion Ealy, Thomas Bertrand-Hudon, Frankie Hickson, Bruno LaBelle, Morgen Runge

Pending Free Agents: Jamal Morrow, Albert Awachie

 

On Thursday the Riders announced that #2 RB Frankie Hickson will return for another season. I really liked him in 2022, but for some reason, they refused to use him last year. Do I think he’s an every down back? No. But he can definitely be successful in a split backfield and I’m glad he’s back. I’m a bit surprised because I thought we’d see Jamal Morrow back instead. To me, signing Hickson says you are walking away from Morrow. Jerrion Ealy is a newcomer and cracked my Top 5 Breakout Candidates for this season (mainly because we had no other American RB on the roster). The team needs to find their new answer at RB and as they say, running backs are a dime a dozen. I’m confident the team will find their next guy.

I love Thomas Bertrand-Hudon and I hope he gets into the offense on the regular in 2024. He was one of the few players near the end of last season that appeared to give a damn and had a very impressive yards per attempt. I’m curious to see how new Offensive Coordinator Marc Mueller uses him. As for Bruno LaBelle and Morgen Runge… well, those are special teams guys and fullbacks. I expect one to be on the roster, but not both.

I’m holding out hope that stud RB A.J. Ouellette is one of the Argos to join Head Coach Corey Mace here in Sask., but I just wouldn’t break the bank, as much as I love the guy. I’d definitely be calling him to see if the price is right if I’m General Manager Jeremy O’Day.

 

Linebackers

Under Contract: A.J. Allen, T.J. Brunson, Jaxon Ciraolo-Brown, K.D. Davis, Matt Dean, Jaylen Moody, C.J. Reavis, Nick Thomas

Pending Free Agents: Larry Dean, Justin Herdman-Reed, Micah Teitz

 

Not a lot of experience here and this is one position that I really think the Riders will be active in during free agency. It sure appears the team is walking away from both starting LBs Larry Dean and Micah Teitz. Dean, while having back-to-back solid years after major injury, is up there in age and doesn’t necessarily fit what Corey Mace wants to do on defense. Teitz, well, despite his passport, dropped off dramatically last year. He was pretty good in 2022, but just looked slow and lost out there last season. And putting him in coverage against slotbacks? Yuck. If he’s willing to come back at minimum salary, I’d keep him for depth, but I’d just as soon draft a new linebacker instead.

A.J. Allen also made my breakout candidates list. If the team wants to continue to have a Canadian starting, he’s next up. T.J. Brunson could be in for more playing time this year and pretty much everyone else on the list is a big unknown and who knows how many of them, if any at all, make the final roster.

Of course, C.J. Reavis at SAM LB is excellent. He’s the reason Derrick Moncrief was released recently and he’s going to be a massive part of the success of the team. Getting Reavis back under contract is the best move of the offseason so far for the team.

But as I mentioned, this is where I think the team is active. Adarius Pickett and Wynton McManis of the Argos are both free agents and I know a lot of fans are hoping that Mace can bring them over here. Pickett would give the Riders a ton of flexibility and would be able to move Reavis to a halfback spot and REALLY solidify that DB group. McManis should be brought in just so we can stop throwing pick-6’s to the guy. He’s had some GREAT games against the Riders and I’d love to see him in green and white. The Riders need help and experience as they transition to a new regime… what better way to start than bringing in these two stars?

 

Previous Positional Groups

Quarterbacks and Special Teams

 

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