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Training Camp Preview

Published: Friday, May 26th 2017, 4:05pm

by Alex Dormuth (@RealAlexD)

 

It’s FINALLY here football fans! The CFL offseason is over and the real stuff begins this weekend! For the Riders, it’s a time to put all the negative of the last few years behind them and look forward to fielding a competitive team in the new Mosaic Stadium. Going into last season, there were a LOT of holes on the Riders team that needed to be filled and as we saw, it took over 100 players all season to try and fill those holes.

 

Luckily, this year there aren’t as many holes as the team has done a great job in Free Agency and recruiting late last season to fill some of the holes. There are still some big questions marks, including the most important position on the field, QB, but most of the roster is set. So let’s take a look at who is on the team and who I think we will be lining up in game 1 in Montreal on June 22.

 

OFFENSE

 

We start with the biggest question, who will be the starting Quarterback? Chris Jones made a splash this offseason by trading one of the greatest players in franchise history in Darian Durant to the Montreal Alouettes. Then the Riders signed Kevin Glenn and made more headlines by signing former NFL QB Vince Young, who hasn’t thrown a ball in a game since 2011. Durant was never a Chris Jones guy and we all knew when Jones took over that Durant’s days here were numbered. They didn’t mesh well together and Jones believes he can get better play from someone paid less money. So we move on from the Durant era and look towards someone else to lead this team. Kevin Glenn is the safe bet, as he did quite well when he took over for Durant in 2015. Vince Young is the wild card. I don’t think he was brought in to be a backup. He’s here to start. I DO think Vince Young starts, but in an ideal world, Glenn is our game 1 starter with Brandon Bridge as #2. The others in camp to fight for the #3 job and a spot on the PR are Bryan Bennett and newly signed Maty Mauk.

 

The other area of concern on Offense is the O-Line. It’s no secret that the Riders lost games last year because the O-Line was atrocious. The first bit of the season, they couldn’t convert on a 1 yard QB sneak multiple times, it was embarrassing. The Riders did a great job in the offseason of addressing this weakness and started with signing reigning Most Outstanding Lineman OT Derek Dennis from the Calgary Stampeders. (You can learn more about Derek Dennis by checking out Episode 40 of the Piffles Podcast, as he and Eddie Steele joined us for a chat https://soundcloud.com/pifflespod/piffles-podcast-s2e12-40shows-with-derek-dennis-and-eddie-steele). Brendan Labatte is returning from his injury and assuming that he stays healthy, Dennis and Labatte really lock down the left side of the O-Line. Dan Clark will likely be the Center. While he wasn’t great last year, an average Center can be masked a bit by good Guard play. If we get that from Labatte and whoever starts at Right Guard, Clark will do just fine. Speaking of Right Guard, that spot is wide open. Ryan White (signed from Montreal), Dillon Guy, Matt Vonk, Josiah St. John and this years 2nd round draft pick Dariusz Bladek will all fight for that RG spot. At Right Tackle Jarriel King and Thaddeus Coleman will battle in Training Camp.

 

Receivers weren’t a problem last year as we saw some new faces like Ricky Collins Jr, Caleb Holley and Armanti Edwards play great ball, but the team made some massive signings here to help out the QBs. Joining stars Namaan Roosevelt and Rob Bagg are Duron Carter, Chad Owens and Bakari Grant. Owens was signed as a kick returner, but there is no way he doesn’t see the field as a 5th or 6th receiver. There will be some talented receivers cut this year. Overall we have Rob Bagg, Nic Demski, draft pick Mitch Picton and Mitchell Baines as Canadians, Duron Carter, Caleb Holley, Namaan Roosevelt, Armanti Edwards (hopefully), Bakari Grant, Ricky Collins, Chad Owens, Joe Craig Jr, Thomas Mayo and Antwane Grant all coming to camp.

 

At Running Back, the Riders are making a ratio change from the looks of it after the untimely death of Joe McKnight and the release of Curtis Steele. The Riders signed Canadian Kienan LaFrance from Ottawa. LaFrance didn’t play much in the regular season last year, but starred in the playoffs for the Grey Cup Champion REDBLACKS. He joins a returning Greg Morris and new Import RBs Cameron Marshall (former Blue Bomber) and Daniel Thomas (Miami Dolphins, NFL). I see this change as replacing Shawmad Chambers in the starting unit more than replacing a Running Back. This change will allow us to get another of our star import receivers on the field and provides more flexibility with the ratio. At Fullback, joining Spencer Moore is Aaron Milton from the Eskimos.

 

 

DEFENSE

 

The defense struggled a lot last season, and we knew that was going to happen with pretty much an entire new unit being put together. There were some standouts that will make this year’s squad very competitive and we shouldn’t see as many struggles as we did last year.

 

Looking at the D-Line, we are much better up front. At Defensive End, we have Willie Jefferson, AC Leonard, Jonathan Newsome and Jordan Reaves all returning. Jefferson made an immediate impact on our Defense when he joined the team late last year and with a full Training Camp this season, he will be looked on to be a force for the team (Check out our interview with Willie Jefferson on the Piffles Podcast here: https://soundcloud.com/pifflespod/piffles-podcast-s2e7-jefferson-orridge). At Defensive Tackle, the team upgraded by signing Canadian Eddie Steele from the Eskimos to join fellow Canadians Ese Mrabure, Linden Gaydosh, Makana Henry, Ivan Brown and draft pick Emmanuel Adusei. This should provide a stable starter at the DT position and allow a decent rotation to keep the line fresh. At the other DT spot, We look to free agent signing Zach Minter (from the Calgary Stampeders) to fight with Greg Milhouse for the starters spot. Minter was a rotational player in Calgary, but was stuck behind some very good players and will get his chance to shine here with the Riders.

 

Our Linebackers are a little scarce, but the guys we have coming to camp are VERY good players. Glenn Love comes over from the Stamps and I see him and Samuel Eguavoen (returning from injury) as important pieces of the defensive puzzle. They are joined by Canadian Middle LB Henoc Muamba. Muamba will be backed up by Dillon Grondin and hopefully #2 overall draft pick Cameron Judge. Kevin Francis will most likely be moving from Safety to SAM LB and should fight with newly signed Mike Edem for the cover linebacker spot.

 

The secondary is the real area of concern on the defense. Only 2 of the 5 spots are solidified with Ed Gainey at Halfback and Marc-Olivier Brouillette (and Jeff Hecht or Tevaughn Campbell backing up) at Safety. Kacy Rodgers and Royce Adams are the only other returning DBs and have the inside track to the two starting Cornerback spots. They will be pushed by Mark Roberts, Alfonzo Dennard, Reggis Ball, Tyler Hunter, Erick Dargan and Rookie Camp standout Zavian Bingham. The competition in the secondary is going to be one of the best battles of camp. But, much like last year, there will definitely be a learning curve for the unit as a whole and there will be some struggles as the new team figures out the system and get used to each other.

 

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

 

Our Special Teams players are all returning and they were much better than the previous few years. Kicker Tyler Crapigna really came into his own last year and was easily the most consistent player on the team. He will be pushed again by 2016 draft pick Quinn Van Gylswyk, but we look to be in good shape there. Josh Bartel (did you know he’s an Aussie??) returns as our Punter and while we weren’t too excited about his signing last year, he made a lot of people eat crow as he was very good for us. Long Snapper Jorgen Hus returns and if you don’t hear his name, that’s a good thing. It means he’s not making any mistakes. A few receivers and DBs will compete with Chad Owens and Joe Craig as the main kick returner, but they would really have to wow the team to make it, as Owens most likely won’t be cut.

 

Overall, the team is looking a lot better than we have in the past few years. I think this team has a load of potential and should compete for a playoff spot this year.

 

 

As of right now, our starting lineup (in my mind) looks like this:

 

QB – Vince Young

RB – Kienan LaFrance *

WR – Rob Bagg *

SB – Duron Carter

SB – Namaan Roosevelt

SB – Caleb Holley

WR – Bakari Grant

LT – Derek Dennis

LG – Brendan Labatte *

C- Dan Clark *

RG – Josiah St. John *

RT – Jarriel King

 

DE – Willie Jefferson

DT – Eddie Steele *

DT – Zach Minter

DE – Jonathan Newsome

WLB – Glenn Love

MLB – Henoc Muamba *

SAM – Mike Edem *

CB – Royce Adams

HB – Ed Gainey

S – Marc-Olivier Brouillette *

HB – Zavian Bingham

CB – Kacy Rodgers

 

* Denotes Canadians

 

In this scenario, we have 9 Canadians starting which would be absolutely huge for this team, especially when injuries hit, lots of flexibility as long as the team stays relatively healthy.

 

 

I also did up a 44 man roster. Feel free to tell me how wrong I am!

 

QB – Vince Young, Kevin Glenn, Brandon Bridge *

RB – Kienan LaFrance *, Greg Morris *

WR – Rob Bagg , Nic Demski *

SB – Duron Carter

SB – Namaan Roosevelt

SB – Caleb Holley

WR – Bakari Grant, Ricky Collins

LT – Derek Dennis

LG – Brendan Labatte *, Matt Vonk *

C- Dan Clark *

RG – Josiah St. John *, Dillon Guy *

RT – Jarriel King

 

DE – Willie Jefferson

DT – Eddie Steele *, Ese Mrabure *

DT – Zach Minter, Greg Milhouse

DE – Jonathan Newsome, AC Leonard

WLB – Glenn Love, Sam Eguavoen

MLB – Henoc Muamba *, Cameron Judge *, Dillon Grondin *

SAM – Mike Edem *, Kevin Francis *

CB – Royce Adams

HB – Ed Gainey

S – Marc-Olivier Brouillette *, Jeff Hecht *

HB – Zavian Bingham

CB – Kacy Rodgers, Tevaughn Cambell *

 

LS – Jorgen Hus *

K – Tyler Crapigna *

P – Josh Bartel *

 

KR – Chad Owens

 

 

*Denotes Canadians

(Starters in bold)

 

On paper, this is a decent looking team. We will start finding out Sunday at Training Camp just how decent they are. Fun times ahead Rider fans! #IsItJuneYet? Almost! Let’s get this season started!

 

Go Riders!

 

 

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