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Tuesday Takes – January 16, 2018 – Saskatchewan Roughriders O-Line

Published: Monday, Jan 15th 2018, 12:01pm

by Alex Dormuth (@RealAlexD)

I continue my look at the 2018 Saskatchewan Roughriders roster, position by position by looking at the Offensive Line this week. On paper, it doesn’t look like a bad O-Line, but it is lacking depth and the strength is with it’s Imports and not so much with Canadians. To me, this is a make or break year on the O-Line. With a new QB (Zach Collaros) who we last saw scrambling, running for his life and not looking like the Collaros of old, this group NEEDS to perform well for the team to have constant success.

There is a good mix of vets and youth on the line and hopefully another year together (and staying healthy) takes this group up the ranks in 2018. Here’s who the Riders have going into free agency.

Dan Clark – The Regina born Center is a free agent this year. For the past couple years I’ve been saying we need to do better than Dan Clark on the line, and while I still believe that, when he came back from injury late in 2017, he played the best he has in his entire career. I’m still not sold on Clark, but he is still our best option at Center for 2018. Let’s hope he’s back since Canadian depth on the O-Line isn’t one of this team’s strong suits.

Brendon Labatte – The All-Star from Weyburn just signed a 4 year extension with the club in the middle of last season. He’s the best O-Lineman on the team and he likely will be again this year.

Emmanuel Adusei – Originally a Defensive Tackle, the Riders moved him to the other side of the ball after being drafted in the 7th round last year. Likely another year on the Practice Roster is best for him and we can see how he develops through the year and make a decision on him in 2019.

Dariusz Bladek – Our 2nd round draft pick from last year, Bladek was our 6th O-Lineman all season and got into the main unit a few times when injuries hit. Speaking to Dariusz after last year’s Piffles Bowl, he said that he wants to put roots down in Regina and be a Saskatchewan Roughrider for life. He will be a big part of the team again and the next step is to become a starter. That may not happen this year, but he has all the tools to be a solid starting O-Lineman for a decade.

Bruce Campbell – Campbell retired after he was traded here from Toronto but something changed and he reported to the Riders last season, eventually starting at Left Tackle for most of the year. An upcoming free agent, it would be nice to see Campbell back as he was quite solid, but I don’t expect it as I think the Riders move Derek Dennis back to LT to get 3 Canadians back on the line.

Derek Dennis – 2016 Most Outstanding Lineman was the big catch in free agency last year, Dennis was a bit of a disappointment in the sense that he wasn’t as dominant as he was when he was with the Calgary Stampeders. Dennis is still young and will have a stronger year in 2018. I expect him to take over the blindside spot again and return to 2016 form.

Thaddeus Coleman – Coleman re-signed a 1 year deal, and unless someone beats him out in Training Camp, Coleman will likely be our starting Right Tackle again this year, barring a ratio change.

Peter Dyakowski – Acquired from Toronto, Dyakowski became an instant fan favourite and started every game at Right Guard in 2017. Unless something drastically changes, he will be back at his RG spot in 2018.

Josiah St. John – The #1 overall draft pick in 2016 is in what could be his make or break year. Being unable to get into the lineup (even after injuries hit) is a big concern for the team. If St. John can’t make that next leap and at least contribute to the O-Line as a 6th man, it may be time to move on and that would not be a good look on GM/HC Chris Jones as that was his first pick as a Rider.

Eddie Meredith – Drafted in the 4th round, 32nd overall in the 2017 draft, Eddie Meredith will forever be linked with Darian Durant as he was drafted with one of the picks that the Riders received from Montreal trade. Meredith will look to make the team, likely on the Practice Roster.

Danny Sprukulis – Another late round 2017 draft pick, Sprukulis will likely make Training Camp, but will be very hard pressed to make the team.

Terran Vaughn – An International lineman, will have to hope the Riders don’t sign Bruce Campbell if he wants to make the team as a backup.

Jeremy Zver – Another Regina born O-Lineman, Zver was drafted by the BC Lions in round 2 of last years draft and signed with the Riders after being offered a PR spot in BC. He spent the year on the PR here, but at least he was at home. He’s definitely worth keeping around stashed somewhere and if anything, 2019 will be a year to give him a serious look.

Overall, I’m still not fully sold on the O-Line as I think there are a couple of pieces that could be upgraded on the starting unit, but I’m not hating the line either. With the team in win now mode, they need to keep consistency on the line and when injuries happen, hopefully we have the depth to keep Collaros protected. I’d like for the line to get back to having 3 Canadians start and maybe by 2019 we can go back to having 4 Canadians starting.

If you missed them, you can see my look at Running Backs and Defensive Line. Next week, I’ll look at one of the strengths of the Riders, Defensive Backs.


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