Tuesday Takes – January 2, 2018 – Saskatchewan Roughriders Running Backs
Published: Tuesday, Jan 2nd 2018, 2:01pm
by Alex Dormuth (@RealAlexD)
CFL Free Agency is the next thing on the list for CFL fans to look forward to, but before we take a look at who we think the Riders should make a run for, we must look and see what the Riders have on the roster already. My Tuesday Takes leading up to Free Agency will focus on the Saskatchewan Roughriders by positional group. Each week I’ll take a look at a different unit on the team and share a brief thought on each player.
Starting things off, I’m going to take a look at the Running Backs and Fullbacks. In 2017 I think we expected a little bit more out of our running game, but to me that was a bit more on play calling than it was execution. Sure, execution could have been better and a bit more consistent, but there were times that the team completely abandoned the run game, especially when Cameron Marshall went down with injury. Late in the season when our starting O-Line was healthy and back together, we saw the run game take over games with Trent Richardson and Marcus Thigpen having big games.
2018 should be a year of continuity across the board for the Riders and I’m quite excited about the run game going into the year. Let’s take a look at what the Riders have in the Running Back cupboard.
Cameron Marshall – A surprise signing last year, Cameron Marshall was the Riders most consistent player in the first half of the season. Unfortunately an injury kept him out for the back end of the season and the Offense sputtered without him. I expect Marshall to come back in 2018 and compete for the starting RB position. At the very least, he will still be an important part of the offense, even if it’s just as a blocking back on passing downs.
Marcus Thigpen – Another surprise signing in the final third of the season, Thigpen was an integral part of the Riders getting past Ottawa in the East Semi-Final. We were skeptical about what he could bring to the team after being out of football for a few years, but he proved everyone wrong and inked a brand new deal with the Riders. Thigpen will compete with Marshall for the starting RB spot and will likely be one of our two kick returners.
Trent Richardson – Yet, one more surprise signing. Richardson is widely known as a bust in the NFL after his career fizzled out in Cleveland and Indianapolis. I’ll be completely honest and say that I was not thrilled about the signing and his first couple of games proved to me that he wasn’t needed, as he was getting 2-3 yard carries and that’s about it. Then he busted out against Montreal. It was a shame that he got hurt at the end of that game, because if he continues to run like that, I think we would have had a great Thunder & Lightning backfield in the 2017 playoffs. Richardson took to social media saying thank you to the Riders for 2017, but nothing was said about his status in 2018. I think there is an open invitation to him and if he wants to come back to the CFL, the Riders would be happy to have him back. I personally don’t think he will be back, but he would add that bruiser role that would be great to grind out games, especially in cooler weather.
Shakir Bell – He was signed late in the year as an injury backup. Some thought the Riders would have gone after him in free agency last year. He is a pending free agent again and I don’t expect him back in green and white
Kienan LaFrance – One of the Riders big free agent signings of 2017, LaFrance was thought to be a ratio breaker and be the starting RB for the team. Things didn’t go his way last season as he didn’t really impress and had a minor role for most of the season. While he is currently under contract for 2018, I can see him being a training camp and salary cap casualty. His passport helps him, but I just don’t see a role for him in Saskatchewan for 2018.
Greg Morris – A fellow Canadian, Greg Morris is an underrated member of the Riders. He is a very good kick returner, has shown great flashes when he gets the ball in his hands, he just does what’s asked of him. He’s a pending free agent, but I think that he’ll be back in green and white this year. His passport makes him more valuable and I’d like to see a bigger role carved out for him. He’s one of my early candidates for a breakout 2018 campaign. Hopefully Chris Jones and company can lock him up.
Christion Jones – Jones can play running back and receiver and is a dynamic kick returner. Jones signed an extension in December, keeping him in green and white through the 2019 season and I couldn’t be happier. He has that big play tendency and has completely turned games around, notably the East Final in Toronto. I hope Jones can be our version of Henry ‘Gizmo’ Williams and be around for a long time. The kid just has that it factor. I’d love to see him get some reps in the slot in the regular season and get him into open space and see what he can do.
Spencer Moore – The only Fullback/Tight End on the roster, Spencer Moore has carved out a clear role in Rider Nation and will be back for another season. He’s a solid blocker, plays great special teams and can catch out of the backfield as well. Nothing flashy about him, but he’s an important part of the team and you need guys like Moore on your side.
All in all, the running game shouldn’t be much of a concern going into 2018 and I don’t see the Riders being active at all in free agency when it comes to Running Backs. Now that Chris Jones has shaped this team to his liking, this season will be more about continuity and chemistry than tinkering around. I expect the run game to be effective all season, now if only our Offensive Coaches don’t abandon the run game immediately, but that’s an argument for another day…
Next week we’ll take a look at an area on the team that I hope to see some upgrades at, the Defensive Line.
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