What I Learned About the Riders in 2018
Published: Saturday, Nov 17th 2018, 3:11pm
By Alex Dormuth (@RealAlexD)
2018 was quite the roller coaster season for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and us, their fans. We hosted our first playoff game in the new stadium and first in Regina since 2013 and while we didn’t win that game, things ARE looking up for the Riders for the 2019 season.
Here’s what I learned about the team in 2018:
1. Chris Jones sacrificed offense for defense: It was pretty obvious after the training camp cuts were announced, that Chris Jones was going to lean heavily on the defense this season. Adding Charleston Hughes, Zack Evans and paying more to Willie Jefferson and Ed Gainey meant that their money had to come from somewhere. After Zach Collaros became a Rider (and the QB salary of the team went up drastically), Jones had to cut guys like Bakari Grant, Rob Bagg (who was brought back later… more on that in a bit) and eventually Duron Carter (for more than just salary reasons). The Riders went from having one of the best offenses in 2017, to basically having the worst. When your defense scores as many touchdowns as you do passing the ball all season long, there’s a massive problem. It better be fixed for 2019.
2. Chris Jones is ALL IN: We knew this before, but he will do whatever he deems necessary to win a Grey Cup, that includes parting with fan favourites. He doesn’t care what the fans think and honestly, it’s nice having that. If he cared what we think, we would have another 2015 season. Rider fans are super loyal to their players, sometimes to a fault. Chris Jones isn’t and, while it isn’t the most beneficial to jersey sales, it’s what’s best for this team in the long run. The guy spends 19-20 hours per day at the stadium, you’ll never find that kind of dedication anywhere else… plus the players LOVE him. I’m glad he’s here.
3. Zach Collaros was a bust: Many of us were happy when Jones traded for Collaros in January. Many had questions about his health. Well, he couldn’t stay healthy. The team was MUCH BETTER when Collaros was on the field, but he missed too much time and had 3 concussions this year. Even when he did play, we didn’t score touchdowns. 9 TD passes to 13 interceptions is simply unacceptable in pro football, especially from a veteran QB. He had ONE game all year where he threw for 2 touchdowns. ONE!! The Zach Attack was NOT back, and I hope he isn’t offered a contract next year.
4. Brandon Bridge is NOT a CFL caliber QB: This is maybe the most disappointing one. Bridge looked GOOD last season, even when he looked bad. He was always able to spark the team and nearly brought them to the Grey Cup last year. We were hoping that this year could have been the year he finally proved that he could be a starting QB in the CFL. We were wrong. He was TERRIBLE this season. Sure, the coaching staff didn’t trust him, but you can see why. Bridge can’t complete a routine swing/hitch pass without it being an adventure. We know you have a rocket of an arm, but you need to pick and choose your spots, man! Even if the QB spot gets added into the ratio, there is zero reason to bring Bridge back. A 4th year player should be progressing, not regressing. Maybe you’ll land as a backup somewhere else and a change of scenery will help, but I’m not banking on it.
5. The Riders missed Jake Harty: Everyone forgets that Canadian receiver Jake Harty is a Rider because he tore is ACL in training camp. The token Canadian receiver spot was a game of musical chairs this season with Devon Bailey, Joshua Stanford, Brian Jones, Rob Bagg and Patrick Lavoie all getting reps. Out of all of those guys, only Lavoie showed he was worth the playing time. Hopefully 2019 will be better for our Canadian receivers with Harty back. It would be nice to have that spot used and not just be a body on the field.
6. Rob Bagg is done: I love Rob Bagg. I really do. He’s my favourite Rider of all time. A blue collar guy who just goes in and does his job and doesn’t complain about things. He did all of the little things and I truly respect that about him and it’s why I’m proud I can rock my #6 jersey on game days. But he’s done, in fact, he should have been let go after 2016. He doesn’t help the team on the field and that’s where we need production. Yes, what he does in the film room and his mentoring of younger players is a great asset, but it’s all about performance. We need a productive player out there and Bagg just doesn’t have it anymore. You could argue he was never really given that shot, but I will ask you why he wasn’t. It’s because he just doesn’t have it anymore. 339 yards over the last 2 seasons, with 339 of those coming last year just doesn’t cut it. Sorry Rob, love ya, can’t wait to see you in the Plaza of Honour, but it’s time to move on.
7. Chris Jones CAN Scout: Over the last couple of seasons, We’ve heard about how Jones can’t find any of his own players, how we have to rely on trades and free agents. NEWS FLASH: ALL TEAMS DO THAT. Jones has found some DAMN good players that are going to be integral parts of this team going forward, notably on the offensive side of the ball. Receivers Jordan Williams-Lambert, Shaq Evans, K.D Cannon and Kyran Moore all come to mind. Christion Jones and Chad Geter on Special Teams. How about Sam Eguavoen, Nick Marshall, Cam Judge, Tobi Antigha and Derrick Moncreif? They’ve found some gems and the narrative that he can’t recruit is quite simply wrong.
8. The Riders play to their competition: Okay, so this one isn’t really new to me, but this team is frustrating at times. While other West Division teams go and beat the crap out of East Division teams, the Riders find a way to scrape by (if they get to be so lucky). Out of 6 losses, 3 were to the East and one of those was completely unacceptable (the Montreal home game). But even in the wins, they barely got by Toronto (dominated the first game, but BARELY won thanks to a Nick Marshall pick 6) and nearly blew the 2nd Montreal game. But they play the 13-5 Stamps, beat them twice and dominate 9 of the 12 quarters they play them. Talk about your Jekyll and Hyde… I’d like to see this team go and BEAT down the teams they are supposed to… but as a Rider fan, that’s rarely happened… it’s just one of those things I’ve become accustomed to.
All in all, it was a fun season that ended too early for the Riders. The nucleus is there for this team to be a contender again in 2019. Plenty of work to do in free agency, but realistically, they are a healthy, decent quarterback away from being a Grey Cup winner. Let’s just hope that’s the main focus going into next season.
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