Riders aren’t necessarily locked into John Ojo at boundary corner

John Ojo was an excellent addition to an already strong Saskatchewan Roughriders secondary and while conventional wisdom has him slotted in at boundary corner, it may be too soon to anoint him the starter in that key spot in the defensive backfield.

Ojo did not receive any signing bonus from the green and white upon signing his two-year pact worth under $100,000 per season. The obvious assumption is that Ojo steps in and fills the boundary cornerback spot vacated by Kacy Rodgers II who signed with the New York Jets, which could certainly happen – but only if he earns the job: it’s worth noting that Ojo has only played live CFL snaps on the wide side.

Back in 2015, Ojo played all 18 games in what was his rookie CFL season, quickly getting comfortable in Chris Jones’ man-heavy coverage defence. He lined up at field corner, which is the longest throw – horizontally – for quarterbacks to make leaving more time for defensive backs to read routes, break and attempt to make plays on the football. Ojo took advantage of those extra seconds by intercepting five passes – tied for second-most in the league – and taking one back for a touchdown. The Tallahassee, Florida native was a factor in the Eskimos allowing the least amount of points (341) on the way to winning the 2015 Grey Cup.

When training camp came around in 2016, Jones was in Saskatchewan and Ojo was competing for Edmonton’s boundary corner job. Mike Benevides was the Esks defensive coordinator who runs a different system than Jones. Disaster struck when Ojo tore his Achilles, which thwarted any opportunity for the 28-year-old to play on the short side and that ultimately was the last time he set foot on a field in Eskimos colours.

Ojo has missed two entire seasons, which should have provided plenty of time to recover from the Achilles. Jones, who was the head coach in Edmonton when Ojo signed late in 2014, clearly feels he has a chance to regain the form that made him an all-star in 2015. But that doesn’t have to come at a position where Ojo has never lined up in a regular season CFL game.

Many of the players who made up the defensive backfield in 2017 are under contract for the Riders heading into mini-camp scheduled for late April at IMG Academy in Florida: Jovon Johnson started all 18 games at field corner, Crezdon Butler was the mainstay at field halfback, Mike Edem, Jeff Hecht and Marco Olivier-Brouillette are the Canadians at safety, CFL all-star Ed Gainey mans the boundary halfback position and the corner spot beside him is open. That’s where Ojo could be in the mix.

Although, each season brings change – consider Johnson is 34 and currently the smallest defensive back on the roster – Ojo could vie for a spot elsewhere in the secondary too. Jones wants size, length and athleticism among all of his defensive backs, which is why Patrick Watkins came with the defensive guru from Toronto to Edmonton. But trust trumps those physical traits. Jones had faith in two players to man the boundary corner spot in 2017: Rodgers and Duron Carter.

Carter has more meaningful reps at the boundary than Ojo – just ask Bo Levi Mitchell. Personnel men in the CFL believe Ojo is best suited for Jones’ system which goes some way to explain why the market for Ojo didn’t yield enough bidding to get him a signing bonus. Whether or not Ojo can play boundary corner must be proven and don’t rule out Carter who – albeit in a small sample size – displays the traits Jones covets at the highly important boundary corner position.

Before Rodgers earned the blessing as the full-time starter at the most demanding cover spot, he toiled on the practice roster for a season in Edmonton and came to Saskatchewan with Jones. There is a similar-sized player – Melvin White – who was on the Riders practice squad to end the 2017 season. White stands 6-foot-2, 215 pounds and brings NFL experience with 30 games, 17 starts, 11 knockdowns and three interceptions during the 2013 and 2014 seasons in Carolina.

White, Carter and Ojo are the names to consider – not to mention as-yet-to-be-named players Jones has unearthed at tryout camps – in the discussion for manning the boundary corner. One guarantee exists: the job won’t simply be given to Ojo.

Justin Dunk

Justin Dunk

Justin Dunk was a five-year starter at quarterback for the University of Guelph. He covers the league for Sportsnet and 3DownNation.
Justin Dunk
Justin Dunk
About Justin Dunk (940 Articles)
Justin Dunk was a five-year starter at quarterback for the University of Guelph. He covers the league for Sportsnet and 3DownNation.

75 Comments on Riders aren’t necessarily locked into John Ojo at boundary corner

  1. CFL family // April 5, 2018 at 7:33 pm //

    This is really interesting. If he’s here to compete for a job why not bring in young talent instead of an injured retread.

    • I would not call Ojo a retread. He’s only 28

    • brian johnson // April 5, 2018 at 8:45 pm //

      ITS a try out. All starters must sign a contract. Could be cut any time sames a young player.
      Deal is not actually done. NO BONUS MONEY!!!

      • Wingback // April 5, 2018 at 9:15 pm //

        yea yea yea. We all know contracts are not guaranteed, but you are still offering him $100,000.00 per season to basically “tryout” What if he makes it? Point being, not all your straters can make veteran money. You need a few young guys making smaller money to make it work. Jones doesn’t have any

        • Puck Hog // April 6, 2018 at 6:27 am //

          Then you have nothing to worry about, Chickenwing. Looks like the stamps will be able to walk all over the Riders in 2018. Lucky you.

    • Puck Hog // April 6, 2018 at 6:48 am //

      Worried about the Riders earlier than usual chicken wing!

  2. greenenvy? // April 5, 2018 at 7:58 pm //

    Rodgers followed Jones to the Riders is not EXACTLY true. He was on the Esk PR & cut by the team when Jones then signed him. Of course there are questions with Ojo after being out 2 years but I would be surprised if he isn’t @ CB. At 34, Johnson is getting long in the tooth on the other corner as well, although he had a good year last year. But at his age, things can drop off real quick.

    • True Green // April 5, 2018 at 10:52 pm //

      I agree with your assessment about Jovon, although he had a great year in 2017. As for Rodgers and the Esks, I didn’t know that but I’m a little surprised and wonder if the Esks regret cutting him? Regardless of his year with Sask, the Jets obviously see potential in him.

  3. thethinman // April 5, 2018 at 8:00 pm //

    Ojo & Adams were the all-star Corners in the West in 2015. Both were injured in 2016. Adams came back last year & played well, if not all-star material. I expect Ojo will do the same.

  4. CFL family // April 5, 2018 at 8:03 pm //

    I think this time next year we he will find out the riders are over the cap but ALOT. Well into the 6 figures at least.

  5. BleedzGreen // April 5, 2018 at 8:29 pm //

    LOL, try not to lose too much sleep over it.

  6. Wingback // April 5, 2018 at 9:18 pm //

    Riders are the furthest thing from my mind and deeds

  7. MR. Green // April 5, 2018 at 10:20 pm //

    Took a couple months away from commenting. Still the same whiners. Ojo is a low rist signing. An all Star caliber veteran, under 100,000. Many players have returned to form with worse injuries. For us being over the cap, we released 3 players who made over 700,000 last season and likely not done yet once camp is over. Not like 25years agowhen Calgary spend 1 million on a QB who made at least a third of what most teams spent. Stamps payroll those seasons was well over a million more than a few teams. That blindness made the league weak and started a terrible trend that could have ruined the league. Now everyone is well within 100,000 of each other. Should have been like that the last 40 years. Grey Cups would have been in different hands. Since the enforced cap began in 2006, the Riders have been in 4 Grey Cups and more playoff games. That’s one third of the Grey cups since then. Haters are already scared because they comment, complain and whine this off-season because even though they are in denial, they know the Riders, deep down are the favorites CFL team around the world and will win the Grey Cup this season. Thanks for clicking on Rider stories more than your own sad teams.

    • Bo Peep and the rider sheep // April 5, 2018 at 10:46 pm //

      You are misinformed Mr Green.
      Flutie was never employed by the Stampeders. He had a personal services contract with the owner. At the time this was perfectly legal. If the huffhiders didn’t run like a mom a pop operation, they too could have had the likes of Flutie (assuming he’d go there)
      Collaros is an oft injured and concussed player on the decline. What makes you think he’s going to suddenly become a star? Its you who is in denial.

      • Ridersnhabs // April 5, 2018 at 11:22 pm //

        Did u actually call the riders a mom and pop franchise? If they are that what is the rest of the league . By mom and pop are you referring to the CFL biggest draw on the road and at home , the team that sells the most merchandise, richest team in the league with a new state of the art stadium . Yup sounds real mom and pop to me .
        Talk about misinformed.

        • CFL family // April 5, 2018 at 11:31 pm //

          Lolololol….God you amaze me.

          Just because you’re popular doesn’t mean you’re sophisticated. You are not the richest. Calgary and Toronto are. Your yearly revenue would barely cover the top 2 salaries of the flames and the leafs.
          The riders may sell more than any other team but you are a lemonade stand.

          • Ahahaha you couldn’t help but to throw the flames in there could you!? Actually it would be probably be Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, maybe after that Calgary… but Winnipeg’s economy is doing slightly better right now. Nice try though 😉
            Also by the way we are talking about the CFL. Not the NHL or any other professional sports teams.

          • Habsnriders // April 6, 2018 at 3:59 pm //

            Wow i thought that 3down was a CFL site and looking at my post I was clearly referring to the CFL so I’m not sure how the leafs or flames enter into the conversation . I know it’s tough to follow along , next time I will try and make it more simple for you .
            Just curious , do you use a calculator for the spambot question or phone a friend .

        • Mom and Pop don’t dish out steroids like the roiders do.

          • You wouldn’t be going by the handle “Tony” would you? It sure seems the term “roiders” stemmed from you two. Weird how that works… Nice try on the attempted trolling. Future food for thought, it wouldn’t hurt to use a different term(terrible attempt at a burn) from your previous alias. Just saying 😉

          • Habsnriders // April 6, 2018 at 4:01 pm //

            Yes we do have a fully stocked pharmacy , jealous much

      • True Green // April 5, 2018 at 11:31 pm //

        I believe Mr Greens point is not that it was legal or illegal. Rather, that it created disparity. If the leagues current parity existed in the past then CFL history would look a lot different.

        But that’s the past and the only people that care about the past are those that aren’t living in the moment. Living in the moment is real living. You can rest on your laurels (live in denial) or you can succeed today. Great organizations like the Stampeders have a solid history and enjoy success today but what gets tiring is the taunting of past success.

        The new CFL will make its own history and all teams have a better chance at being a part of it. If it went back to its old ways then teams like my Riders could over spend, buy a victory, and be like the Stampeders of the past.

        In my business we reward our top producer annually. But on January 1st everyone’s a zero and no one cares what you did last year. I don’t care what the Stamps have done in the past anymore than I care about the Riders last GC victory. What have they got to show in 2018 is what I want to know!

        • True Green – Sadly common sense escapes him so he will just pull from his list of annoying replies. Ya know lights are on but nobody’s home

        • Wingback // April 6, 2018 at 12:11 am //

          You think the past is the past? I think theres alot to say about consistency. To only live in the moment discards this.

      • greenenvy? // April 6, 2018 at 12:34 am //

        This whole thing about Cups being bought back when is nonsense. Guys like Moon, Kelly, Kepley from the Esks could have been scouted by anybody. They weren’t earning huge money when they were brought here. Brock, Scott, some of the great Bomber players -same thing. These players weren’t lured away from poor clubs. They were brought to the league. Hugh Campbell, the Rider great was coaching high school when the Esks gave him a chance. Who hired Eagle Keys away from the Esks? The Riders. Jauch was hired by the Riders after success in Edmonton. Same with Faragelli. The Esks gave Lancaster a chance who was so disenchanted coaching after being run out of Regina he quit coaching. Like Campbell, who gave him a chance after his 4-28 record in Regina & recognized his coaching talent? It’s not like the Riders didn’t have chances. Other teams brought in good players because they had good scouts & management. The Riders scouted poorly & drafted poorly. As an organization they were a mess. Let’s quit re-writing history. You keep talking about “since 2006”. Since 1982 how many teams have won even 2 Cups in a row? So let’s not talk about “buying Cups”.

        • CFL family // April 6, 2018 at 1:18 am //

          Excellent comment Greenenvy. One if the best I’ve heard. Coaches who did well in Edmonton but felt flat in sask. You can add John Murphy and Roy shivers to the list from Calgary too. Players Derek Dennis and soon Hughes.

        • Thank you GreenEnvy, this is 100% on point!

  8. Colour me green // April 5, 2018 at 11:23 pm //

    Once a real salary cap started the Riders finally could compete. Future looks bright

    • Wingback // April 6, 2018 at 12:08 am //

      You claim how good you’ve been in this so called new salary cap era. You’ve been to 4 cups, you’ve also missed the playoffs 3 . How many times has Calgary missed the playoffs?

    • greenenvy? // April 6, 2018 at 12:56 am //

      FACT – you can add, I take it. From 2006 through 2017 the Riders regular season record is 105 wins, 110 losses, 1 tie. You can call that competing – I agree. But the record is not excellent, it’s mediocre. I haven’t checked it out but I would guess that record in the salary CAP era is actually near the bottom of the league. Feel free to do the math yourself. I know Riderville hates facts but there it is.

      • Wingback // April 6, 2018 at 1:10 am //

        Good info greenenvy. I guess by rider fan standards sub .500 and 3 missed playoff years, is being competitive.Remember this is the oldest team in the CFL and they have the fewest titles, by at least 2. The longest playoff drought in league history and the fewest 1st places.

        • Habsnriders // April 6, 2018 at 4:08 pm //

          Yup and yet our fan base is stronger than ever . Why is the stamps declining and please don’t use the flames excuse because the flames were around when the stamps had better support .
          I guess we love our team win or lose . If the stamps went through the tough times we did I doubt they would even have a team .

  9. With Jones this kinda goes without saying, but this is a good article nonetheless. Two guys you didn’t mention are Chris Lyles and Sam Williams, two superior athletes from small schools. Both got some playing time last year but both made some rookie mistakes too. With a year as pros under their belts they should be in the thick of the competition this year. Another guy who is listed on our roster as a DB is Taylor Mays. He certainly has the speed to play DB, but at 230 to 240 my bet is that we see him in the LB corps this year.

    • Habsnriders // April 6, 2018 at 4:12 pm //

      I agree going into this new season with year 3 under Jones defence riders will have one of the top groups . Should be a fun year with only one team that will be weak and who knows maybe Montreal will suprise .

  10. Folks – tomorrow is declared “Gnome Free Friday” If there’s no fuel there’s no fire. Let the man of many handles talk with himself.


    • greenenvy? // April 6, 2018 at 12:39 am //

      That’s funny Yup. I could be wrong but, as you write this, tomorrow is Saturday. Just saying. Cheers.

    • CFL family // April 6, 2018 at 12:41 am //

      That’s excellent Yup. Feel free to do just that. I will still feel compelled to give my opinion.

  11. Rick Cowan // April 6, 2018 at 4:42 am //

    Ojo is a better cornerback than Lyle’s or Williams I think he is better than Rogers was terrible most of last year

    • greenenvy? // April 6, 2018 at 10:06 am //

      Agree. Rodgers wasn’t good. Ojo isn’t your problem – Jovon is. He’s 34 when these guys take a big drop. He was good at 33. Sure. So was one of the best DB’s Ryan Phillips before dropping off the map last year. Patrick Watkins, a shutdown CB if ever there was won was finished at 34 & not great @33. There’s a reason there aren’t too many DB’s around at 34. Hard to keep up with the young receivers.

    • I don`t think Johnson’s spot is guaranteed this year either. He’s 34 and father time isn’t far behind. I think the only two players who are essentially guaranteed their spots in our secondary are Gainey and Butler, who both had all star type years, or at least Butler did after he figured out where the post for the uprights was.;) This article had an interesting discussion about Ojo maybe being better suited to the field corner in Jones’ system, which is Johnson’s spot. At the very least this gives us flexibility with Ojo being able to flip sides and play that spot.

  12. Who cares? Seriously. We are not talking about Larry Highbaugh here.

    • Green&Gold // April 6, 2018 at 9:56 am //

      Larry was amazing. 6 Grey Cups for Alberta’s team. Taken from us way too early.
      Hopefully Ojo can have a nice career as well.

  13. Looking forward to an analysis of the competition for each position, team by team. What is happening at the boundary corner in Montreal, Winnipeg, and Toronto for example? …then the field corner, middle linebacker and so on. Keep it up Dunk.

  14. Gainer Jr // April 6, 2018 at 12:25 pm //

    Reading these comments are amusing as hell. It looks like greenenvy, wingnut, and family are the same person…agreeing with eachother on their 20 – 30 posts each on every Rider story hahaha to have that many personalities must be hard in day to day living. Ojo is a no risk signing, plain and simple. Jones knows what he can do, and will put him in position to succeed.

    • Gainer JrJr // April 6, 2018 at 12:27 pm //

      (in deep voice) Ohh I agree with you Gainer Jr

    • Wingback // April 6, 2018 at 12:46 pm //

      wingback and family maybe. Greenenvy and stamps….NOT

    • greenenvy? // April 6, 2018 at 2:32 pm //

      Gee you’re clever, Gainer. Just as clever as RFD, Yup, GreenRider, Rick Cowan, Colour Me Green, True Green, Ridesnhabs, Mr Green, Bleedsgreen, Puck Hog, Stage & on & on & on. You all agree with each other & line up one by one to take shots. “Reading these comments are amusing as hell.” It looks like all the above are the same person. Wow – the light went off, Gainer. There is only ONE actual Rider fan writing in on all these different names. Reality, Gainer, sucks doesn’t it? You just can’t fathom the idea that a bunch of people would criticize your team so tada – they must all be one person. Likewise I can’t understand more than one person not GETTING IT. Ergo you must all be one person. Be a dear & drop all your alter egos. Thank you.

      • LMAO!! greenenvy you sure are quick to criticize arn’t you? Trying to be clever and all yourself. You must be either blind or dumb to think there aren’t more rider fans paroozing the sites than any other team. We kind of do have the biggest fan bases in all of the CFL. Everyone on this site does know the main Troll and his many alter egos. Is it really that crazy to think he does use different alias’s at the same time. I don’t think it would be to fair fetched myself. I know by the way you type that you aren’t one of them, but you definitely are part of his gatherings.

        • greenenvy? // April 7, 2018 at 12:17 am //

          Sorry. I forgot you RobE, or should I call you Gainer. You all sound the same to me. Is it really that crazy that one or two of you use different aliases? Isn’t that YOUR question? Why would you assume that there aren’t lots of people out there who don’t drink the green Koolaid? Really, get over yourself. You’re so full of yourselves that you can’t see that a team that’s lost more than it’s won, even if you just go back to 2006 when the CAP went in doesn’t do it for everyone? If winning isn’t important why do you so desperately need everyone to acknowledge what a great team you’re going to have this year AGAIN? Is it POSSIBLE you may be wrong AGAIN? No offence, fake RobE. Just saying.

          • Damn you’ve got a chip on your shoulder Envy. Relaaaax – life is too short to hate this much.

  15. Pennyrocker // April 6, 2018 at 1:17 pm //

    Don’t worry about Ojo he will be ready. Thing is put him on the opposite side of Gainey and Ojo are both good balls hawks.

  16. I like John Ojo a lot and he did have 5 interceptions at the field corner for the Esks in 2015, but that was in a very consistent press man scheme in Edmonton. Ojo needs to be played up on the line in bump and run cover getting hands on the receiver for the first 5 yards to be effective. If he plays the catch technique at 5 yards or beyond at field corner he will be less effective. Does he fit the Riders 2018 scheme?

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