Chris Jones is again taking a unique approach to keeping the Saskatchewan Roughriders relevant in the ultra-competitive West Division.
The Riders’ head coach/GM has shuffled his quarterbacks on consecutive games, rotating Canadian starter Brandon Bridge with backup David Watford. Despite the lack of continuity under centre, Saskatchewan (2-2) has split those contests and remains tied for second in the West with Edmonton and Winnipeg, two points behind front-running Calgary (3-0).
Zach Collaros opened the season as Saskatchewan’s starter. But he suffered a concussion in a 40-17 loss to Ottawa on June 21 and remains on the six-game injured list.
Bridge, of Mississauga, Ont., started both games but was replaced by Watford each time. The duo was a combined 18-of-40 passing for 219 yards with a TD and four interceptions in Saskatchewan’s 23-17 loss to Montreal on June 30.
Bridge and Watford completed 14-of-19 passes for 148 yards in Saskatchewan’s 18-13 home victory over Hamilton on Thursday night. Marcus Thigpen’s 34-yard TD run with 1:50 left in the fourth quarter put the Riders ahead for good.
The quarterback shuffle is nothing new for Jones. Last year, he often replaced veteran starter Kevin Glenn with Bridge as an effective change-of-pace move.
That made some sense given the five-foot-10, 203-pound Glenn, 39, was more of a pocket passer while the six-foot-five, 230-pound Bridge, 26, presented defences with a dual threat. But what’s curious now is Bridge and the six-foot-two, 212-pound Watford are very similar players.
Against Montreal, Watford was 10-of-22 passing for 108 yards with a TD and two interceptions while rushing for 21 yards on five carries. He completed 3-of-6 passes for 47 yards versus Hamilton while running for a team-high 50 yards on seven carries.
While Jones managed to record the win against Hamilton, there’s definitely an argument to be made that his quarterback situation remains as clear as mud. The continual shuffling fails to allow either player to develop confidence while the offence as a whole doesn’t establish any sort of continuity.
The Riders are on a bye week and don’t resume their season until July 19 when they visit Hamilton. But the harsh reality is Saskatchewan has to continue winning to just keep pace in the West, let alone establish itself in the divisional standings.
And the quarterback carousel can’t help an offence that’s ranked seventh in passing (205.3 yards per game) and scoring (19.8 points), sixth in rushing (103.8 yards) and last overall in completion percentage (57.8) and rushing TDs (one).