Soft and mushy defence drops Riders to 0-2

The Saskatchewan Roughriders are 0-2, which is predictable in the absence of their franchise quarterback, Darian Durant. But it’s tough to claim that the CFL team’s winless record came about because Durant is injured.

Pin it on a passive defence, which is unable to adapt to the league’s new pass-interference rules and starts playing soft and mushy in the final stages of its games. In two regular-season games and two preseason games — yes, we know preseason games don’t matter! — the Roughriders have collapsed down the stretch, surrendered leads and lost every time.

Former Riders lineman Belton Johnson, a co-host on Rawlco Radio’s Green Zone, had a great description for Saskatchewan’s defence following Sunday’s 42-40 overtime loss to the Toronto Argonauts.

“Mashed potatoes,’’ said Johnson, wondering why the Roughriders defence relied in the latter stages on a three-man front and nine-man deep zones.

One of our radio station’s listeners Tweeted in a response: “Even mashed potatoes can hold gravy.’’

The Roughriders offence is being led by backup quarterback Kevin Glenn, a primary offseason acquisition, who led the team to 579 yards of net offence against Toronto. The Argonauts had 349 yards behind first-year starter Trevor Harris, who is replacing injured veteran Ricky Ray.

Saskatchewan’s offence left some points on the field, failing three times to score touchdowns while in the red zone, going 0-for-2 on two-point converts in overtime and giving up a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown. But it did score 40 points!

Meanwhile, Saskatchewan’s defence allowed the Argonauts to march 85 yards downfield to score a tying touchdown with six seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, forcing overtime. In overtime the Roughriders became even more passive, rarely blitzing and barely getting within yelling distance of Harris or his receivers, perhaps out of fear of being penalized for touching a receiver five yards from the line of scrimmage. New rule being enforced!

Roughriders head coach Corey Chamblin has taken over the defensive play-calling this season after dumping long-time defensive co-ordinator Richie Hall.

Chamblin hired Greg Quick as his defensive co-ordinator away from the Montreal Alouettes, proclaiming they had the same aggressive philosophy, and that Quick would be learning to oversee the defence while ultimately being given the chance to take over play-calling duties. If they haven’t done so yet, they should make that switch right now.

Darrell Davis has reported on the Riders for more than 20 years and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2006.