The new era of Saskatchewan Roughriders football is about to begin.
For the first time since the end of the 2015 season the Green and White will take to the turf at Mosaic Stadium for their preseason opener against the B.C. Lions. The first pre-season game of the season is always an exciting time, not only because football is back, but there’s also plenty to keep an eye on. This game could be the only chance most of the players on the roster have to show what they can do. A number will be cut by the end of camp, while others may find themselves as special teamers, back ups or practice roster players. The entire depth chart of the game can be found below.
With that in mind, here’s six things to keep an eye on during the game:
- Brett Smith/B.J. Coleman: head coach and general manager Chris Jones decided that Darian Durant won’t play in this game. He also wouldn’t announce who would start on Saturday night. It doesn’t really matter who takes the first snaps but this game could go a long way in determining who will be Durant’s back up this season. If the last few seasons is any indication, whoever it is, will have to be ready to go. CFL teams rarely go through a season with one quarterback now. Phillip Sims may also see some reps.
- Interior defensive line: Both Tearrius George and Rory Connop, last years opening day starters, are gone. George was going to be the veteran along the line before retiring after offseason assault charges. Now, both jobs are wide open. Markus White and Corvey Irvin are listed as starters but there could be a lot of bodies moving in and out there.
- Kevin Francis: The Riders signed Francis during this year’s supplemental draft giving up a third round pick to do so. What’s interesting is Francis is a natural receiver but will be playing safety against the Lions. Francis has bounced around the defence during camp. On the other side, Levi Steinhauer, who is naturally a defensive lineman, will play fullback.
- Running backs: this job is definitely wide open as the games begin. Curtis Steele is the favourite given his experience but with running backs anything can happen. In 2012, Kory Sheets was fourth on the depth chart but we all know how that ended up.
- Naaman Roosevelt: The first exhibition game is often about the new players and guys fighting for a job. However, by all accounts, Roosevelt has been lights out during camp. Now it’s time to see if number 82 can carry it over into a game. There’s no reason to believe he can’t.
- The secondary: last season the secondary was basically a disaster other than Weldon Brown before he got injured. This year’s unit is basically all new. Graig Newman won’t play against the Lions leaving Ed Gainey as the only veteran. Tyree Hollins and Dan West are the only returning players on the roster.