With the Saskatchewan Roughriders set to play their first game of the CFL regular season on Thursday, here are my six predictions for the Riders in 2016:
- The Riders will not make the playoffs: You’re probably thinking, yeah real bold Joel, picking the last place team to not make the playoffs. Well, you might remember a couple of weeks ago when I wrote a story about last place teams. 52 per cent of the time, since 1996, the last place team in the West has made the playoffs the following year. So, the odds are slightly in their favour there. Chris Jones also hasn’t missed the playoffs as a coach in the CFL. That’s another reason to believe they could make it. However, in my mind, if they’re going to get there, they’re going to have to get incredibly lucky when it comes to injuries. Their starting 24 players are good enough to get them into the dance but we all know injuries are going to happen. I just don’t think the depth is there to overcome the eventual losses. Jones took a bad Edmonton team to the playoffs in their first year, this Riders team was further away then that Eskimos team was. A competitive league will also make it tough for the green and white. Riders will finish around 6-12.
- Darian Durant will play most of the season: After missing the last season and half, Durant will play at least 15 games this season. That should be another reason the team will make the playoff this season. I think Durant will have a pretty good season, but Chris Jones even said it himself, Durant is still adjusting to Steve McAdoo’s offence much like Mike Reilly did in Edmonton. Durant will also need time to get used to new receivers without two of his favourite targets in Weston Dressler and Chris Getzlaf.
- Naaman Roosevelt breaks out: I thought this before training camp began and all indications during camp seem to back this up. Roosevelt should have been a starter since week 1 last season. He’ll get his chance to play an entire year this year and big things are expected. Look for Roosevelt to lead the team in yards and easily crack 1,000 yards. Along these lines, Rob Bagg will also have a career year and surpass 1,000 yards.
- John Chiles struggles: Chiles is a great receiver, that there is no doubt. He proved that in the CFL and by spending some time in the NFL. Chiles may return to that form eventually, but I don’t think it will be this year. Players who return to the CFL from the NFL often struggle during their first season back.
- Otha Foster becomes signing of the offseason: Jones made a lot of flashy signings in the offseason to try and improve his team, especially on defence. Foster was a key part of the Eskimos defence and could have the kind of impact another former Eskimos defensive back did when he joined the Riders in 2013. Weldon Brown proved to be a massive signing for Brendan Taman that year. Foster will have that kind of impact on the defence this season.
- Offensive line shakeup: This is something that might be overdue at this point. The line looked fairly good in their first game but not the second. At least one veteran starter will be replaced because of performance by the end of the season. The group isn’t getting any younger and a changing of the guard, so to speak, could be in order.
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