Six things to watch for as the Riders host the Argos

Thanks to an opening week bye, the Riders will finally begin their season Thursday night at Mosaic Stadium as they host the Toronto Argonauts.

Even since the last time the Riders took to the field in Edmonton a whole lot has changed with a number of new faces added to the roster after the final pre-season game and round of cuts. How everyone comes together could be the difference between winning and losing for the Green and White in their final home opener at the current Mosaic Stadium.

A full depth chart can be found below.

Here’s six things to keep an eye on during the game:

  1. Darian Durant: It’s been just over one calendar year since Durant tore his Achilles tendon ending his 2015 season and bringing the Riders down with him. Thursday’s game will mark the first time Durant has played a team not named the Winnipeg Blue Bombers since the week before Labour Day in 2014. Durant wasn’t quite up to his usual standard during his half of football in the pre-season against the Eskimos. We’ll see if a little more time to go over the playbook and one week of practice will help Durant get used to his new system.
  2. Naaman Roosevelt, Rob Bagg, et al: The last time Durant started in the regular season, he had a very different group of receivers. Bagg is the only one left with any kind of long-term history with Durant. How fast Durant and the receivers get on the same page will be worth watching. It will also be interesting to see who Durant leans on early or if he manages to spread the ball around.
  3. Andrew Jones: The season isn’t even underway and Chris Jones has been forced to shuffle the offensive line. Veteran Chris Best has been placed on the six-game injured list. Jones gets the chance to start for Best this week. This is not the kind of start the Riders can afford up front as depth is extremely thin. Former defensive lineman Hasan Hazime is the only backup on the game day roster.
  4. The secondary: The last line of defence has been the biggest question mark for the Riders since last season ended. Not a single member of last years secondary is back and Jones is still trying to figure out who plays and where. This group will have to figure it out for the defence to take a big step forward. The defensive line should give them some help by getting to the quarterback more than previous group did.
  5. Curtis Steele: The Franklin, Tennessee native was handed the starters job during training camp even though he didn’t play in the first game and didn’t do too much in the second pre-season game. Steele was chosen because he’s familiar with the system. We’ll see if he can make any progress this week.
  6. The Stadium: Whether you’re on the couch or in the stands, this game is one to remember. Every game this year will be the last for something at Mosaic Stadium. This is the last ever home opener at 1910 Piffles Taylor Way meaning Rider Nation should be extra fired up.

week 1

Joel Gasson is a Regina-based sports writer, broadcaster and football fanatic. He is also a beer aficionado.