Six things to watch as the Riders host B.C.

Even though they’ve yet to win a game this season, the Saskatchewan Roughriders have been showing signs of growth through two games. Eliminate a couple of mistakes and coaching decisions and the Green and White could be sitting at 2-0 instead of 0-2.

While there’s plenty of positive signs, none of that matters if the team doesn’t start to find ways to win games. Last season, the Riders were also in all of their games early and were allegedly the best winless team anyone had ever seen through the first part of the season. We all know how that ended up, eventually, you are what your record says you are.

With that in mind, here’s six things to watch as the Riders host the B.C. Lions on Saturday at Mosaic Stadium:

Short Yardage:

The Riders inability to move the ball one yard when they have to has been the talk of Riderville this week. Darian Durant said short yardage was an easy fix, we’ll see if he’s right or not. It certainly hasn’t been an easy go for the team through two games. Arguably, two short yardage blunders cost the team wins. Don’t expect the play calling to change too much, Chris Jones suggested their philosophy hasn’t changed. So, expect to see more quarterbacks trying to pick up a yard.

Who’s next?

It’s been a strong return for Darian Durant after missing the last season and a half due to a pair of season ending injuries. Without a couple of his favourite targets in Weston Dressler and Chris Getzlaf, Durant has been open to spreading the ball around this season. In the team’s first game, Naaman Roosevelt was the top target, last week it was Ricky Collins Jr.’s turn. You have to think it might be Rob Bagg or John Chiles who has a big game this week.

Defensive Philosophy:

As much as we’ve talked about the Riders struggles in short yardage, in my opinion, it was actually the defence that let down the team last week against the Eskimos. Even though Jones made all of the right calls on offence late in the game, he inexplicably rolled out a super passive defence with 13 seconds left allowing the Eskimos to get into field goal range and force overtime. Historically, Jones’ defence’s have got to the quarterback. Jones lamented the defensive calls after the game, we’ll see if he increases the pressure this week.

Up the Middle:

Along the lines of the overall defensive philosophy is the defensive line. Last week, Jones used a three-man front quite often and wasn’t getting the push from the middle needed to allow others to get to the quarterback. It’s been a problem in Saskatchewan dating back to last season. We’ll see if newly acquired Cedric McKinley can help. With Johnathon Jennings struggling so far this season, it would be smart to up the pressure on the young pivot.

The Offensive Line:

As Ive said before, this could and likely will be here every week until the depth improves. Dan Clark missed some practice time this week and won’t play and Chris Best is still on the injured list. The good news is, the unit has been pretty good in protection so far.

Rider Nation:

The season opener a couple of weeks ago failed to produce a crowd of 30,000, which is usually the standard minimum in Saskatchewan. Yes, it was a Thursday, but the next day was a holiday. This week, the Riders announced a two hour ticket sale out of no where. That’s not usually a good sign. A game during the Craven Country Jamboree has always been a tough sell.

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