Six things to watch as the Riders host Ottawa

The winless Roughriders will try once again this week to pick up their first win of the 2016 season on Friday night as they host the Ottawa Redblacks.

The way Ottawa has been playing, it would have been difficult for the Riders to begin with. Now, with Darian Durant out of the line up, it might be an insurmountable task for the home team.

It appears, CFL fans don’t have much faith in the Riders given Durant’s injury and the play of the Redblacks. It’s hard to argue against them too.

With that in mind, here’s six things to watch at Mosaic Stadium:

Mitchell Gale

Have the Riders finally found their backup quarterback? Who knows at this point. Since the mid-way mark of the 2014 season when Durant suffered an elbow injury it’s been a revolving door of quarterbacks in Saskatchewan. Gale joins Brett Smith, Keith Price, Tino Sunseri, and Seth Doege to start for Saskatchewan in the last year and a half. Gale showed some signs coming off the bench last week. However, Sunseri always seemed to look good off the bench but struggled for the most part as a starter.

Josiah St. John

If an injury to Durant wasn’t enough, the Riders offensive line depth is being tested this week. Chris Best still isn’t healthy enough to play and now Brendon LaBatte is out with a suspected concussion. This means that St. John will make his first career CFL start ahead of schedule. If things don’t go well up front, it might not matter who is behind centre. Aaron Picton, who recently re-signed with the team, is the lone backup.

Run Game

If the offensive line is up for it, this game might be the time to try and get the run game going. Curtis Steele and company were pretty quiet last week against the Lions. With a young quarterback making his first career start, he could use the support. Running the ball more could allow the Riders to grind the clock a little more in an attempt to keep that Redblacks offence off the field.

Defence

Every week, the Riders defence has been giving up an escalating number of points. Last week, they gave up 40 for the first time this season. With the hottest offence in the league coming to town, a new defence is going to face it’s stiffest test yet. On the injury front, defensive back Justin Cox, who left last week’s game with an injury, will play. He’s been a highlight so far this year.

Get Some Pressure

It’s now or never for the defensive line, especially the defensive ends, to make some noise. Johnathan Newsome and Justin Capicciotti have yet to register a sack this season. They’re not getting much support at this point from the interior of the line but that was an issue last year as well and John Chick and Alex Hall still managed to get home from time-to-time. These guys are paid to take down the quarterback and it has to start this week.

Roosevelt vs Collins Jr.

The aerial attack has been highlighted by two receivers for the Riders thus far. Naaman Roosevelt and Ricky Collins Jr. have taken turns being the top receiver each week, leading to them being voted as the player of the game by the fans. Will the two man race continue this week, will someone else step up or without Durant will the numbers fall flat?




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