Six things to watch as the Riders take on Montreal

The Riders have a chance to do something they haven’t since the Labour Day/Banjo Bowl weekends in 2014 and win two games in a row as they travel to Montreal to take on the Alouettes.

The good news for the Green and White is they managed to win both games against the Alouettes last season including a season-ending win at McGill Stadium, their first in Quebec in quite some time. The bad news? They got into this game again without Darian Durant and an injured list that’s seemingly as long as the game day roster.

With that in mind, here’s six things to watch on Friday night:

Who’s that up front?

One thing the Montreal Alouettes are known for is their ferocious front seven. For a number of years now their defensive line and linebackers have made life miserable for opposing offences. This week,  they get to face an offensive line that is seriously beat up. Chris Best, Brendon LaBatte, Dan Clark and Xavier Fulton are all on the six-game injured list with various injuries. Offensive line depth was a concern coming into the season but even teams with solid depth would have a hard time moving forward with four starters on the injured list. How this new group works together will make or break this game.

Who’s that running the ball?

If the Riders actually run the football with any regularity aside, a change has been made at running back. Curtis Steele, who has rushed for just 133 yards this season, is one of many players who are currently among the walking wounded. Michael Dyer will make his CFL debut in place of Steele against Montreal. We’ll see what he can do, should Steve McAdoo actually decide to hand off the ball.

Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Mitchell Gale (#8) hands off to Saskatchewan Roughriders running back Curtis Steele (#2) against the B.C. Lions during second half CFL action in Regina on Saturday, July 16th, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rick Elvin
Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Mitchell Gale (#8) hands off to Saskatchewan Roughriders running back Curtis Steele (#2) against the B.C. Lions during second half CFL action in Regina on Saturday, July 16th, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rick Elvin

Gale round two:

Quarterback Mitchell Gale made a good impression in his first career start last week against the Ottawa Redblacks. Now that he’s started and there’s a little more film on him, we’ll see how he reacts to a team being better prepared. Heading out on the road will also be a good test for Gale. There’s a chance Durant could be back next week against Calgary, so it’s important for Gale to leave a lasting impression.

Naaman watch:

Another ho-hum 182 yards for breakout receiver Naaman Roosevelt last week against Ottawa. Roosevelt has been stellar in every game this season. Roosevelt is currently fourth in the league in receiving yards, 93 yards behind Ottawa’s Chris Williams. Roosevelt needs just 23 yards to crack 500 for the season in just five games.

Return game:

It’s safe to say that the Riders return game hasn’t been a highlight so far this season. The allegedly explosive Kendial Lawrence hasn’t had much room to operate through four games. The one time he did manage to break free, the return was wiped out by a needless penalty. Whether the issue is Lawrence, the blockers, the scheme or a combination of all three isn’t known. However, if Lawrence doesn’t make something happen soon, it might be time to give someone else a try.

Saskatchewan Roughriders kicker Tyler Crapigna kicks a field goal during first half CFL action against the Ottawa Redblacks in Regina on Friday, July 22, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor
Saskatchewan Roughriders kicker Tyler Crapigna kicks a field goal during first half CFL action against the Ottawa Redblacks in Regina on Friday, July 22, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor

Kicking for keeps:

It’s been a solid start to the season for both place kicker Tyler Crapigna, who has missed just two field goal attempts, and punter Josh Bartel. Bartel looks like a much different punter than we saw last time he was in Saskatchewan in 2014. Special teams coordinator Craig Dickenson has made him more of a traditional punter rather than a rugby style kicker. He’s averaging 46.4 yards per punt. Offence could be at a premium in this game so both kickers could play an important role.

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