What a difference a week makes. Last week, the Riders were the talk of the CFL heading into their game against the Calgary Stampeders because of some off-field shenanigans.
This week, their game against the Hamilton Ti-Cats has basically been the exact opposite with not much of significance said (other than one thing, but more on that in a bit). The most hype this game got was actually created by the Riders marketing department when they paid for a billboard in Hamilton. It’s not even really that exciting anymore as the Riders do it every where, every year now and frankly the billboards aren’t as creative or as fun as they used to be. Then again, when you’re 1-6 it’s pretty hard to justify putting up a billboard mocking your opponent.
Here’s six things to watch from a Riders perspective for the game:
John Chick Speaks Out
While it was a pretty quiet week in both Riderville and Tiger Town, the former Rider turned Ti-Cat defensive end did create a little buzz late in the week. Chick still isn’t happy with the way things ended in Saskatchewan, most notably the way he was released. Chick is always ready to play but Chick with a little extra motivation might be downright scary, especially when you consider the state of the Riders offensive line. As upset as Chick is at this point, the way things are going, maybe he should be thanking Jones for letting him escape.
Offensive would be a good way to describe the Riders offence lately, it’s been hard to watch. The Riders snapped an 80-plus minute stretch without a touchdown just before half-time last week and then they didn’t find the end zone again. After a solid opening three weeks, the offence has gone quiet with or without Darian Durant since. Naaman Roosevelt remains a rare bright spot but it’s time for the unit to pick it up as the defence and special teams aren’t able to carry this team.
Rhe offensive line gets a bit of a boost this week with the return of Canadian Matt Vonk. Vonk has missed the entire season to date because of injury and will make his first start against the Ti-Cats. There’s been a growing confidence in Vonk in the organization over the last year and a bit, now he’ll get his chance. The Riders still need to get Brendon LaBatte, Chris Best and Xavier Fulton back to breath easier, though. Vonk’s return also badly helps the team’s Canadian depth.
Changes at Receiver
Nic Demski is back after missing some time because of injuries demoting Shamawd Chambers to his backup. Caleb Holley will also make his CFL debut starting at wide-out, Holley has been out of football since 2014 when he was signed by the Buffalo Bills.
Another week, more changes in the Riders secondary. Kacy Rodgers makes his CFL debut on the corner after spending last season on the Eskimos practice roster. Justin Cox moves from corner to halfback with Otha Foster moving back to his more comfortable spot of SAM linebacker. Former University of Regina Ram Tevaughn Campbell gets the start at corner and Buddy Jackson is out. More changes could mean a field day for Zach Collaros in his second game this season.
New Return Man
The Riders have struggled in the return game this season. The players upfront haven’t helped but Kendail Lawrence wasn’t getting the job done. Joe Craig, who was signed just this week, will make his CFL debut. Americans making their first appearances as returners can sometimes be an adventure without the fair catch rule and allowing rouges to get better field position.