The Riders hit the mid-point of the 2016 on Friday night against the Edmonton Eskimos. It’s a half that the Riders certainly would like to put behind them ahead of the annual Labour Day Classic and Banjo Bowl against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
If, and it’s a big if, the Riders are going to have any shot of making the playoffs this year or at least making the rest of the regular season interesting likely need to win their next three games against the team’s they’re currently chasing in the standings.
With that in mind, here’s six things to watch from a Rider perspective as they take on the Eskimos at Commonwealth:
Change is the name of the game
Another week filled with change for the Green and White. Receiver John Chiles has been released after not living up to his potential. This doesn’t mean Chiles career is over as he certainly isn’t the first player to return to the CFL from the NFL and struggle. He might just need a fresh start somewhere else. The Kevin Francis experiment appears to be over, he’s listed as a backup WILL linebacker behind Jeff Knox Jr., Shane Herbert will get the start at safety. After last week, the Riders have used 77 different players so far, the team record for players used in a season was set last year with 84, the league record is 88. This group may shatter both of those records this year.
Where’s the O?
Coming into this season, the general expectation was the offence was going to be, at the very least, decent. That hasn’t been the case at all. Right now, the Riders haven’t scored a touchdown in 90 minutes and they have just two touchdown in their last three games. A big reason for this has been the beat up offensive line, the good news is left tackle Xavier Fulton is back. Josiah St. John has been relegated to backup with Matt Vonk shifting over to left guard.
The only positive on offence has been the play of receiver Naaman Roosevelt. He’s currently on pace for 1,581 yards, which would be the most by a Rider receiver since Joey Walters’ 1,692 yards in 1982. Only three times has a Rider receiver cracked the 1,500 yard mark in a single season. If no one steps up to support Roosevelt, getting to mark will only become more difficult as defences start to focus solely on the Buffalo product.
The big two
As bad as the Riders offence has been, the defence has been even worse. Things won’t get any easier this week as Chris Jones, the defensive coordinator, needs to find a way to shut down Adarius Bowman and Derrell Walker. Both receivers are on pace for historic seasons and taking on a constantly changing Riders secondary could lead to a big day for both.
Just when it looked like the Riders Canadian content was going to start improving, everything takes a step backward. Rob Bagg is the latest to be out of action, he’s on the one game injured list forcing the underachieving Shamawd Chambers to start. An injury to defensive end A.C. Leonard does give Justin Capiccotti another chance to start.
Tyler Crapigna returned last week after missing two games because of injury and didn’t miss a beat. Crapigna made another two kicks and has made 18 of 20 kicks this year. Given the state of the team right now, Crapigna is probably a top three candidate for the team’s most outstanding player nomination.