With a 1-9 record, it’s easy to be down on the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Through their first 10 games, the Riders have struggled to string together much from quarter-to-quarter, let alone game-to-game. It wasn’t too long ago, I wrote that the Riders, coming off a 3-15 season, were still a broken team. That game in Hamilton might have been rock bottom for the Green and White. Since then, there’s been signs of improvement.
We’ll start on offence, last week against the Bombers, the Riders scored their first passing touchdown in four games. Overall, finding the end zone has been an issue. Those struggles were most obvious when the Riders went nearly 130 minutes without scoring a major starting against Calgary, ending two weeks later in Edmonton.
Over the last couple of weeks, Darian Durant has seen his numbers increase thanks to an increasing confidence in a couple of young receivers who have potential to create a pretty good trio in the league. Naaman Roosevelt has been and will continue to be the backbone but he might actually have some support now in Caleb Holley and Ricky Collins Jr.
The ladder isn’t a new name in Rider Nation as the Tyler, Texas native has had his moments. Collins has five games over 50 yards, including one game over 100 yards. Now, he just needs to find that consistency because he’s also had games with five and zero yards respectively. Holley had a mixed start to his career in Riderville. The tall receiver made a few catches over his first games but also had some pretty bad drops. If last week is any indication, Holley could be a weapon for Durant going forward if he’s able to build off the 100-plus-yard effort against Winnipeg.
If the Riders can ever get a healthy offensive line again, things might start to look up even more.
Much as been made of the Riders defence, and rightfully so. For the most part, the unit has been dreadful. That said, things are starting to get marginally better. For the first time in a few years, there appears to be a steady group of linebackers behind the defensive line. Greg Jones hasn’t continued the pace he had earlier in the year but he’s still been effective and Jeff Knox Jr. has adjusted well to returning to the wide side. Samuel Eguavoen was looking like a good find before getting hurt.
Behind them, the secondary has finally stabilized after dealing with changes week after week for much of the season. Justin Cox continues to be the top performer with veterans Fred Bennett and Ed Gainey providing some experience. While some explosive plays are still being given up, including one last week, it’s becoming less of an occurrence over the last two weeks.
None of this means the Riders are going to go rip it up in their final eight games to make the playoffs. There’s still plenty of holes: Canadian depth is lacking, the run game is non-existent and the defensive line hasn’t done much. However, you have to start somewhere and maybe the Riders have found a few pieces that are worth keeping around. We’ll learn more this week as the group travels to a hostile Investors Group Field to take on the Blue Bombers in the Banjo Bowl.
If things continue to improve, there might be more than just a new stadium to look forward to.