For the first time this year and last time ever, the Edmonton Eskimos will roll into Mosaic Stadium on Sunday afternoon to take on the 1-10 Saskatchewan Roughriders.
On the surface, there’s some reason to be optimistic if you’re a a Rider fan for this one, as the Green and White put a scare into the Eskimos during their previous two meetings this year at Commonwealth Stadium. However, we all know nothing comes easy for the home team this year.
With that in mind, here’s six things to watch during the game from a Riders perspective.
Anyone but him
The Riders received some devastating news on the injury front this week as leading receiver and leading most outstanding player team nominee Naaman Roosevelt has been placed on the six-game injured list. Last week in the Banjo Bowl, Roosevelt seemed to suffer a knee injury making a circus catch along the sidelines. Roosevelt has been a rare brightspot on this year’s team as the Buffalo native had a chance at not only leading the league in yards but could have set a team record in the process. The only hope now is that Roosevelt is only on the six game as a precaution and he returns sooner. Roosevelt’s absence will have a big effect on the offence, which is coming off a week where they went two-and-out a season-high nine times.
In some circles, Roosevelt has been labelled “the president” due to his common last name with former American president Teddy Roosevelt. All season, the Riders have been trying to figure out who Roosevelt’s “vice-president” is. Ricky Collins Jr. has been that guy at times, but he’s also on the six-game injured list now. Caleb Holley has shown some signs of being a good receiver in the league. However, there’s no time like the present for someone like Nic Demski to finally step up and have a big game.
The good and really bad
There might finally be some more help coming for a beat up offensive line, the problem is it’s not the guys the team really needs. Jarriel King will finally make his season debut after missing the entire season to date due to injury. Much of the Riders struggles offensively could be attributed to their banged up hogs. Ready for the bad news? Chris Jones announced this week that key Canadians Brendon LaBatte and Chris Best are “likely” done for the year, ouch.
Man of Steele
Will the Riders finally run the ball more than they have this year? Probably not. It just doesn’t seem to be in their DNA but at least they have another healthy body back with running back Curtis Steele returning to the lineup. Steele’s return moves Kendial Lawerence back to a receiver role and allows him to concentrate on the return game should he get some reps there. Demski and Joe Craig are listed as the team’s return men. Overall, Rider running backs have averaged just 28.6 yards per game.
Make the stop
Last time these teams met a few weeks ago, Eskimos running back Shakir Bell gashed the Riders to the tune of 138 yards rushing. Bell is expected to get the start again for the Green and Gold. The defensive line and linebackers will have to do a better job this time around for the Riders to have a shot.
Darian Durant and Mike Reilly are on streaks of sorts heading into this game. The Riders have lost 10 straight games when Durant has started while Reilly has won six straight games as the starting quarterback against the Riders. We’re in that “somethings got to give” territory, especially for Durant and the Riders who you would have to think should win another game at some point. Will this be the week?