After two wins and a week off, Rider Nation is feeling pretty good heading into this week’s game in the Nation’s Capital.
Thanks to those back-to-back wins over Edmonton and Hamilton, the Riders need just one more win in their last five games to improve upon their 3-15 season last year. Considering this team is currently building toward 2017 and beyond, having a better record than a year ago will be considered a victory of sorts.
With that in mind, here’s six things to watch from a Riders perspective as they take on the Redblacks:
The Riders may have been off last week, but head coach and general manager Chris Jones was busy adding a lot of depth and experience to his roster. First it was defensive end Willie Jefferson who signed, then receiver Jeff Fuller was added and at the start of this week, the team inked Canadian linebacker Henoc Muamba. All three are expected to make their debut in Green and White on Friday night with Jefferson and Fuller listed as starters. Muamba is listed third at the WILL linebacker spot. It will be interesting to see how quickly all three adjust to their new system and surroundings. Fuller may be the most interesting to watch as he’s only signed through the rest of this season and will be looking to impress to earn another deal in either CFL or the NFL.
Jeff Knox Jr.
The Riders 2015 nominee for most player awards might once again be fighting for his spot in the starting line up. Knox was injured during camp and didn’t get back into a regular starting role until Sam Eguavoen was injured himself. Muamba is listed at WILL this week and because of his passport and skill you would have to imagine he’ll find a spot in the starting line up eventually. Knox is like that guy, though Greg Jones could be the odd man out too.
The Riders defence has been making strides the last month or so, just how good they are will be put to the test against Trevor Harris and company. When these teams met earlier this season, Harris had to leave because of injury, probably a big reason why the Riders picked up their first win of the season. After a bit of a rough patch, the Redblacks offence seems to be coming around again. Harris threw for 485 yards last week. The Redblacks appear poised to have four 1,000 yard receivers once again this year.
In order to give the defence a chance, the Riders will need to continue to get some help on special teams. The good news for them is punter Josh Bartel actually leads the CFL in pinning the opposition below their 10-yard-line having done it 10 times in total and nine times in the last five weeks.
The Riders have yet to win a game on the road this season with all three wins coming at Mosaic Stadium. Since the start of 2015, the Riders have just one win on the road, beating the Montreal Alouettes in the final game of the regular season last year. Winning a game on the road could be a big boost for a rebuilding team. Strangely enough, since 2011, the Riders are 3-6 after a bye week.
Penalties have been an issue for both teams at times. For the Riders, it’s seemingly been the difference between winning and losing. In the team’s three wins, they’ve averaged just over seven penalties per game, in their losses that number jumps to just over 10. Keeping the flag in the refs pockets will be important.