Six things to watch as the Riders face the Argos

Officially, the Saskatchewan Roughriders chances at the playoffs are done. That doesn’t mean there isn’t anything for the Green and White to play for down the stretch.

Over the course of their next four games, players will be playing for jobs on a team that might finally be heading in the direction after basically two calendar years in the wilderness. The first of such games goes on Saturday afternoon as the Riders tangle with the Toronto Argonauts at BMO Field.

With that in mind, here’s six things to watch from a Riders perspective:

Darian Durant

It’s a fairly quiet conversation at this point, but eventually there will be calls for Durant to sit at times. It is important for the Riders to get another look at Mitchell Gale and Brandon Bridge now that they’ve had more time to learn the playbook and the system.

At the same time, as the Riders to properly gauge young players on offence, it’s important to have the best option at quarterback in the game.

Durant is just 28 yards short of 28,000 for his career. Odds are he’ll surpass the 30,000 passing yard mark next season.

Durant is also motivated as he continues to play for a contract for next season.

Oline shuffle

On Monday, the Riders swung a deal with Hamilton that saw veteran left tackle Xavier Fulton head east. Jarriel King will slide out to right tackle tackle from guard. It will be interesting to see how King handles the move, the offence and team overall has improved since King’s presence stabilized the offensive line upon his return from injury earlier this year. Kennedy Estelle replaces King at right guard. Thaddeus Coleman will have the job of protecting Durant’s back at left tackle. Neither player acquired in the trade will suit up for the Riders this week.

Ricky Collins Jr. 

During the pre-season, Collins appeared to be a young receiver this team could build into something more. While he’s had his moments, Collins hasn’t been the consistent threat that he could be. Now that the team has added a plethora of American receivers of late, along with the rise of guys like Caleb Holley and Armanti Edwards (who is now injured), the returning receiver will have to perform to secure his spot in camp next season.

Another running back

Chris Jones has again been forced to make a change at running back. Curtis Steele has been placed on the six-game injured list. Former Eskimos Joe McKnight will start in his place. So far this year, the Riders have struggled without Steele in the line-up. The team’s record without number two is 0-7, compared to 4-3 with him on the field.

 

Starting strong

For much of the season, the Riders have struggled out of the gate. Like most things about this team, that trend seems to be going in the other direction. Over their first 10 games, the Riders sported a minus-74 point differential, over their last four games, the Green and White have outscored their opponents by 16 points. Another good start will be key to keep the struggling Argos from gaining confidence.

Ball security has played a big part in this turnaround. Over the team’s first 11 games, the Riders turned the ball over 30 times and were a minus-18 in differential. Since then, the Riders are a plus-5 with just three turnovers.

 

Where’s the D?

If you’re asking what’s there to watch on D? Well frankly, not a whole lot has changed there of late. Jones has settled on a group and it’s definitely working. Over the last few weeks, the defence has done it’s fair share at keeping the Riders in games at times when the offence was struggling. No opponent has held more than an eight point lead against Saskatchewan over their last four games. If Willie Jefferson can continue to wreak havoc along the defensive line, it will only make an improving defence better.

The defence has helped keep game close, which is good, since the Riders four wins have all come by four points or less.

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