Riders head coach and general manager Chris Jones wasted no time spending money on free agents in hopes of building a team that will take a step forward in 2017.
One area Jones has surprisingly made a priority is the receiving corps. Since the market opened on Tuesday at noon eastern, Jones has inked receivers Chad Owens and Bakari Grant. The veterans are added to a group that already includes Naaman Roosevelt, Duron Carter, Caleb Holley, Ricky Collins Jr, Armanti Edwards, (deep breath) Joe Craig, Rob Bagg and Nic Demski, among others. Adding Owens and Grant seems a little bit like overkill, even if Owens is slotted to be a return man for the most part, especially when you consider that they’re American and the Riders could use a little extra depth when it comes to Canadian pass catchers.
The Green and White having an unusually long list of American receivers suggests that Jones could be looking elsewhere when it comes to finding seven starting Canadians on his game day roster.
Right now, the team can roll out three offensive lineman (depending on the status’ of Chris Best and Brendon LaBatte, as Jones did hint at some news when it comes to Best in the coming days and he didn’t proclaim LaBatte 100 per cent ready to go), middle linebacker Henoc Muamba, safety Marc Olivier Brouillette and running back Keinan LaFrance as Canadian content.
Where does the seventh spot come from? If Josiah St. John is ready to step into a starting right tackle role, that would be a game changer for the team as they could go all-American at receiver and the defensive line. If he’s not, then you still have Bagg who can play a majority of snaps or maybe this is the year Demski finally makes his big push. Jones also has the option to start Ivan Brown, Linden Gaydosh or Makana Henry on the defensive line.
The team could also opt to start more than seven Canadians, which gives you a lot more flexibility when a Canadian gets injured in-game. All of these guys can also shift the ratio around should LaFrance not build off his breakout East Final performance.
When Jones took over the team a couple of years ago, rebuilding the Canadian content was one of the biggest tasks he faced. In that short time, Jones has done a good job finding starting talent. The team’s flexibility, on paper, when it comes to Canadian talent is probably the best it’s been since 2013 (not saying it’s as good as that year). Now, Jones needs to use the draft to build up the depth behind the starters so they have the ability to withstand injuries.
Having to start just one or maybe even no Canadian receivers is a luxury, one that could greatly benefit the Riders. The only question that remains is, who will be throwing them the ball and will they have time to do it? If those questions aren’t answered properly, then Jerry Rice in his prime couldn’t help this team win.