Ratio round-up: Riders, Bombers, Argos

The Ratio Round-Up is a three-part series looking at the way in which each of the CFL’s nine teams will approach the ratio in 2017. For part one of the series, click here.

Saskatchewan Roughriders

The Riders featured a revolving door of national starters last year, a key factor in a disappointing 5-13 season. Five different Canadian players started at safety (Kevin Francis, Jeff Hecht, Matt Webster, Shane Herbert, and Andrew Lue), four started along the defensive line (Justin Capicciotti, Ese Mrabure-Ajufo, Gregory Alexandre, Makana Henry), and five started along the offensive line (Brendon LaBatte, Dan Clark, Josiah St. John, Andrew Jones, and Matt Vonk).

2016 Ratio Structure

Position Starter Primary Back-Up
Wide Receiver Nic Demski Shamawd Chambers
Slotback Rob Bagg Shamawd Chambers
Left Guard Brendon LaBatte Josiah St. John
Centre Dan Clark Andrew Jones
Defensive Tackle Ese Mrabure-Ajufo Gregory Alexandre
Defensive End Justin Capicciotti Ivan Brown
Safety Kevin Francis Jeff Hecht

 

Saskatchewan has since made a number of changes to its Canadian content and appears to be much better-prepared for the ratio in 2017.

2017 Ratio Projection

Position Starter Prospective Back-Up(s)
Running Back Kienan LaFrance Greg Morris, Aaron Milton
Slotback Rob Bagg Nic Demski, Joshua Stanford, Mitchell Baines
Left Guard Brendon LaBatte Josiah St. John, Ryan White
Centre Dan Clark Dillon Guy, Matt Vonk
Defensive Tackle Eddie Steele Linden Gaydosh, Makana Henry
Linebacker Henoc Muamba Dillon Grondin, Marvin Golding
Safety Marc-Olivier Broulliette Graig Newman, Tevaughn Campbell, Kevin Francis, Kelvin Muamba, Jeff Hecht

 

Free agent signees Kienan LaFrance and Aaron Milton have joined Greg Morris to turn the Riders’ running back position into a national one. This will allow Saskatchewan to start just one Canadian receiver this season, freeing up a starting spot for an excellent stable of American pass catchers that includes Naaman Roosevelt, Duron Carter, Caleb Holley, Bakari Grant, Ricky Collins Jr., and Chad Owens.

Bringing Marc-Olivier Broulliette over from Montreal stabilizes the safety position, while the signing of Eddie Steele gives the green and white a legitimate starting Canadian nose tackle. Henoc Muamba, added late last season, should become the club’s third national starter on defence. This means that Saskatchewan will only have to start two Canadian offensive linemen in 2017, maximizing their protection for aging starting pivot Kevin Glenn (if, of course, Glenn turns out to be the starter). The Riders have some good prospects along the offensive line including Vonk, St. John, and Guy, but there’s no sense in throwing them into starting roles earlier than necessary.

The flaw with Saskatchewan’s Canadian content is depth, a short-coming that will take years to remedy. LaFrance and Morris are unproven as starters, while Muamba and Broulliette — both of whom have a history of concussions — are without proven back-ups.

A good draft (the Riders hold the second and eleventh selections this year) and some good luck with injuries will go a long way to determining the Riders’ success in 2017.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Bombers’ Canadian depth has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years, stabilizing early last season with the emergence of Taylor Loffler at safety.

2016 Ratio Structure

Position Starter Primary Back-Up
Running Back Andrew Harris Pascal Lochard
Wide Receiver Rory Kohlert Julian Feoli-Gudino
Centre Matthias Goossen Michael Couture
Right Guard Sukh Chungh Patrick Neufeld
Defensive Tackle Keith Shologan Jake Thomas
Defensive End Jamaal Westerman Trent Corney
Safety Taylor Loffler Teague Sherman

Winnipeg will look to continue starting their seven nationals in the same positions in 2017, albeit with a slight change in personnel.

2017 Ratio Projection

Position Starter Prospective Back-Up(s)
Running Back Andrew Harris Christophe Normand
Wide Receiver Julian Feoli-Gudino Addison Richards, Matt Coates
Centre Matthias Goossen Michael Couture
Right Guard Sukh Chungh Patrick Neufeld, Zachary Intzandt
Defensive Tackle Jake Thomas Brandon Tennant, Rupert Butcher
Defensive End Jamaal Westerman Trent Corney
Safety Taylor Loffler Derek Jones, Brendan Morgan, Garrett Waggoner, Justin Warden

 

Winnipeg has the talent to start three national offensive linemen, but taking Stanley Bryant, Travis Bond or Jermarcus Hardrick off the field would be tough after the trio had such a strong 2016 campaign. The one thing that could trigger a change along the offensive line would be a long-term injury to Andrew Harris, who, heading into his second year with the Bombers, is without an established national back-up. If Harris misses time, expect veteran Patrick Neufeld to take over from Hardrick at right tackle to maintain the club’s ratio.

The biggest weakness in the Bombers’ Canadian content remains at receiver. Rory Kohlert was allowed to depart in free agency, opening the door for Julian Feoli-Gudino to become a full-time starter in 2017. This season will also be a make-or-break year for 2015 second round pick Addison Richards who has recorded just one reception in seventeen career games. Matt Coates, signed away from Hamilton in February, will have a chance to compete for the starting spot as well.

Winnipeg holds the first and sixth overall picks in May 7’s CFL draft, meaning their national depth will receive another boost prior to the regular season. Look for the Bombers to address the offensive line and defensive tackle positions with those picks, further enhancing their depth for the season ahead.

Toronto Argonauts

The Argos’ roster may have been a mess last season, but the club’s Canadian content is nothing to shake a stick at.

2016 Ratio Structure

Position Starter Primary Back-Up
Slotback Anthony Coombs Andre Durie
Left Guard Tyler Holmes Wayne Smith
Centre Sean McEwen Wayne Smith
Right Guard Corey Watman D.J. Sackey
Right Tackle Chris Van Zeyl D.J. Sackey
Weak-Side Linebacker Cory Greenwood Thomas Miles
Safety Matt Black Jermaine Gabriel

 

Holmes and Van Zeyl are excellent Canadian hogs, while McEwen is an all-star in the making. The depth behind them is solid as well, with 2016 second and third round picks D.J. Sackey and Jamal Campbell waiting in the wings. Black and Gabriel are a formidable duo at safety, while Coombs, Brian Jones, and Llevi Noel (more on this group in a second) is a solid trio of young Canadian pass catchers.

The Argos will no longer be starting a Canadian in their linebacking corps following the departure of Cory Greenwood in free agency and the release of Thomas Miles. Instead, the club will likely turn to the receiving corps to meet the league’s minimum of seven Canadian starters in 2017.

2017 Ratio Projection

Position Starter Prospective Back-Up(s)
Wide Receiver Llevi Noel Malcolm Williams
Slotback Brian Jones Anthony Coombs, Ryan Nieuwesteeg
Left Guard Tyler Holmes D.J. Sackey, Chris Kolankowski
Centre Sean McEwen Corey Watman, Wayne Smith
Right Guard Peter Dyakowski J’Michael Deane
Right Tackle Chris Van Zeyl Jamal Campbell
Safety Jermaine Gabriel Matt Black, Matt Webster

 

The concern with starting two national receivers is Toronto’s lack of depth. Expect defensive tackle Daryl Waud or defensive end Ricky Foley to start in the event that the Argos lose a Canadian pass catcher to injury.

The Argonauts are without a first round draft pick this year, a major disadvantage for general manager Jim Popp as he works to rebuild his club’s roster. Toronto already has a large percentage of its cap dedicated to Canadian offensive linemen, but it’s not impossible to imagine Popp bringing in Jeff Perrett or Josh Bourke — both of whom are free agents who once played under Marc Trestman in Montreal — to start at left tackle. This would allow the Argos to start five Canadian offensive linemen, alleviating the pressure on its Canadian content elsewhere on the roster.

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