The most wonderful time of the year is nearly here with training camps set to open across the Canadian Football League.
Once again this year, the Riders will pack up their gear and head north for training camp in Saskatoon.
As the Green and White take to the field for the first time, all eyes will be on the quarterbacks as the post-Durant era begins. For the first time in basically a decade the team is looking for a new starting quarterback after Darian Durant was dealt to Montreal. At this point, we all know that Kevin Glenn, Vince Young, Brandon Bridge, Bryan Bennett and Maty Mauk are the men currently vying to become the team’s top pivot. The veteran Glenn is considered the favourite, Young is the new big name who has a lot to learn, Bridge is the young guy looking to take a step forward in his career, Bennett and Mauk are the relative unknowns. What happens here very well could determine if the Riders have a shot at ending their two season playoff drought or not.
Quarterback will be the most talked about position this June in Saskatchewan, but there’s other jobs that are open as well and finding the right guy for those jobs will be important as well.
After settling on a group he liked, Jones is once again looking at a new look secondary this season. Ed Gainey, arguably the team’s best defender last season, and Kacy Rodgers are the only starters remaining after Otha Foster signed in the NFL, Justin Cox was released after domestic abuse charges, Matt Webster signed in Toronto and Graig Newman retired.
The Riders thought they upgraded at safety when they signed Canadian Marc-Olivier Brouillette over the winter. The former Montreal Alouette has since decided to retire. The recently acquired Mike Edem is now the favourite to start but the position is suddenly an open competition. The team is also looking to find a new starting SAM linebacker and fill in holes at halfback and corner.
The tradition continues. Once again this year the Riders are looking for a starting running back, something that’s happened every year since Kory Sheets signed with the Oakland Raiders in 2014, blew his Achilles and never played again. Based on last season, whoever wins this job likely won’t rack up the yards but will be called upon to block a lot and contribute to the offence in other ways. Jones could go Canadian here with Kienan LaFrance and Greg Morris. Cameron Marshall, Quincy Walden and Daniel Thomas represent the American hopefuls. With starting Canadian depth improved, we could see a mix of Canadian and American running backs on the depth chart.
Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? The Riders are about to find out. At the end of last season, the Riders already boasted a good selection of American receivers with Naaman Roosevelt, Ricky Collins Jr, Caleb Holley and Joe Craig. So what did the team do this offseason? Well, they went ahead and added Duron Carter, Chad Owens, and Bakari Grant. Owens is expected to factor more in more as a returner but could play a role in the offence as well if the team sees fit. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a big name released at the end of training camp as making all of these guys fit could be a challenge.
The team used this position of strength to get Peter Dyakowski out of Toronto by trading Armanti Edwards. A move that also helped free up some space for Americans already on the roster.
Right now, it looks like the Riders could go with four starting American receivers. Rob Bagg could be the lone Canadian but that will be entirely up to Nic Demski. Can the Winnipeg native take that next step this year? If he can, the Riders Canadian situation will only get better.
There may or may not be something here or there may not be. Before this week, the Riders had a big hole along the offensive line following the retirement of Chris Best. Dyakowski played left guard for Hamilton, but that spot is of course held down by Brandon LaBatte. Every indication so far has suggested that LaBatte will be good to go in 2017 after missing much of 2016 due to injury. So, odds are that Dyakowski will have to move to the right side. He’s clearly the favourite ahead of the likes of Josiah St. John and Jerriel King. The vet will set the standard and it will be up to someone else to be better in order to get the job.