Victor Butler will have the chance Saturday afternoon to again lock horns with Trent Richardson.
Richardson will make his CFL debut with Saskatchewan (7-6) when it visits the Toronto Argonauts (7-7) at BMO Field. The Roughriders signed Richardson last week but the former Alabama star didn’t play in their 18-17 road win over the Ottawa Redblacks.
The five-foot-nine, 225-pound Richardson ran for 3,130 yards (5.8-yard average) and 35 TDs over three seasons at Alabama, helping the Crimson Tide capture two NCAA titles before going third overall to Cleveland in the ’12 NFL draft. But Richardson couldn’t duplicate his collegiate success, rushing for 2,032 yards and 17 TDs in 46 career games with the Browns and Indianapolis Colts (2012-14).
After being waived by Indianapolis in March 2015, Richardson was subsequently released by Oakland (before ’15 season) and Baltimore (2016). Butler and Richardson squared off in the NFL as members of the Dallas Cowboys and Browns, respectively, before becoming teammates with the Colts.
“The guy is a great back,” Butler said. “When you play against guys like him, the worst thing you can do is one – underestimate him, and two – disrespect him.
“You’ve got to respect his game, the calibre of player he is.”
Saskatchewan has the CFL’s worst rushing attack (907 yards, 69.8 per game). Toronto’s defence is ranked third against the run (86.4 yards per game) despite allowing 189 yards in its 43-35 overtime win over Hamilton on Saturday night.
C.J. Gable, who was dealt to Edmonton on Monday, had 157 yards and two TDs for Hamilton.
“They (Riders) are going to try to run the ball just because of what they saw last week,” said Toronto defensive co-ordinator Corey Chamblin. “We just have to be stouter up front, fill all of our gaps and be able to tackle.
“That’s the big thing because he’s a big back. We have to find a way to tackle him and get him down.”
However, the six-foot-two, 248-pound Butler said there’s more to Richardson’s game than just brute strength.
“The guy can fly,” Butler said. “He’s elusive . . . and can catch the ball out of the backfield.
“When you can put all those things together in one bag: Speed, power, quickness and vision . . . it makes him dangerous.”
Toronto’s defence will be minus standout linebacker Marcus Ball, who suffered a foot injury against Hamilton.
“He’s an experienced, decorated veteran of our league,” Toronto head coach Marc Trestman said of Ball. “He’s a championship player, an emotional leader for us.
“It’s like everything else, we’ve got to fill in the gaps with the guys we have playing and the next guys that are going to be up.”
Veteran linebacker Khalil Bass was among three players added to Toronto’s practice roster Tuesday. But Trestman doesn’t expect the former Winnipeg Blue Bomber and Ottawa Redblack to be ready to play Saturday night.
While Richardson is expected to get some carries, the Riders won’t revamp their offence around their new running back. Veteran quarterback Kevin Glenn, 38, has completed 69.3 per cent of his passes for 3,436 yards with 21 TDs and has a receiving corps that features Duron Carter (tied for CFL lead with eight TD catches) and Naaman Roosevelt (64 catches, 929 yards, seven touchdowns).
“They may put one or two wrinkles in just to find a bit more balance in terms of what they’re doing,” Chamblin said. “But it’s tough to scheme Kevin because he has seen everything.
“They’ve done a good job of putting tall receivers around him so there’s a lot of quick-release, high balls. But Kevin has seen pressure, he’s seen three-man rushes, all those things so you have to try and mix it up on him.”
Toronto’s defence has a CFL-best 42 sacks while Butler is in a five-way tie for the league lead with eight. But Butler said drawing conclusions based solely upon numbers at this point in the season is a huge mistake.
“This is playoff football now where every game matters,” he said. “I think when you go into a game like this with a hungry team, a talented team (like Riders) the best thing you can do is focus on playing Argos football, executing and being as efficient as you can be.
“Last week wasn’t pretty by far but we found a way to get it done.”