Richardson, the new Roughriders running back, will play his first CFL game Saturday when Saskatchewan (7-6) visits Toronto (7-7) at BMO Field. The Roughriders are averaging a league-low 69.8 yards rushing but the Argonauts have allowed 314 yards on the ground their last two contests.
“These last two weeks as a defence we haven’t lived up to the standard we want in terms of how we play in the running game,” Murray said Friday. “So I wouldn’t be surprised if they wanted to give him the ball based on what we’ve allowed teams to do.
“I feel like that’s most definitely one area of focus for us that we want to back to being assertive in the running game.”
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. He was selected third overall by Cleveland in the 2012 NFL draft but 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).
Toronto stands third against the run, allowing 86.4 yards per game. But the Argos surrendered 189 yards rushing in last weekend’s 43-35 overtime win over Hamilton, with C.J. Gable running for 157 yards and two TDs before being traded to Edmonton on Monday.
However, Toronto rallied from a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit to force overtime on Ricky Ray’s 25-yard TD strike to DeVier Posey. The two hooked up on a 13-yard touchdown pass in the extra session.
On Sept. 23, James Wilder Jr.’s 141-yard rushing performance anchored a 33-19 home win over Montreal. That overshadowed 125 yards rushing by the Alouettes, including 105 by Tyrell Sutton.
What’s more, Cameron Marshall (now injured) ran for 110 yards (6.1-yard average) in Saskatchewan’s 38-27 home win over Toronto on July 29. Quarterback Kevin Glenn also threw for 340 yards and four TD passes for the Riders, who’ve won two straight road games.
“The last time we played them they ran the ball a lot on us so I won’t be surprised if they do come out and try to run the ball then try to throw it deep,” said Toronto safety Jermaine Gabriel. “But at the same time when guys study film, they know we see the run as well and that we’re going to adjust . . . they know it’s going to be a chess match.”
Toronto will be minus linebacker Marcus Ball (foot) on Saturday and could also be without veteran linebacker Bear Woods. He missed Friday’s walkthrough to be examined for an unspecified ailment.
Argos head coach Marc Trestman said if Woods can’t play he’ll be replaced by former NFLer Akeem Jordan, who’s on Toronto’s practice roster.
Trestman acknowledged Saskatchewan’s offensive attack starts with Glenn, who has a 69.3 completion percentage, 3,436 passing yards and 21 TDs. The Riders also have a big, athletic receiving corps led by Duron Carter (tied for CFL lead with eight TD catches) and Naaman Roosevelt (64 catches, 929 yards, seven touchdowns).
“I think he (Glenn) is an outstanding football player,” Trestman said. “(In the teams’ first meeting) he threw it everywhere and he was on it and we saw what their receivers could do.
“We’ve got to stop the run, it always starts there. We saw what Gable did to us and we had to work on fixing that this week because they’re seeing the same things.”
Richardson isn’t the first big-name NCAA player to come to Canada after being released by an NFL team. Trestman, who has pro coaching experience on both sides of the border, said those players who head to the CFL with the proper attitude and work ethic are the ones who generally succeed.
“If they come up here thinking they’ve got it licked because they’re coming from the south, they usually don’t make it,” he said. “It’s the guys who come in and appreciate the game that’s up here.
“They’ve studied it, they’ve already been on YouTube, they’ve already watched the games. They know what kind of league they’re getting themselves into and they get a better start. And because they get a better start, they get a better opportunity and I think those are the guys you see make it.”