Not long after the doors of CFL free agency swung open, the Riders got ExZackly what they needed (I’ll show myself out after this) when they signed defensive lineman Zack Evans.
By signing Evans, the Riders finally fixed an error they made four years ago when Evans was lost to the Ottawa Redblacks in the expansion draft. The mistake wasn’t made by Chris Jones, but they haven’t really been able to fill the gap left behind by Evans (and to a lesser extent, Keith Shologan, who in all likelihood wouldn’t be on the team today whether he was left unprotected or not), it became his to fix.
At the time of the expansion draft, then-general manager Brendan Taman and head coach Corey Chamblin believed they could shed Shologan’s salary in the expansion draft by leaving the fan favourite and long-time Rider unprotected. Naturally, Ottawa jumped at the chance to take one of the games best defensive tackles. That move was a head-scratcher at the time, but Shologan was never really the same since leaving Riderville, so in retrospect, Shologan was likely removed from the roster at the right time. Without Shologan, Taman and Chamblin didn’t feel like there was a need to protect Evans either, as they intended to go American at the position in 2014.
Needless to say, that decision didn’t work out.
Since heading to the nation’s capital, Evans not only became a better player but you could argue he has grown into one of the better Canadian defensive tackles in the CFL. As you know, if you can find one, like Hamilton has in Ted Laurent, you hang on to them. The potential was always there for Evans, and he should never have been exposed in the expansion draft in the first place. If Evans was still in green and white for the last few seasons, that would have made a huge difference to the team’s ratio. Instead, there’s been a revolving door of both Canadians and Americans since that draft in December 2013.
With Evans now in the fold, there’s no question the Riders have one of the best defensive lines in the league. Jefferson and Hughes are as terrifying a duo as you can find on the ends and now there’s someone who can provide that push up the middle to allow them the others to go to work. That’s what this team has been missing since the end of the 2013 season. It also gives Jones options when it comes to the three- or four-man fronts.
Evans also helps with the ratio as he is a sure-fire starter, the more of those a team has the better. In a perfect world, you’d like to see a team start more than the required seven, as it makes replacement much easier should an injury remove a Canadian from the game. The Riders are getting there.
Evans is back where it all began for him. He never should have left in the first place.