Another sign that football season is just around the corner is here with the opening of mini-camps across the CFL.
Once again this year, the Riders are hosting their camp in Florida as they take a look at a number of guys who more or less haven’t played in the CFL before. Last year, I wrote my thoughts on mini-camp and how much it really matters in the grand scheme of things for anyone who isn’t in football operations, and those thoughts still stand this year.
What mini-camp signifies to me is essentially the end of the “offseason.” Yes, the season isn’t here yet but the majority of offseason moves are now done and the attention starts to turn toward how all of the pieces are going to work together and where are the remaining holes?
There’s no question that the Riders bulked up their starting depth across the board in a lot of places over the winter. On paper, their secondary is better, their receivers are as talented as ever, they should be better at quarterback, they have an established running back, the names along the defensive line speak for themselves.
But, like every other team, there are still some question marks on the depth chart.
Defensively, there’s no bigger question than starting middle linebacker, a hole this franchise has dealt with for a number of years, other than when Rey Williams or Henoc Muamba have been in the line-up. Do Chris Jones and company actually believe in Sam Hurl? We’ve seen that act before and saw it again in Winnipeg. Hurl is a great depth Canadian and special teamer, but will he suddenly become an impact starting MLB? I’d be surprised. So, the answer has to come from somewhere else.
Offensively, there’s going to be change along the offensive line once again. It looks like Bruce Campbell, who arguably stabilized the line of scrimmage last year when he came out of retirement and started at left tackle, won’t be back. He’s facing a two-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy, which probably isn’t helping his cause. Can Thaddeus Coleman slide into that spot? Or can the team find someone cheaper and younger to fill the void? I’ve certainly crowed enough on this site over this team’s inability to develop their own talent. Now seems like a good time to knock one out of the park. If Coleman can move, they still need someone to start at right tackle. Is there an in-house Canadian option like Dariusz Bladek? That would certainly be a boost to the ratio.
As the snow finally melts and we head toward training camp, every team has questions. Those who find answers are the ones who will still be playing when the snow returns again. If the Riders solve these riddles, then there’s no question they have a shot at an extra trip to Edmonton this year.