What we learned from the Riders pre-season opener

There’s no reason to panic after the Riders dropped their first pre-season game of the year against the Edmonton Eskimos on Sunday afternoon.

Just like there would have been nothing to celebrate had they won the game.

All of this is especially true when both teams were opening the exhibition schedule just a week into the start of training camp across the CFL. Teams are used to getting a couple of weeks of practice in before their first taste of real game action. That changed when the Ottawa Redblacks entered the league and a couple of teams have always played early. This year, it was the Riders turn. It is what it is, as the old cliche goes.

What did matter in this game? What we learned, both good and bad, about this team.

Zach Collaros will be the starting quarterback

I think this question has basically been put to bed. I don’t think too many people believed head coach Chris Jones when he said and has continued to say that Collaros would be competing with the other quarterbacks on the roster for the starters job. The money the team is paying Collaros is simply too much to staple him to the bench unless he really stunk up the joint.

Well, we don’t know how Collaros will look in this offence yet as he didn’t play a single snap. Neither did his biggest “competition” in Brandon Bridge. If there truly was an open competition then both Collaros and Bridge would have played and probably would have played a lot.

That’s not to say the approach that Jones took is wrong. He needs to see what the other three quarterbacks on his roster can do. This was their best chance with Collaros and Bridge now needing snaps against the Calgary Stampeders.

Let’s just drop the charade.

What about the other three?

There’s still some work to do. That might be the polite thing to say.

David Watford got the best look of the day playing the entire first half. That also means he played with more starters than anyone else, so that’s certainly to be taken into account, but Watford completed just 47 per cent of his passes and was picked off once.

Marquise Williams, who showed some promise in pre-season play last year, didn’t look good.

B.J. Daniels, who the Riders have coveted for a while, made some good decisions but still has much to learn. His ability to move and scramble should certainly be noted.

3DownNation’s Darrell Davis always laughs at third-string quarterback talk, and to a degree he’s right: odds are a team is screwed if that guy is playing. However, with the way quarterbacks have dropped like flies over the last few years, you just never know who might have to step up.

We’re going to see a lot of Duron Carter

Last season I wrote that the CFL needed more Duron Carters. This isn’t quite what I had in mind when I wrote that piece.

I still have my reservations about Carter playing both offence and defence. The team would probably be better off if Carter concentrated on what he does best.

That said, with a training camp to work on his defensive skills, perhaps Carter is the guy who can pull it off and why not? He’s never boring, so it makes sense. It would certainly give Jones some flexibility defensively with a pretty good stable of receivers to work with on offence with or without Carter on the field every series.

Cam Judge could be a difference maker on defence

One of the big questions facing this team coming into the season is who is going to line up where at linebacker and how good will they be?

How good the second line of defence is for the Green and White looks is likely going to come down to Cameron Judge. The Canadian appears to have the inside track to play the weak-side at least on a rotational basis. If Judge can excel there, it allows the team play their best linebacker, Sam Eguavoen in the middle and keep Sam Hurl for spot duty, injury replacement and special teams, which is what he should be for a CFL team at this point.

Hurl doesn’t have the athletic ability to play WILL and would likely force Eguaveon there when he’s on the field. Judge becoming a regular contributor on defence also helps the ratio situation overall.

I also kind of dig the old school no gloves look.

Kicking Challenge?

Tyler Crapigna shouldn’t be waking up in a cold sweat at night just yet, but the Riders might have a good problem on their hand.

Kicker Brett Lauther impressed against the Eskimos by making all four of his field goal attempts, most notably a 55 yarder in the first half.

Crapigna will likely put up the same kind of numbers he’s had throughout his career to date, but it never hurts to have another leg around just in case. Especially one you can count on.

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