Riders’ Gainey: Argos QB Ray ‘doesn’t have the arm that he used to’

Ed Gainey still can’t shake a moment from the Toronto Argonauts’ winning touchdown drive during last year’s East Division final.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive back remembers teammate Willie Jefferson getting his hand on a Ricky Ray pass and tipping it, giving Gainey a chance for an interception.

The potential pick didn’t work out, and Toronto beat the Riders 25-21 before going on to win the Grey Cup the following week against Calgary.

“It’s just one of those things where you feel like you left the play out there and hopefully it won’t happen again,” Gainey said ahead of Friday’s season-opening rematch against Toronto.

“We just looking to move forward and build off of last season.”

Gainey said that last year’s East final comes up every now and again in meetings, although the team is trying to leave that game behind them.

“We made it know that they beat us last year and they got that ring,” he said. “We’re chasing what they have.”

Saskatchewan enters Week 1 with general manager/head coach Chris Jones having yet named a starting quarterback.

Zach Collaros, who was acquired by the Riders in January from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, is No. 1 on the team’s depth chart, although Jones said that it didn’t mean he would start against Toronto.

Collaros has competed with Canadian Brandon Bridge throughout training camp and pre-season for the starting job. Bridge, from Brampton, Ont., combined with Kevin Glenn to lead Saskatchewan into the playoffs in 2017.

Although Jones wouldn’t name the starter, he joked that Collaros would play on the defensive line.

“They (Collaros and Bridge) know what the roles are and they know exactly how things are going to work out,” Jones said. “We know for sure that both of them are very good football players so we look forward to seeing them go perform tomorrow night.”

The Roughriders will have different receiving core than last season after cutting veterans Rob Bagg, Bakari Grant and Chad Owens last Sunday.

Duron Carter and Naaman Roosevelt remain solid options, with Carter wracking up 73 receptions for 1,043 yards and eight touchdowns in his first season with Saskatchewan last year. Roosevelt also had eight TDs and 1,035 receiving yards.

Collaros said that with the recent cuts, it allows for younger players such as Caleb Holley, who is in his third CFL season, to step up.

“It’s kind of a luxury when you have a veteran group, but at the same time, those guys are getting an opportunity and they’re going to make the most of it,” Collaros said.

Argonauts coach Marc Trestman said that his team has great respect for both Collaros and Bridge. He said that both QBs have good arm strength and can run well.

“We’re prepared for both guys,” Trestman said. “Both are exceptional. I don’t think they lose anything with either quarterback playing.”

Argos veteran quarterback Ray is entering his 16th season. He didn’t play in Toronto’s two pre-season games.

Ray, 38, said that he’s still nervous and excited to start the season like every other year.

“You kind of have those butterflies and wanting to perform well,” Ray said. “I’m sure I’ll be sitting in the locker-room tomorrow having those same feelings that I’ve had throughout every game of my career.”

Gainey feels as though Saskatchewan has a more solid defence than last season and that it will be a difference this year.

As for Ray, Gainey said that he’s a savvy player, but believes that the Roughriders can stop him.

“He doesn’t have the arm that he used to have so we’re going to try to play top-down and come down and rally up and make tackles,” Gainey said.


Friday, Mosaic Stadium

DEFENDING CHAMPS – The Argonauts are aiming to replicate what they did last November when they beat Saskatchewan in the East Division final. Toronto went on to beat the Stampeders for its CFL-best 17th Grey Cup in franchise history.

QUARTERBACK QUESTIONS – Collaros and Bridge both saw limited against last Friday against Calgary, while Ray’s durability has been an issue in past seasons.

RUNNING GAME – Two of the CFL’s biggest running backs go head-to-head with Saskatchewan’s Jerome Messam taking on James Wilder Jr. Jones said that it will be a `”blue collar night” for his defence against Wilder.

OUT WITH THE OLD – The Roughriders will have some fresh targets for their quarterback to throw to. Although they still have Carter and Roosevelt, they cut veterans Rob Bagg, Bakari Grant and Chad Owens.

PRE-SEASON WOES – Saskatchewan struggled in its two pre-season games that included losses against Edmonton and Calgary. The Roughriders scored just 12 points in each of those two games.

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