Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com
Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com

Before we get to the giant question mark that is the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ offence, let’s deal with what we do know.

With the signing of Solomon Elimimian and Micah Johnson, the Riders defence is pretty much set for another year and should be the core of the team once again in 2019. These additions to the front seven should make the Riders better against the run this year. The secondary is back and boosted by the signing of Eli Bouka.

So, there isn’t a whole lot to look at and talk about there.

The special teams good last year, they scored a few times, they didn’t give up much in the way of points and Brett Lauther was having an MOP type season before Willie Jefferson took his game to another level. Lauther’s play was so good last year that the team feels comfortable without another option in camp and they released Tyler Crapigna. Lauther was certainly good enough to go into camp as the unquestioned number one place kicker, but there isn’t exactly a lot of data on Lauther to suggest he’s going to do it again. So, releasing Crapigna before camp even begins does come with some risk.

The addition of Jon Ryan is also interesting, but there isn’t much in the way of big story lines here either.

Then there’s the offence. It was one of the biggest stories for the Riders in 2018 for all the wrong reasons and it’s once again the biggest story on the eve of training camp.

It all starts and finishes at quarterback, a year ago, most of us felt pretty confident that Zach Collaros was going to be a serviceable pivot for the green and white. The Riders won 10 of 14 games he started, so in a way, he was. In others it didn’t work out quite so well. Collaros missed some time with more concussion issues and that’s a red flag as they go with Collaros again. The good news is it appears that Collaros did learn his lesson from early in the season last year when he sat out the playoff game because he didn’t quite feel ready despite getting clearance from the doctors to play. It was a tough decision, but it was a smart one

So, who’s behind Collaros? Well, yeah. Can David Watford take a big step forward in year two? Will Cody Fajardo find something he hasn’t really to date in Stephen McAdoo’s conservative offence? Maybe Isaac Hacker defies all the odds as a rookie out of college?

Overall, there isn’t really a reason to be overly confident in the guys behind Collaros and that’s a concern giving his injury history. Even if Collaros didn’t have an injury history, every team needs someone to come in and win them a game or two over the course of the season. Something will have to give there, whether it’s someone stepping up or the team adding another arm.

The other big question for the offence is who will catch the ball? In 2017 the Riders led the league in touchdowns and had a fairly efficient offence. Then essentially that entire veteran crew was eventually shown the door, leaving Naaman Roosevelt to seemingly carry the load. Jordan Williams-Lambert stepped up as well but he too is now gone thanks to an appeal that gave him an NFL opportunity.

Will Shaq Evans take a step forward in his development? Kyran Moore showed flashes last year. Could a full year of K.D. Cannon be a blast? There’s options at American reciever and young guys could show more in year two north of the border. If not, they better hope when Manny Arceneaux is able to return to the line up that he can provide a spark.

Where things get really interesting is at Canadian receiver. The Riders have basically overhauled the entire position. Right now, journeyman Cory Watson is the clubhouse leader but he shouldn’t be comfortable. Draft picks Jake McInnis and Brayden Lenius will be expected to play a role this year, if not completely take over the position, considering the amount of draft capital the team spent on them. The team survived without getting much out of Canadian receivers, they could do it again but getting some yards would certainly make life a lot easier.

The good news for Collaros and the rest of the offence is the big men up front are returning for another year. The offensive line was slow out of the gate last year but did improve as the year went on. There’s no reason to believe they shouldn’t continue that trend, especially with the addition of Dakoda Shepley. Patrick Lavoie will also be able to help as both a blocker and a catcher. The run game should also play a role in helping the receivers led by William Powell.

It’s pretty simple to say that the quarterbacks and receivers are the most interesting part of training camp, but when it comes to the Riders, it’s especially true. We’ll find out pretty quickly if the offence will be better this year or if it’s more of the same.

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Joel Gasson is a Regina-based sports writer, broadcaster and football fanatic. He is also a beer aficionado.