It was only one game but there are indications galore that the Riders could be in for a bumpy ride in 2019.
The new brain trust of general manager Jeremy O’Day and head coach Craig Dickenson had most of the offseason to put their stamp down on a roster which hung its hat on defence under Chris Jones for each of the past two seasons.
The special teams would do okay and pick up the slack for an offence that sputtered under quarterbacks Kevin Glenn, Brandon Bridge and Zach Collaros.
Jones was no doubt accomplished with his league-best defence, but left plenty of room for the new guys, O’Day and Dickenson, to get this team over the finish line of a Grey Cup championship by making their own adjustments.
You could say the Riders had plenty of horsepower to slow down opposing offences but just needed a little less pickup truck and more Ferrari to add some excitement to a loyal fan base coming out of its honeymoon over the new Mosaic Stadium in Regina.
So, what did Saskatchewan fans get on Thursday night other than a free viewing of the Toronto Raptors NBA championship win? More Collaros and that “C” word nobody in professional sport wants to hear. “Concussion” has hardly been a stranger to Zach. He missed four games last season from being concussed himself.
Editorials have swirled around shaming the Riders for playing Collaros, despite his past history of head injuries. But that didn’t scare Saskatchewan. After all, it’s about winning games, selling tickets and keeping his agent happy. And if they can maintain his health, well that’s an added bonus.
One opening night loss isn’t the end of the world and 60 minutes does not a season make. However, it’s clear that O’Day and Dickenson never had any real “plan” to retool a Roughrider identity that was getting stale at the end of the Jones era.
The ground and pound along with short yardage passing offence of 2018 left much to be desired and yet there doesn’t appear to be much of a priority to change any of that this year either. Stephen McAdoo is still the offensive co-ordinator and Collaros is still the quarterback (depending on how long he’ll be out).
17 points against a team from the weaker East won’t cut it. The Riders face a tough schedule with 10 of their 18 games against Western opponents with established quarterbacks better than their own. They can ill afford to be dropping these games out East. This is supposed to be the Riders chance to get fat on easy opponents.
Instead, after opening day, we still see the remnants of the Jones era that wasn’t good enough to win it all in this amazing three-down game we call our own.
Not to mention the fact the Rider pre-season game likely had less people and definitely had less energy than the Jurassic Park Regina setup to watch the NBA Finals. If that’s not an indication of disengagement from your fan base, I don’t know what one is.
It’s only Week 1, but early returns suggest 2019 will be a rough ride for the green and white.