Head coach Craig Dickenson: two or three positions up in the air on Riders roster

Photo courtesy: Justin Dunk

Saskatchewan Roughriders’ head coach Craig Dickenson foresees a tight competition at a few spots on his roster whenever training camp opens in 2020.

General manager Jeremy O’Day has worked to re-sign a number of veterans and keep the core of the 13-5 first place team in the West Division last season together.

“Most of your team is fairly well set and you’re looking for that two or three positions that maybe are up in the air. Then you’re looking for good quality depth behind and improve the bottom third of your team,” Dickenson said on the Growing The Game podcast with Michael Ball.

“You go to camp, you’ve got most of your position groups set, at least in your head you know who you have and they’ll be three or four spots that are truly wide open. You want to create competition for everybody, you want your veterans to feel like they’re getting pushed, somebody that’s on their tail that’s good and that’s going to push them for playing time.”

Offensive tackle, receiver and defensive tackle could be the three areas Dickenson was referring to in terms of being wide open.

Takoby Cofield played both left and right tackle in 2019, Terran Vaughn suited up for 15 games and Thaddeus Coleman started 17 games, but he wasn’t re-signed by Saskatchewan. Cameron Jefferson remains, former second round NFL draft pick Cyrus Kouandjio was inked as well as Devon Johnson and Lanard Bonner for competition at the tackle spot.

Veteran pass catcher Naaman Roosevelt wasn’t re-signed and went to the Montreal Alouettes. That leaves one American receiver starting job available. Kenny Stafford could have the inside track, however, former NFLers Paul McRoberts, Rashad Greene, Carlos Henderson, Demarcus Ayers and Xavier Ubosi will push for feature roles.

Beast Micah Johnson left for the B.C. Lions in free agency and it means a new American starter needs to be found at defensive tackle. Jeremy Faulk, Kelcy Quarles, Sterling Shippy, Trenton Thompson and Cory Thomas are going to be in the mix in a fierce battle. That’s where Dickenson has his focus.

“I’m anxious to see our American defensive tackles. We lost Micah Johnson in free agency. That’s a position where I feel real strongly we’ve got some very good football players and some guys that on paper look really good. That’s the group I’m really looking forward to see what they can do,” Dickenson said.

“Who is happy to be out there, whose flying around, patting other guys on the back, helping guys up, who looks like they’re having the most fun out there. That’s usually who is ready and who has done the most work in the off-season.”

Saskatchewan lost by the clang of a goalpost in the West Final to the eventual Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2019. The close result left many in Riderville wondering what would have been if the upright didn’t get in the way.

“I do feel like our team in general we had another step to take, unfinished business approach. With this COVID it’s going to have to be a little bit faster,” Dickenson said.

“If there is a theme it’s going to have to be start fast because the finish is going to be right around the corner in a shortened season.”