Major questions facing the Riders ahead of the 2021 CFL season

Photo courtesy: Hannah Souster

At long last, Canadian football is here.

This week the Riders will open their training camp at Mosaic Stadium on Saturday, July 10 ahead of what could be the most unpredictable season in the history of the league.

Normally, I’d make some bold and likely to be untrue predictions ahead of a new season and maybe I’ll get around to it if I’m feeling brave enough before training camp is out. At this point, my season preview thoughts are just a shrug emoji.

That’s for another day, though.

Right now we’re focused on training camp and without a pre-season, we won’t really start to get answers to some pressing questions until the season is underway.

For me, there are four questions facing the Riders heading into this camp and season.

Can he do it again?

How the Riders do in 2021 will depend on quarterback Cody Fajardo.

Fajardo was the breakout star of the 2019 season and will have to put up a similar performance for the Riders to make at least another West Final appearance.

While we don’t have a reason to believe Fajardo won’t have another good season, there have been scenarios of quarterbacks being unable to follow up a breakout season. The only way to put that fear to rest is to do it again.

Will they work well together? 

The least surprising change the Riders made following the 2019 season was at offensive coordinator. It was clear Stephen McAdoo had run out of time in Saskatchewan.

The addition of Jason Maas was a bit of a surprise.

The former Edmonton Elks head coach brings an impressive offensive coordinator resume with him. He’s also worked with and had much success with the likes of Henry Burris, Trevor Harris, and Michael Reilly.

How Maas and Fajardo gel will go a long way in determining the Riders’ success.

Blue is out of stock

For the first time since 2012, the Riders won’t have Brendon LaBatte along the offensive line. The Weyburn, Sask. native has decided to forgo this year given the amount of COVID-19 related restrictions the league is playing under.

The Riders added Evan Johnson in the off-season but will need someone else, like Brett Boyko or Josiah St. John, to step up in LaBatte’s absence.

Was the right decision made?

After the 2020 season that wasn’t, defensive end Charleston Hughes and linebacker Cameron Judge, both of whom were key members of the 2019 team, became free agents.

Both ended up signing with the Toronto Argonauts along with half the league’s free agent class.

With Hughes, given his age, it wasn’t overly surprising to see general manager Jeremy O’Day opt to get younger. Judge, meanwhile, was one of the best linebackers in the CFL in 2019, Canadian or not.

The retirement of Chad Geter leaves an even deeper hole at defensive end.

If the likes of A.C. Leonard, Freddie Bishop III, Deon Lacey and Larry Dean fill the gaps, then the Riders will be in good shape. If they don’t, then the second-guessing will begin.