Insider Talk: Riders keep Dickenson, award nominations, playoff time

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Insider Talk is a bi-weekly feature on 3DownNation that includes anonymous quotes from people around the CFL — players, coaches, personnel people, executives, agents — regarding the latest news around the league. It’s a combination of insight, analysis, rumours, and friendly gossip.

This week’s Insider Talk is full of discussion regarding the Saskatchewan Roughriders keeping head coach Craig Dickenson, the future of veteran coach Jason Maas, nominations for CFL player awards, the play of Montreal’s defence, and some tidbits from upcoming postseason matchups.

Enjoy this week’s quotes and come back in two weeks for another edition of Insider Talk.

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Did you see how the Riders played in their last two games, especially when their season was still on the line? They looked tired and they looked disinterested. Keeping (head coach Craig) Dickenson for next year is a mistake. I don’t think the team always responded to him, especially when he flip-flopped on some things behind the scenes.

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Saskatchewan is smart to keep (Craig) Dickenson (as their head coach). He didn’t lose the locker room and there’s no sense blowing things up like Edmonton did. Teams are usually too quick to fire people. They went to two West Finals under him just in the last few years and they’re honestly not that far off. If they had less flukey s*** happen to them (like COVID, the stomach flu, and the drama surrounding Garrett Marino), they’d probably be in the playoffs right now.

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Good for Shawn Lemon having such a great season this late in his career but he’s not even the best defensive player on that team. (Folarin) Orimolade should’ve won that award (Most Outstanding Defensive Player in the West Division). I’d also have put (Jameer) Thurman and (Cameron) Judge ahead of Lemon on that defence. Their front seven is the best in the league.

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I think the team that wins the East Semi-Final will go to the Grey Cup. BMO (Field in Toronto) provides no home-field advantage and McLeod Bethel-Thompson hasn’t shown that he can win big games. (The Argos have) got really good depth, especially with their Canadians, but that’s what helps you over the course of a long season. In the playoffs it’s best-on-best.

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Everyone’s heard the rumours about Jason Maas becoming the next head coach in Montreal but how does Danny (Maciocia) hire him when his offence in Saskatchewan was so bad? Maas is an offensive genius but there was a big disconnect there this year. That’d be a tough sell right now.

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I don’t envy Calgary having to go to B.C. (for the West Semi-Final). It feels so claustrophobic there — it’s an indoor stadium and the fans are so close to the sidelines. It’s weird and definitely not an easy place to play. Plus those fans are going to be hyped.

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Montreal’s defence is well-coached. Noel (Thorpe)’s units are always sound defensively, his players always run to the ball, and their defensive line is underrated. They get after the quarterback but they’re also good against the run. That defence plays more man (coverage) now that Thorpe is there (as the defensive coordinator) than when Barron (Miles) was there but it’s still balanced.

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I’m not sure (Queen’s) can beat Western (in the OUA playoffs) but (head coach) Steve Snyder is really special. He’s going to win a Yates Cup there someday and maybe even a Vanier.

John Hodge is a CFL insider and draft analyst who has been covering the league since 2014.