Saskatchewan Roughriders looking for ‘clean game’ in preseason opener against B.C. Lions

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Saskatchewan Roughriders’ head coach Craig Dickenson wants to see his team playing detail-oriented football when they take the field for their first preseason game on Saturday.

“We want a clean game. We understand it won’t be perfect but we want to look like we’ve been at camp, we’ve been coached, and we understand the plays and what our job is,” head coach Craig Dickenson told the media in Saskatoon.

“We want to be sharp in the procedure of it all: getting 12 guys in the huddle, getting in and out of the huddle, not taking time count (violations).”

The Riders took a league-worst 173 penalties last season, which was 14 more than the next-ranked team. Playing with more discipline and fewer mental mistakes will be key for a team looking to return to the postseason after finishing fourth in the West Division with a 6-12 record in 2022.

Dickenson indicated that the Riders will run “basic stuff” against the Lions on Saturday in an effort to evaluate how well players perform. Some have already started to separate themselves from the pack at key positions in practice, though Dickenson wants to see how players respond when faced with an opposing team.

“The game’s the big one, we really got to see it in the game,” he said. “Usually what happens to guys that start to rise up in practice do the same thing in a game but you need the game to confirm it.”

Trevor Harris isn’t expected to play in Saskatchewan’s first preseason game due to the impending birth of his third child. This would leave two-year veteran Mason Fine, former Cincinnati Bengals’ quarterback Jake Dolegala, and newcomer Shea Patterson as the three passers to helm the controls.

Dickenson likes what he’s seeing from many of his players, though there’s learning yet to be done. The club is installing a new offensive system under Kelly Jeffrey, who was promoted from running backs coach to offensive coordinator this past off-season.

“The playbook seems to be slowing down for some of the offensive guys and we’re getting a chance to see new faces out there, guys that were struggling maybe early in camp are starting to get the hang of things on offence and defence, so a few guys are rising and a few guys are flattening out,” said Dickenson. “We’ll just keep working hard and see what happens.”

Two-time West Division all-star Derrick Moncrief remains out of the lineup after undergoing off-season surgery on his shoulder. The strong-side linebacker made 50 total tackles and four interceptions last year and could be ready to return for the start of the regular season.

“We’re hoping to get him back for the first (regular season) game,” said Dickenson. “That’s not a for sure thing, but that’s our goal.”

The Riders will host the B.C. Lions on Saturday for their first preseason game in 2023. The club will then travel to IG Field for their second and final preseason game on Friday, June 2 against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.