Last week, I noted that even after a 2-0 start, the Saskatchewan Roughriders might be one injury away from some serious problems. And another impressive win later, that number may be down to zero.
But there are a few ways the 'Riders can handle the late-game injury to Darian Durant. And I wonder whether the best option may be the one which looks past the next game or two.
Once again, the 'Riders' success against the Argos (particularly early on) was based largely on superb interaction and timing between Durant and his receivers. And it's a wide open question whether Drew Willy can match the skill Durant has developed over the course of multiple years as a CFL starter.
Which means that if the 'Riders' priority is simply to win from week to week, they'll have a strong incentive to pursue one of two paths: playing Durant as soon as he's close to being ready, or alternatively playing Willy in a radically simplified offence better suited to a less experienced quarterback.
But if the 'Riders have decided that a conservative offensive style isn't good enough to get them through the playoffs with Durant at the controls, it seems highly unlikely that they can give the benefit of the doubt to Willy. And so now may be the time to take the training wheels off of Willy and see if he can run something close to the 'Riders' full offence - with the assurance that he'll get a full game at a time to try until Durant is fully healthy.
If he can, then all of the team's questions will resolve themselves fairly quickly. Durant will still be the obvious starter when healthy, but the 'Riders will be able to trust that a single injury won't torpedo their playoff hopes.
But what if he can't? Well, at least the team will know for later in the season, giving it the option of picking up some additional quarterback insurance if Durant's health is in serious question (or some more aggressive defenders to fit the '07 model if need be). And the 3-0 start means the 'Riders have at least a bit of room for error without losing a chance at home-field advantage and playoff positioning.
Again, the downside of that option is that it leaves the 'Riders on somewhat shakier ground as long as Durant is at less than full health. But it's the end of the season rather than the start that gets remembered - and the easiest path to a win next week may not be the best option for the 'Riders' chances of making and winning a home Grey Cup.