Friday, October 07, 2011

Friday Morning 'Rider Blogging

Sometimes, an ugly result on the scoreboard bears little resemblance to the actual flow of a football game. But last Saturday's annihilation at the hands of the Calgary Stampeders was not one of those games for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

The 'Riders' offensive line was thoroughly ineffective throughout the game, leaving Darian Durant with few opportunities to make plays and likely contributing to a frustrating set of turnovers. And the team's defence looked pitiful trying to tackle Stamps running back Jon Cornish, who was able to strongarm most of the 'Riders' defenders and outrun the rest at seemingly every turn.

Which means that now is probably the time for the 'Riders to consider how to set themselves up for next year. So let's name some names as to what changes might be worth making as the season winds down.

The easiest calls are older players who were already of relatively little help to the 'Riders, and almost certainly won't be improving over the course of another offseason. The already-traded Jamie Boreham looks to be one example (and indeed it was odd to see the 'Riders' sign him in the first place with Chris Milo developing nicely over the course of the season), but there are plenty of other possibilities.

In particular, an offensive line with four starters and a top backup over 30 hasn't been able to keep up with opponents' defenders for much of the season - with the current tackles (Alex Gauthier and Dan Goodspeed) along with reserve George Hudson looking especially unlikely to contribute to the next contending 'Rider team. So now would seem to be the time to see what a substantial number of younger linemen can do given an opportunity to face regular-season gameplay - to establish themselves if they're ready, and to make it clear what positions the 'Riders need to fill if not. And the 'Riders' more versatile veterans like Gene Makowsky and Marc Parenteau can fill in the gaps for those who don't live up to expectations.

Similarly, veterans like Barrin Simpson, Jason Clermont, Graeme Bell, Ryan Dinwiddie, Dario Romero and James Robinson don't have much to prove or improve at this point. And while it's probably worth keeping at least the former four around as mentors and possible contributors next season, the 'Riders shouldn't be far from looking at their positions as valuable sources of playing time and experience for younger players.

Meanwhile, it's not as if the 'Riders are lacking for young talent to try out. There's effectively a full non-import offensive line sitting on the team's bench and/or injured list, and a defensive line waiting for its turn between the bench and the practice roster. The team has a number of skill-position non-imports who could expand their roles, with Scott McHenry and Jordan Sisco needing repetitions to get accustomed to the CFL while Stu Foord has yet to receive much of a chance to establish himself in the 'Riders' offence. And perhaps most importantly, third-string quarterback Cole Bergquist has been around the 'Riders for over two seasons and should be getting close to either taking over as the team's backup or making way for another prospect.

At the same time, a series of promotions from the practice roster to the active one will also open up plenty of space for new import talent. And the prospect of using the end of 2011 as an early start to training camp for 2012 for an unusually large crop of new additions could give the 'Riders a leg up on their competition.

Of course, the 'Riders almost certainly won't give up on 2011 until they're mathematically eliminated - and it could be that we'll see a late-season surge. But it's at least time to start planning to make the most of the chance to prepare for the years to come, and the season will look like even more of a waste if the 'Riders pair continued disappointment with a failure to plan for the future.

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