“Durant, Bell or Jyles? Who will be the man to lead a talented Roughriders offense into battle?”
It was a typical offseason in Riderville. One full of controversy.
Major personnel moves, talks of a new stadium and a gm scandal made the offseason rather intriguing for Rider fans.
What made the offseason longer for Rider fans was the disappointing end to the season.
The Riders started the season with an impressive win streak but then quarterback Darian Durant succumbed to an injury. The Riders went out and acquired quarterback Michael Bishop from the Toronto Argonauts to replace Durant. The results, were disastrous to say the least.
Bishop did throw for 2,224 yards with the Riders but he also threw 12 interceptions to seven touchdowns. Bishop looked spectacular at times but often had trouble taking care of the ball. His inconsistency came back to hurt the Riders as the team was defeated by the BC Lions in the Western Semi-Final.
Heading into a new season, the Riders will look to get over the dissapointment of last season.
With new players and coaches making their debuts for the Riders it should be interesting to see how the team will adapt.
Let’s take a closer look at the Saskatchewan Roughriders:
The Riders made the news in the offseason for all the wrong reasons. General Manager Eric Tillman was charged with Sexual Assault, news that shocked the Rider nation.
When it came to the football side of things, the Riders were also dealt some blows.
Starting middle linebacker Maurice Lloyd signed with the Edmonton Eskimos during free agency, and outside linebacker Anton Mackenzie left for the BC Lions. Defensive coordinator Richie Hall finally got the head coaching job he’d been looking for with the Edmonton Eskimos.
Gary Etchevarry takes over the Defensive Coordinator spot for the Roughriders despite having ambitions to be a head coach at the collegiate level.
In a couple of somewhat surprising trades, the Riders dealt Kitwana Jones to the Edmonton Eskimos and former Grey Cup MOP James Johnson to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
The Rides did make some signings of their own however.
The team added veteran slot back and home-grown product Jason Clermont to the team,
After missing out on Clermont in the draft, fans had been anxious for a chance to see Clermont play for the green and white.
Saskatchewan also recruited a lot of players in the offseason, such as receiver Todd Blythe, running back Justin Beaver and defensive ends Joe Sykes and Mike Stadnyk.
When it came to the CFL Draft, the Riders didn’t have a lot of picks to work with. The team ended up picking local products Tamon George and Nick Hutchins.
The Riders roster is filled with question marks.
Who will step into the line backing core? Which quarterback will grab the starters reigns? And will the defense play at a high level without Richie Hall?
The answers to these questions could very well dictate whether or not Saskatchewan has success this season.
Whether it was a crucial move or not, Maurice Lloyd was undoubtedly a huge part of the Riders defense last season. He was widely considered to be the second choice behind Cameron Wake to win the Defensive Player of the Year award.
Mackenzie was not as flashy as Maurice Lloyd, but he was also just as successful.
The Riders believe they have found their replacement linebackers in Renauld Williamns, Sam Olajabuto and Tad Kornegay, but these players are all unproven.
And, whether it be Durant, Jyles, or Bell who starts for the Riders, all three will have to prove they can be consistent starters. Dalton Bell hasn’t played in the CFL, Steven Jyles has been inconsistent, and Durant has only played a few games.
And then there’s the Gary Etchevarry. He likely has the smarts to be a defensive coordinator, but he has no where near the experience of a Richie Hall.
When all is said and done, the Saskatchewan Roughriders have a very talented roster.
Despite a few turnovers, the roster that helped the Riders start 6-0 last season is in tact.
Andy Fantuz and Weston Dressler look better than ever in training camp and will likely help ignite a potent Roughriders offense. Wes Cates should continue to be one of the most dominant running backs in the CFL.
If one of Saskatchewan’s quarterbacks pan out for them this season, they could have one of the better offense’s in the league.
On defense, the Riders always seem to step it up and a new defensive coordinator will likely not affect it that much.
Once again their success on defense could depend on whether some new players step up.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders already are facing a lot of adversity going into the season, and they are once again being labelled as underdogs.
This shouldn’t bother the team as they’ve bore this label for the past several seasons. If anything, the team seems to embrace their role as underdogs.
With what appears to be a solid mood in the locker room, Saskatchewan should pose a challenge to any team in the West this season.
My Prediction: 9 to 12 wins, a second place finish in the West with a potential for first.
Outstanding Player of the Year: Wes Cates
Defensive Player of the Year: Sean Lucas
Canadian of the Year: Andy Fantuz
Lineman of the Year: Gene Makowsky
Special Teams Player of the Year: Luca Congi
Rookie of the Year: Joe Sykes
Stay tuned to Bleacher Report for the West team previews.