Sunday, June 3, 2012

In The Crosshairs

After a brief rookie camp, its time to get down to work for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the other teams in the CFL as training camp gets underway with the first pre-season game for the green and white now less than two weeks away in Vancouver. As is the case going into every season, there are questions to be asked and there are players to watch. There are many questions about the Riders going into 2012 after a disastrous 2011. They include how Corey Chamblin will do in his first year as head coach to did this team lose its confidence and its swagger because of what happened in 2011. Those questions will be answered in time.

When it comes to the players that I have questions about, here is a list in alphabetical order

Rob Bagg --The Queens University receiver hasn’t played since tearing up his knee in a 2010 game against Calgary. He re-aggravated the injury just over a year ago and it cost him his entire 2011 season. Bagg has been working hard to get back on the roster and be one of the most dangerous Canadian receivers in the game. Has the time off affected him or can he be the Bagg of old?

Craig Butler – The London, Ontario product had a huge impact on the Rider defence last year as he became the starting safety early in the season and did not let go to that job. Butler laid out some ferocious hits on the season (hello Buck Pierce) and showed that he belongs. Butler stole the safety position away from all-star James Patrick. What do the Riders do with the ratio and what role will Butler play in it. Is he a guy that comes off the bench as a nickel or dime back or does he stay at safety to make Patrick roam elsewhere?

Darian Durant – It seems funny to put the Riders starting quarterback on this list, but how can you not ask questions about him after a sub-par 2011. It was a rough year on Darian not having Andy Fantuz or Rob Bagg around. He seemingly disagreed with Doug Berry and it totaled up to him having a disastrous season. The team invested in their future by signing Durant to a contract extension in the off-season. That was the right move as I think Durant, who has many detractors which is something that you get with the position, is still a guy that can be one of the CFL’s elite for years to come. He has to show though that 2011 was an anomaly and that he resembles the quarterback that took this team to Grey Cup appearances in 2009 and 2010. I am a Durant fan, so I say he will return to form.

Chris Graham – I have liked what I have seen from the Michigan product when he has been on the field. With this team having some big-time holes at linebacker, Graham has to show he can produce whether it be outside or inside seeing he has some CFL experience in his back-pocket. I don’t know exactly what Richie Hall has in store for Graham, but I would like to see him in the mix to be the middle linebacker.

Justin Harper – Harper was the most impressive player at rookie camp. He seemingly has the tools to be a huge weapon in the Rider offence. He is big, he has nice hands and he runs nice routes. However, how does he do with the vets here and how does he do in an actual game situation. If he can do in a game situation what he did in rookie camp, it will be Andy who?

Brent Hawkins – There is no doubt the Riders have not had the impact defensive ends since John Chick and Stevie Baggs left. Brent Hawkins showed potential, but his bad shoulder has stopped us from seeing how good he can be. Hawkins, like Bagg, missed all of 2011 due to injury. Like Bagg, can he regain his old form and like Bagg, has he lost a step?

Jordan Sisco – The Regina native hasn’t really been given an on-the-field opportunity to show if he can follow in the paths of former Rams receivers Chris Getzlaf and the now-retired Jason Clermont. There have been some whispers that his work ethic is maybe not what it needs to be. There is a spot for Sisco in this lineup, but he has to show the coaching staff he is deserving of that spot.

Brandon West – The tailback’s job is open with the Wes Cates era now over. West saw time at tailback last year and he didn’t disappoint. He did well enough for this team to ship Hugh Charles off to Edmonton. There is some talent behind him in Kory Sheets and Demetrious Crawford so West will be the guy to beat even though he was never the guy. Can he keep the job or does he give it away?

Shomari Williams – Taken as the number one pick in the 2010 draft, some are wondering when Williams will step up and be the player the Riders thought he could be when he was drafted. To be fair, Williams has been asked to do a lot in his two years and now he is being asked to perhaps be the man in the middle. It is time for Williams to show us what he can be and that the team was justified in making him the number one selection.

Odell Willis – The Riders rolled the dice to get the controversial defensive end from Winnipeg. There weren’t a lot of tears shed in Winnipeg when it was learned Willis was a Rider and some thought the Riders gave up too much to get Willis. It didn’t help matters any when Willis got in legal trouble shortly after becoming a Rider. He obviously needs to show that he is still one of the best at his position in the game. If he doesn’t, he could be the guy who faces the wrath of the Rider Nation first and that won’t be good for anyone.


Anonymous said...

If Butler shows his rookie year was no fluke, could Patrick be expendable?

Anonymous said...

Any reason as to why no back-up quarterback was put on the list. I would think the crosshairs would be on Brennan and O'Sullivn seeing they have had experience in the NFL

Anonymous said...

Putting Shomari in the middle would be a mistake.

Anonymous said...

What does this team do if Jarrett, Moss and Harper are all good enough to make the team? Only so many spots open and you aren't getting rid of Getzlaf, Dressler and Bagg.

Chris G

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Brennan looked horrible this weekend. He will be the first QB sent home.