There’s a Special Forces saying somewhere along the lines of Improvise, Adapt and Overcome – something Chris Jones and the Saskatchewan Roughriders seem to be taking to heart after trading away Darian Durant.
This week in Riderville saw the signing of Kevin Glenn for the third time, filling the need for an experienced back-up to help mentor what is shaping up to be a crash learning course for whatever quarterbacks survive the next few months.
It seems the thinking in terms of a starting quarterback is Kevin Glenn if necessary, but not necessarily Kevin Glenn. Jones has announced an open competition for the starting position and with Rider back-up Mitchell Gale an impending free-agent, I would expect whatever depth chart exists at quarterback will be written in chalk.
It would be unfair to expect Glenn to replace Durant and likely to be the safety net as whoever competes for the starting job emerges through growing pains. The Durant trade frees up salary cap money which hopefully will be spent bolstering the offensive line that had more leaks than the Titanic last season.
The Glenn signing looks like it a design for public confidence in the Riders considering the worst kept secret in the CFL was unveiled on Thursday when Duron Carter, former Montreal receiver and high maintenance player was signed by the Riders.
Carter’s addition gives the Riders a potentially great receiving corps, but they needed someone to pull the trigger and Glenn, who played with Carter in Montreal, gives the Rider passing game a semblance of credibility.
Carter’s contract is said to be for $130,000 with no money upfront, therefore avoiding a repeat of the Mo Price fiasco last year when Price retired after cashing his signing bonus. After Carter’s antics last year including running into Ottawa coach Rich Campbell and fighting with his own quarterback Rakeem Cato and apparently the subject of a vote in the locker room of a vote to boot him from the team, this stop in Riderville is designed to show Carter is capable of not just producing, but being a good teammate.
Presumably if he does that, he will likely try the NFL after this season but he will have to demonstrate a discipline that so far is not that apparent. Carter urged Rider fans to pick up the #89 jersey, but I don’t think Rider fans will be changing the Getzlaf nameplate to Carter real soon.
The two signings though are an effort to try to establish some kind of identity for the Riders for fans, many of whom are wondering if this season is already a write-off with the reset at quarterback. The 100 player rotation through the Rider locker room last season saw some guys stick, but after a four game winning streak, the Riders last three games were sad and listless affairs which left a bad taste in fans’s mouths.
Speculation now has the Riders trying to swing a trade with Edmonton for back-up quarterback James Franklin, with Naaman Roosevelt, a first round draft pick and maybe a Canadian starter to make the deal happen. However the Riders would be more prudent not to make that trade, considering Franklin will be a free agent after this season and the Riders could then bid on him without losing draft picks or valuable receivers.
The Riders have to build up their Canadian talent base and that isn’t possible by trading off draft picks. There are question marks on the offensive line, the defensive line and if Canadian Greg Morris looks like the answer at running back, then the Riders will need a capable back-up to keep their Canadian ratio viable.
While the Riders are looking at the return of Chris Best and Brendon LaBatte to the offensive line, considering the injury history here, especially with Best, the Riders experiment with three Americans on the offensive line can be safely judged a failure and the Riders need to find some talent somewhere that can step up.
The safest guess at this point is the Rider stable of quarterbacks will be changing before the mini-camp and training camp as the team looks to find out who can best deliver on the field at an economical price. However, if the Riders can solidify their offensive line and nail down a solid running game, that will take the pressure off the quarterback position that was under fire more times than necessary last season.
That doesn’t mean there won’t be growing pains, and many Rider fans are making their peace with that. One would hope the openning of a new stadium would showcase a playoff calibre team, but the Riders have shown an ability to not rise to the occasion and 2017 will feature a team looking for its identity on offense.
In retrospect the Riders would have been better served dealing Durant last season in order to at least get a better handle on the quarterback position. It will be interesting to see if Jones is consistent in his team building philosophy by not being rushed into making a bad deal for Franklin when he could wait and perhaps in the meantime find someone who can hold the fort if Jones has a real jones for Franklin.
The Riders have a number of receiving assets, but consider the amount of injuries through the receiving ranks last season which saw players like Roosevelt, Armanti Edwards and others go down at various times. There is no reason to deal away anyone just yet in a move many teams will regard as panic inspired.
With the loss of Durant, the Riders improvised by signing Glenn, who has familiarity with Carter. How they adapt to Durant’s loss will depend on the scouting and the ability to coach quarterbacks which is still an unanswered question here in Riderville.
There is an interesting question of whether the Riders have the right schemes for their players, or the right players for their schemes. Fans will not be too happy to see another endless training camp but on the other hand, expectations will have been lowered enough to buy Jones his third year with presumably the quarterback he needs under centre either by the end of this season or after free agency 2018.
And then as I write the Riders released Gale, running back Curtis Steele, ·WR, Shamawd Chambers and ·DL, Dylan Ainsworth. Gale had his opportunities but didn’t enough running ability especially when it came to third and short yardage plays. One might think this opens the door even more for a trade for Franklin, but I think BJ Daniel on the Rider negotiation list is a more likely suspect.
Steele had his moments and I liked his blocking ability, but his injury tendencies kept him out of enough games that the Riders were a revolving door at running back. This move makes the all-Canadian backfield a more likelier option for the Riders and Morris showed a lot to impress me when he was in the game.
Chambers was a free agent signing from Edmonton, but he was so injury prone and fragile that unless you threw him a perfect pass he was unable or unwilling to catch it. Gary Lawless tweeted Chambers was unhappy with the Rider direction but it would be equally fair to say the Riders were unhappy with Chambers production. Chambers would be a good pick up either back in Edmonton or perhaps Hamilton since he is from Ontario.
Ainsworth is a Saskatchewan kid and unfortunately you can never make the team from the hot tub if you are rehabbing. Ainsworth added some long snapping to make himself a commodity, but if you are injured, your worth as a long snapper is questionable.
Speaking of long snappers, Jorgen Jus is trying out for the Arizona Cardinals of the NFL who had a terrible special teams outfit and therefore could be in line for a coveted special teams spot. That would leave Randy Chevrier as the long snapper, which wouldn’t bother me despite the fact Chevrier is 40. Chevrier takes care of himself but the Riders will likely look for another potential long snapper if Hus sticks in the NFL.
Now the firing of Jim Barker in Toronto begs several questions, like why now, especially just before free agency. It is interesting because I would have put money on Scott Milanovich getting the boot, but he appears to be staying depending on the graces of the new GM or football Czar or whatever Toronto is calling it.
If Milanovich is staying, it makes Jim Popp, former Montreal GM the likely candidate, although no one is saying anything, and interestingly enough, Green Bay just punted Tom Clements from their coaching staff, although it has the stench of sacrificial lamb considering the injuries and fumbles the Packers had in the NFC Title game. Clements would be someone who would spark interest in Toronto football fans, although I know of only three.
I was kind of hoping for Milanovich to get booted because he would have been a nice pick up here and Barker and Jones are apparently close, although Barker fleeced the Riders in a few deals. It gets interesting because former Bomber GM Joe Mack becomes the player personnel guy in Montreal, which is probably where his credibility limit is comfortable at, but Barker might be a nice fit in Winnipeg, even though they fleeced Barker in the Drew Willy trade. If the Riders lose say John Murphy or Jeremy O’Day to the Argos, then Barker will likely end up with the Riders as Jones will need someone to do fleecing for him for a change.
So as we head into the free agency stretch, things look to be picking up on the activity front and the Riders as usual will make it interesting.
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