Usually when all of the starters at a particular position from the previous year return it makes for a fairly boring training. That is certainly not the case with the Riders’ secondary this year. The starting 5 from last year (Graham, McKenzie, Butler, Frazier, Jackson) are all back but the end result of camp could be anything from all 5 staying the same to a completely new secondary and anything in between.
Adding to the intrigue will be how much of a difference the influence of Coach Chamblain will make. Richie Hall is back for the 400th season as our D coordinator but his boss has a very different defensive philosophy. Richie is the ultimate zone/bend but don’t break mentality vs. Chamblain’s heavy-man /high risk D from the Chris Jones school of thought. I imagine we will end up with a hybrid of the systems.
Who’s In The Mix: Craig Butler, Eddie Russ, Lance Frazier, James, Patrick, Nick Graham, Chris McKenzie, Graig Newman, Paul Woldu, Tristan Jackson, Macho Harris, Talmadge Jackson, TJ Rushing, Jalil Johnson, Dominic Noel (Tyron Brackenridge is also in the mix but early signs point to him starting at LB).
Projected Starters: Despite the fact that all 5 starters from last year are back it’s actually tough to say. Chamblain has stated Patrick will be at safety and is the only guy whose spot is safe. Butler will see time there as well in certain packages. Frazier and McKenzie are likely safe at HB. Graham and Jackson should have the inside track on the CB spots but there will be some great competition there.
Thoughts: So much of who our starters will be will depend on what defensive philosophy we go with in the secondary. Chamblain likes big tall in our face guys on the corner (like he had in Calgary) to man up and play bump and run. Hall is more of a zone bend but don’t break guy which direction we go could very much affect who we play at corner. Where Hall might be fine with smaller guys on the corner (such as Tristan Jackason), Chamblain may not be. He may prefer a bigger guy like Macho Harris… which I hope he does. I would love to be able to cheer for both a Macho and Boo.
Based on the differing defensive views between Hall and Chamblain, I think versatility will be a requisite of DB wanting to make this team. That is why Patrick is safe. He can float in the middle as a ballhawking safety when needed and man up (as I assume Chamblain will want to see more of). Other DBs will need similar versatility.
There will likely be room for 7 DBs (5 starters and 2 back-ups) on the game-day roster. Patrick, Frazier and Butler are virtual locks. I would guess that Woldu will get one of the back-up spots. That leaves 3 spots for the other 10 to fight for. That said I expect 1 new guy at most to crack the starting roster.
Prophet’s Player To Watch: Macho Harris
Outlook: If Hall and Chamblain can strike a balance between their styles and find just the right mixture of both to keep QBs guessing, this group should do well.