This year the hoggies will be putting the offensive in offensive line thanks to the new tramp stamps that will be adorning their ample lower backs… poor Durant.
For the first time in a long time I will not be able to make senior citizen jokes about our O-line. Future Hall of Famer Gene Makoswky retired and old man Alex Gauthier was released (much rejoicing ensued). Also Marc Parenteau who played centre was released. Well technically he played “guy who lines up in the middle” because “centre” actually implies an ability to snap.
Change was needed in the trenches. Historically a solid O-line has been a staple of this team (even when it’s all we had). But last season the Riders gave up the 3rd most sacks and had the 2nd worst run game. While other factors play into these stats, the poor play of our O-line was a significant contributing factor. They certainly weren’t good.
The prospect of replacing 60% of our O-line was made a whole lot less scary when Dominic Picard and Brendan Labatte were signed during free agency. Also the hiring of Kris Sweet as OL coach went a long way to reassuring me. He is one of the best OL coaches in the CFL and has consistently gotten quality results out of his line regardless of what players he is forced into playing.
Who’s In The Mix: Xavier Fulton, Brendan Labatte, Dominic Picard, Chris Best, Dan Goodspeed, Patrick Neufeld, Nick Hutchins, Dan Clark, Alexandre Krausnick-Groh, Ben Heenan, Johan Asiata, Nerraw McCormack, Brad Thorson
Projected Starters: It’s not even projected so much as pretty much set in stone baring injury. Fulton/Labatte/Picard/Best/Goodspeed
Thoughts: The interior of our line looks rock solid. Labatte is one of the premier young OL in the league. Picard is an actual centre (which will be a welcome upgrade). He also brings a lot of nasty to the role which has been lacking in recent years. Best has been improving by leaps and bounds over the last couple season (which he should be since we invested close to a decade worth of development in the guy). I’m not worried about our inside guys.
Can’t say the same about our tackles. I have made no attempt to conceal my hatred for Dan Goodspeed. I even started a petition to try and force him to legally change his name since he is neither good nor speedy. It’s not even like Dan Badslow is that bad of name! I think his best years are behind him (like as far behind him as he let’s opposing DE’s get). But looks like we are stuck with him.
On the other side we have a complete unknown in Xavier Fulton. We got him from Edmonton for a conditional 6th rounder so that makes me wary of his potential. But that said, we got Jermese Jones from Winnipeg for a 5th rounder in 2007 and he played adequately enough to get us to the Cup. He was by no means outstanding but it was good enough. And that’s what I’m expecting from Fulton. Besides it will be nice to get a token black guy back on the line. We haven’t had one since 2009
The battle for back-ups will likely be more interesting than for the starters. We only have room for 2 or 3 back-up OL on the 46 man roster and will likely stash another 1 on the 9-game (err… I mean I predict that some mysterious but legitimate injury will befall one of them). That means that 1 or 2 of Neufeld, Hutchins, Krausnick-Groh, Heenan and Clark will not survive camp. Heenan is likely safe given that we just drafted him and Groh longsnaps so he should be good too. That leaves Hutchins, Clark and Neufeld in a battle. For Hutchins and Clark in particular it’s put up or shut up time since they have been here since 2009 and yet to make an impact.
Then again maybe they are just on the Chris Best 7 year plan.
Prophet’s Player To Watch: Nerraw McCormack… not for any particular reason than I’m still holding out hope that we find an import better than Badslow.
Outlook: Younger O-Line + Kris Sweet = Extremely Exciting! … well at least as excited as you can get about a bunch of sweaty fat guys.