The Riders mercifully have 3 more games left in what has been a dreadful 2015 season. While they have little to play for other than pride, the remaining games can still be valuable for the team if managed properly. Doing so involves focusing every roster decision on planning for next year. I’m not advocating benching all our vets and activating the entire practice squad plus whoever we can airlift in. That would be irresponsible… and quite frankly painful to watch given that every team we play cares a great deal about the outcome. You don’t learn a hell of a lot about a team/player by watching a bunch of newbies get pummeled by the top teams in the West. Rather what I propose is basing all decisions on whether they fit in the plans next year.
Here’s how I see it:
QB – The departure of Glenn actually makes this pretty straightforward. We need Brett Smith to solidify himself as a legitimate #2 for next season so he gets the bulk of the reps. Keith Price needs to get a minimum of a half and ideally a start in the final game. If Price doesn’t get meaningful playing time, we have epically failed as an organization. I love his potential but we need to find out definitively whether he has what he takes in a real game situation (in which case he comes back next year) or whether he falls flat on his face (in which case we know we had better find a new option at QB this offseason). If Huston Mason sees the field for a series or two it’s a bonus but he’s only been here a few weeks. Honestly even with next to no practice, can he really be worse than Sunseri?
OL - As much as possible we need to play what’s left of our starting unit here. This will be easy because Matt Vonk is our only depth guy. To properly evaluate QBs and offenses we can’t have a rag tag line… we have enough issue blocking with our starters, no sense making this harder for ourselves. I’m hopeful Adcock will return after the bye as that would really help.
RB – I would give the bulk of the reps to Anthony Allen. I think he’s earned the opportunity to be the starter. Not only that but I would way rather a vet like him be in there on most snaps to help with blocking rather than a raw rookie who may get our young QBs killed. Chad Spann needs to see some snaps to see what he has to offer.
WRs – Demski and Roosevelt get priory because they are our future at receiver. I would keep Dressler in there so that our young QBs get the experience of a reliable go-to receiver instead of a hodgepodge of the future unemployed. Bagg can stay as we really can’t afford not to play the few Cdns we have plus he likely is a part of the team next year. Getzlaf should sit in favour of Carroll for at least 1 or 2 games (unless the ratio fix for Messam’s departure is starting 3 Cdn WRs). This offseason Getz will have 2 choices: a smaller salary or a change of address. Nothing he does on the field in the final games will alter that. I would like to see each of our PR receivers (Williams, Lankford and Davis) get one game (i.e. a new different one each week). This approaches balances keeping a reliable group on the field to help evaluate our QBs with seeing if our recruits have what it takes to get an invite to next year’s camp.
D-Line - Chick and Munroe play because they will be part of our D-line next year. The injury to Hall (as unfortunate as it is) opens the door to evaluating a DE. I strongly recommend giving Ainsworth the bulk of those reps. It would be nice to know if he can actually take the next step to being a regular contributor on defense (which I think he can) or if he’s just another career special teamer we wasted a high pick on. That would also address our need for a 7th starting Cdn. I’ve been saying since mid-season that based on age and salary Tearrius George is unlikely to be back next year. Might as well give his reps to Connop, Agbaje and Tennant (if he’s healthy). Not sure any of them will ever become a bona fide starter but 1 or 2 will likely be providing depth next year.
LB – I honestly don’t think you can count on Emry playing football at all next season. That means Doughty in the middle and Knox outside are the future. So let’s play them together as much as possible to develop that chemistry. To accommodate this I say bump Macho back to the secondary (because he’s certainly not who we want at LB next year) and leave Brack in Macho’s spot. We should also give practice roster LB Denicos Allen one game by benching Unamba.
DB – Tristan Jackson has no future as a short side CB, Marshay Green has a questionable future as a HB so both need to be taken out of those spots. I would roll with Green on short side CB, Hollins (whose potential I still see) and Macho at HB and either Jackson or Mertile at wide CB (likely leaning towards Mertile due to age). Also gotta let McDougall see some meaningful time with the D… even if it’s likely he’s not very good. Webster is not the future at safety (at least I pray he’s not) so might as well see if MacDougall can rise to the occasion. Quite frankly if he can’t cut it on D, I would look at either cutting him loose or negotiating his salary down. Not sure exactly what he’s making but it’s more than we should be paying for a pure special teamer (if that’s indeed what he is). The good news here is that no matter what the configuration in the secondary, we can’t possible get any worse given that we already have the worst pass coverage in the league
K – Am I the only who finds it ironic that the arrival of a kicker with the word Crap in his name will lead to the departure of McCallum from Saskatchewan? Anywho, let the kid kick, let McCallum drink prune juice and join a mall walking club.