The Riders close out the preseason on Saturday when they travel to Edmonton for Chris Jones' first return to Edmonton. I think the whole "Chris Jones return" will be much ado about nothing (its just preseason for god sake) but if people choose to boo Jones I don't think we in Rider Nation are in any position to judge. We are not exactly know for being quick to forgive and not hold a grudge.
I would like to say I'm looking forward to watching the game but because we are apparently stuck in the stone ages I will be forced to listen to it on the radio. Honestly why not just have carrier pigeons deliver the play by play? For all the ways sports teams have figured out to gouge money out of us, I can't understand how no one has clued into the money making potential of this preseason game. We are a province desperate for football. If they charged $10 to access a live stream of the event I bet they would make good money. I mean I'd prefer if they were forward thinking like the Ti-Cats and offered the live stream for free but I would be willing to pay for it. Heck I would pay someone to periscope it from their phone. But I digress.
Of course Saturday is Durant's big tune up. All the camp reports about him have been glowing but it will still be good for him to get on the field in real live action. I'm not looking for him to light it up. He just needs to get comfortable and start to get in sync with his offensive weapons. That said if he threw for 500 yards and 8 TDs in a half of football it would certainly help put Rider Nation at ease (though some would likely still be calling for us to get rid of him... this is Saskatchewan after all).
The other big thing to watch is the battles for the few roster spots that remain up for grabs. They include:
- Import Receiver - There is an opening for a 3rd import WR alongside Chiles and Roosevelt. Guys like Collins (despite his big game 1 fumble), Lankford and Denmark are in the mix there. I honestly think Denmark faces the biggest odds but if Collins and Lankford can't establish themselves we may opt for the reliability of Denmark.
- Cdn Receiver - Not the most high profile position but we will need depth behind Bagg, Chambers and Demski. I think Stanford is the lead horse in this race but Kawamoto (which I'll just say it, sounds like a car brand not a football player) has been impressing the coaches so this is a close race.
- D-Line - Odds are, we will run a 6 man rotation. Lemon, Cappy and Irvin are entrenched and White seems to be securing that last starting spot (though perhaps Jonathan Williams changes that). The 2 rotation spots (possibly a 3rd depending on how we structure the roster) are wide open. Imports like Newsome and Leonard are in the mix as are Canadian like Hazime, Ainsworth and Kashama. Tough decisions are coming here so that will certainly be something to watch... err listen for on Saturday.
- Secondary - For me this is the toughest group to predict. I assume Hollins, Gainey and Brooks are viewed as starters. That leaves Walker and Cox battling it out of the last starting spot. I am also getting more curious just how serious we are about this Kevin Francis at safety thing and what role we have for Newman. That doesn't even get into the back-ups and guys like Webster, Campbell and the imports. Many different combinations could result here and not many would surprise me at this point. Hopefully some clarity will emerge here on Saturday.
- Back-Up QB - I left this until last because I'm almost sick of talking about it. Is it too much to ask for one of our QBs to look mildly competent? Don't even care who at this point. Maybe Coleman starts throwing to the right jersey colour. Maybe Smith actually makes a decision. Maybe Sims never gets sacked because opposing defenders just assume he is a lineman and doesn't have the ball. I still maintain that they want Coleman to be the guy but if he doesn't start making better decisions you almost have to default to Smith given his legs and improvisation at least until we can find a viable alternative. Who knows with any luck both QBs will play considerably better and change this discussion for the better.