Starting today I’m going to break down each position on the Riders’ roster… beginning with the O-line. The Riders currently have 108 people on the roster and at their current pace of signings should qualify as Saskatchewan’s 3rd largest city by mid-May. So I thought it would be good to start reminding ourselves who makes up our roster and who may be worth monitoring if/when training camp occurs.
O-line has undergone some super unexpected but welcome changes over the past few weeks. Back in January we had 4 of our 5 starters (a great spot to be) and a few promising prospects to fill the last spot. Our depth was not the greatest but the 2nd overall pick would certainly help with that. Well an influx of local boys has suddenly made us very deep here and may have drastically changed our plans for that draft pick and O-line overall.
Projected Starters: Takoby Cofield – Brendan LaBatte – Dan Clark – Evan Johnson – Terran Vaugh
In the mix: Brett Boyko, Braden Schram, Mattland Riley
The Rest: Logan Ferland, Josiah St John, Cameron Jefferson, Sentrel Henderson, Cyrus Kouandjio, Chidi Oneke, Jesse Lawson, Andrew Lauderdale, Antonio Garcia, Rene Brassea
What I like first and foremost is the age of our starters. We had depth in 2019 but our starters (Blake, Coleman, Labatte, Clark) were old. Suddenly we have 3 projected starters under 30. Dan Clark went from being one of the “young” pups to one of the oldest at 32. (By the way, to be fair to Clark I do need to concede that despite my ongoing hatred of him, he actually did very well in 2019, fingers crossed that wasn’t just some fluke side effect of his car accident). LaBatte is the old guy at 34 but I think a full year off might do him a ton of good. He probably hasn’t been 100% in years (resting just enough to get back in the game despite mounting nagging injuries). Also a potentially shortened season certainly favours and old man like him
There’s an outside chance we could go 4 Canadian OL now that we have Boyko and Johnson but I think its more likely (and smarter) to keep with American tackles since we have 2 good ones (also given that we signed 6 import OL I have a feeling we plan of needing more than one throughout the year). I think Cofield has been under the radar good for a while now and Vaughn took some big steps forward in 2019. I had assumed that Schram and Riley would be our 6th and 7th OL but Boyko suddenly makes this a competition to watch (and a good problem to have).
I don’t see anyone unseating Cofield/Vaughn amongst the Americans but the sheer volume we have signed tells me we are interested in putting that theory to the test. We have brought in a ton of size… note one of them under 6’5. And some impressive resumes in there: Garcia was 3rd round pick in 2017, Henderson has 29 NFL starts over 4 years, Kouandjio was a 3 year starter at Alabama and a 2nd round pick in 2014. Not saying any of them will amount to anything but on paper O’Day seems to be bringing in some quality.
Prophet’s Player to Watch: Seantrel Henderson. This one is the most intriguing for me. He’s a mountain of a man at 6’7, 350 lbs, has significant starting time in the NFL and is only 29. Now the cynic in me would say that with those measurables there is likely a reason he’s not in the NFL anymore but on the off chance dude still has game I think he’s worth a look.
Wild Possibility (something that may not be likely to happen but is not outside the realm of possibility): Hear me out. In any given season, your high priced, older vets are always facing a bit of risk that someone younger and cheaper shows up in camp. At 34, LaBatte has a ton of hard miles on him. And while no one is making big coin in the Covid times, I would imagine he’s up there in terms of OL pay. The arrival of Johnson and Boyko suddenly create a scenario where we could go younger and cheaper at guard if we wanted. That would of course leave Dan Clark as the veteran leader of a very young group and that scares the hell out of me (despite him making me not hate him for once in 2019) but for the first time in a long time I don’t think LaBatte will be an unquestioned starter coming into the season.
Good analysis. At 18 OL on the roster we are bringing in 50% more than anyone in the league but Ottawa who have 16 prospects. I'm not sure if this is a good sign or not. I think pass protection has to be a priority with Maas' throwing a lot more & our veteran group of returning veterans allowing more sacks than anyone but BC in the Wes in 2019. I do like some of the additions & can get excited about Henderson. My only concern is that the CDN backups with actual starts in the league are St John & Boyko, both top end 1st round prospects. Boyko, according to Derek Taylor, has the distinction of giving up the most pressures of anyone in the league last year so how good is he? I see us keeping LaBatte this year & he is a capable option at Ctr should Clark go down. But overall, despite my comments, I am cautiously optimistic. Lots of competition - I just don't think anyone will crack the present starting group so we're looking at changing the deck chairs at depth. Not a bad thing.
Good point about Labatte able to slide into centre. The hope for Boyko, Riley, Schram (and St John though I honestly don't see him making the team) is they never play unless it's in big sets
The hogs - here we go.
BC Pros - The bulk of the OL returns & added Ryker Matthews. Held their own las =t 3rd of 2019 season.
Cons - Matthews was exposed by Jefferson in GC. Have they solved issues w/o changing much?
Rank - 5
Cal Pros - A solid group anchored by All-Star McEwen. Sceviour looks good.
Cons - lost 2 veterans to retirement. May need to play 3 imports.
Rank - 4
Edm Pros - Very deep, especially @ tackle. It's a passing league & led in sacks allowed 2 of last 3 years. Rookie Saxelid a revelation started 6 games @ guard & tackle.
Cons - Loss of O'Donnell very 'large' hole to fill.
Rank - 1
Sk Pros - Very solid starters. Really good addition in Johnson.
Cons - Suspect depth behind Schram. LaBatte old & missing lots of games in recent years.
Rank - 3
Wpg Pros - Very solid group with pretty good depth. Bryant & Hardrick give them riches @ tackle.
Cons - Knock on Bombers by insiders? Pass blocking. Sacks allowed per dropback - 6%, a full 2% behind league leading EFC. Fourth in West. But the Bombers need run blocking & they do tha well.
Rank - 2
Quickie Rider Take - I'm torn between Riders & Wpg @ #2 but Riders were pretty much dead even @ pass blocking. Really a toss up. As long as they keep LaBatte & Clark healthy they're fine. I'm intereste how they do this year. Maas & Dickenson want Fajardo running less. They are going to be defined by their pass game. Overall - solid rating on OL.
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