We move now to the defensive side of the ball as we continue our preview of the 2021 Riders. I guess I could have written about the Global Draft that’s happening this Thursday (the Riders pick 5th incidentally) but it would have been the world’s shortest preview. Something like this: I know nothing of about the prospects nor who the Riders are targeting.
So I’ll stick to what I actually know.
Projected Starters: AC Leonard, Micah Johnson, Charbel Dabire, Freddie Bishop
In the mix: Chad Geter, Mak Henry
The Rest: Mathieu Breton, Sterling Shippy, Corey Thomas, Demetrius Harris, Jordan Reaves, Markus Jones, Keion Adams, Pete Robertson, Garrett Marino, Trenton Thompson, Tim Williams, Anthony Lanier, Chris Livings
Its been a bit of a roller coaster for the status of our front 4 since our last game in 2019. We lost Micah but he came back. We thought we were keeping Charleston but he left. And we mercifully decided that maybe Zach Evans’ best days are behind him. I do like the pairing of Leonard and Bishop. Leonard has 5 sacks or more in 4 straight seasons and Bishop had an 11 sack season before going to the NFL and 6 last season playing on a not very good Argo DL. But I was still worried about them until we added Micah back. He’s a game changer and should allow those 2 more space to work. The stats may have been down in 2019 but the tape doesn’t lie, he was an impact player even if it didn’t translate into a ton of sacks. You’ll note that I have Dabire ahead of Mak Henry and I stand by that. Henry is a good rotation guy but is not a fulltime starter. Dabire should me enough is limited reps last season to make me believe he can play. Even if I’m wrong about his potential (I’m sure you’ll agree that’s doubtful) at worst he can be a Canadian who occupies the space beside Micah… and thus seamlessly take over for 2019 Zach Evans.
Chad Geter is a guy who does not get enough love. First and foremost, he is a key special teams player. Go back and look at how bad our coverage was at the start of 2019 and how it seemed to coincidentally improve around the time Geter returned to us from Montreal. But he also had 3 sacks in 6 games as a rotation guy. He needs to be in that D-line rotation. Henry will rotate with Dabire and Reaves will be in the mix primarily on special teams.
But what about the new recruits?
I would love for us to find a stud D-end. You pretty much have to go back to John Chick for the last time we did that. We have had good D-ends over the years but we find them on the free agent market (Jefferson, Hughes, Bishop). Mixture of guys here. Some straight from college (Harris, Livings), some who have bounced around NFL practice rosters (Jones, Adams, Robertson). Biggest name in the mix is Tim Williams, a 3rd Rd NFL pick in 2017 out of Alabama with 20 NFL games under his belt.
The competition at D-tackle is important. Clearly Micah is the guy but it would be nice to find someone who could step in if he gets hurt or at least spell him off when he is nicked up (like he was for a chunk of 2019). Competition here in includes Thomas (the biggest of the bunch at 312), Lanier (who spent 5 seasons in the NFL), Thompson (who has time in the NFL, XFL and AAF), Marino (who I will just assume is Dan’s brother) and Shippy (who spent 2019 on our practice roster)
Prophet’s Players to Watch: At D- End I like Demetrius Harris undersized guy from a Div 2 college. We are the first pro team to let him show his stuff. At Tackle I like Sterling Shippy. He was on our neg list while he was with the Colts and spent last year learning the game. Could be a guy who is worth the wait.
Wild Possibility (something that may not be likely to happen but is not outside the realm of possibility): Chad Geter has a breakout year and gets 8-9 sacks. Consider this, he’s just 26 and has been primarily a rotational d-end. He notched 3 sacks a rookie and 3 more in 6 games last year. While Bishop will primarily fill in for Charleston, Geter could see an increase in playing time.