Today we conclude our positional previews for the 2021 Riders with a look at the secondary. Admittedly it has been a long a winding road to get here as I started this preview in March and the last one of these was a month ago. Words like consistency and punctuality tend to be replaced with eventually and procrastination around here. To show how serious am about this matter and my desire to resolve it I am imposing a 20% pay reduction on the writing staff here at Rider Prophet. Pay decreases will increase 10% until the matter is resolved.
On to the matter at hand.
The defensive backfield could either be the most boring or exciting battle to watch come training camp. On one hand we have all 5 starters back. Given the advantages of continuity at a position that relies heavily on them playing as a unit, the starters spots could be locked down and the only thing left to sort out is the back-ups and practice roster.
On the other hand, we currently have more DBs on the roster than any other position so we will be taking a look at a lot of guys. Add in the potential to adjust the ratio by starting a Canadian at corner and the chance that some of these DBs will likely be auditioned at the vacant Cover LB spot and there could suddenly be a lot of change.
Projected Starters: Nick Marshall, Ed Gainey, Mike Edem, Louchiez Purifoy, LJ McCray
In the Mix: Godfrey Oneyka, Elie Bouka, Blace Brown, Nelson Lokombo
The Rest: Tony Lippett, Jacob Dearborn (cdn), Zack Sanchez, AJ Hendy, Jeremy Clark, Hamp Cheevers, Deiondre Hall, DQ Thomas, Christian Campbell, Vincent Dethier (cdn), Kenneth Ackers, Damon Webb, Kentrell Brice
Lots to love about this group. Marshall and Purifoy are studs. I honestly don’t think people appreciate how good Purifoy is. I think he’s our best DB even before you factor in how good he is on returns. Edem is a solid starting Canadian. McCray emerged as an impact player in 2019. Need I remind you that we started 2019 with Solomon Means out there just wandering around aimlessly while allowing opponents to pass at will? McCray solidified that unit. Gainey is no longer the guy who put up 10 INTs in 2017 but he still routinely covers the opponents best WRs and can still hold his own… for now (this is called foreshadowing).
As mentioned, there is a chance we go Canadian at wide side CB with either Oneyka or Bouka (would require one of McCray or Purifoy bumping up to LB) but its looking more like we go with 2 Cdn WRs so I think we opt for continuity. Depth wise I think that leaves us in good shape as Bouka and Oneyka both have starting experience and Lokombo can back up multiple positions. I’m also a fan of Blace Brown. He got one start in 2019 and looked pretty good. He’s still super young too.
Prophet’s Players to Watch: Already spoke about Blace Brown who I really like. Of the new recruits, a couple I will be keeping an eye on are Tony Lippett (at 6’3 I’m just curious if he can move quick enough to cover because that kind of height would be a boost to any secondary) and Damon Webb (stellar career at Ohio St, still just 25 yrs old after a cup of coffee in the NFL).
Wild Possibility (something that may not be likely to happen but is not outside the realm of possibility): Whether it happens in training camp or during the season, it's not a certainty that Ed Gainey holds onto his starter spot. We were clearly ready to move from him this offseason and I think the only reason he’s back is that he dropped his asking price so low we couldn’t say no. There’s no denying how important Gainey has been to this defense since arriving in 2016 but DB’s tend to have a short shelf life and like Lance Frazier before him, Gainey’s stellar career could be headed for an abrupt end.