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.
My rankings in West.
BC - Pro - Sayles & Cioffi great adds. Solid unit. Lee very good.
Con - Lost Grymes.
Rank - 3
Cal -Pro - Leonard, Amos & Dozier are great core group.
Con - Losing Roberson & Brandon Smith left big holes.
Rank - 4
Ed - Pro - 1st in passing yds allowed 2019. Added Rose, Mincy, Grymes & Gabriel. Huge upgrades.
Con - How soon can they gel? Hightower has had injury issues.
Rank - 2
SK -Pro - All hands on deck. Very good unit intact. Good adds with Oneyeka, Lokombo.
- Con - Edem will be 32 by season start.
- Rank - 1.
Wpg- Pro - Josh Johnson good add. Maston back from NFL.
Con - Lost Rose & Sayles, 2 All Stars. Maston may be slated for SAM.
Rank - 5
Rider spin. In most DB categories, Riders & Edm were 1st or 2nd in '19. Would not be surprised to see Edem replaced by Bouka. Agree with your thoughts on Gainey. DB unit the strength of the D. REALLY good personnel. In short, I see 3 tiers. . SK/EDM, BC/CAL & WPG. Bombers have really good front 7 but don't like a lot on their backfield.
There's a lot to like about our back end. I echo your comments on Purifoy. I liked him when he was with BC early in his career. Most of our incumbents are in their prime with only Gainey & Edem soon to be 31 & 32. Bouka turns 29 in August, Onyeka just turned 27 so the time is right to work one or both into the lineup. The latter started @ wide side in Edmonton on a good backfield & has good size. Bouka looks ready. Both were high draft picks @ 10 & 24. And there's Lokombo coming up. The key is replacing starters when they still may have a year or 2 left, if you have younger players ready to play. With 1 year contracts, the guy you developed may decide to go elsewhere (see Bladek). It's a delicate balance. Would Onyeka be here if Mincy & J Rose weren't signed? Some decisions there. I like Purifoy where he is but he'd be a really good fit @ SAM. He had 5 sacks in BC his 1st year & was all around the ball.
I really don't know what we're going to do but you do want some continuity. I like Edem but I would not be unhappy to see a younger guy put there. If you don't find a spot for Bouka this year, he's 30 next year. Same situation as the receivers. I agree we pretty much have to go with 2 or we're just throwing away draft picks. Next year the Cup is in Regina. Get these guys playing or chance having some move on & we've developed them for nothing. Whatever happens some of the younger players we have been drafting need meaningful reps as starters. That applies to the DB's.
Pants - Agree for the most part. Winnipeg has lost some significant pieces so there is some concern there. Their front 4 can cover for them somewhat but certainly a dropoff. BC could be improving. I agree with Calgary on paper but I have a hard time counting them out just due to history.
Anon - I like Edem but would love to see some of the young guys step up and take his spot. Not sure this is the year though. With a year off and a short preseason I think any continuity you can find will be key. Definitely a key year for Bouka.
I'm kinda cold on Stamps too. I think at some point you gotta say it's too big to fix when you get to Calgary. Year after year Huf has proved everyone wrong & they have a great QB & coaching staff. But their RB, Carey, has 8 games experience. They lost 2 stud OL to retirement & lost Rogers, Begelton & Brescacin since last we played. Their defence is without Roberson, Law, Holley, Mcmanis, Smith, Daniel & Casher. They lost Maver & Williams on returns who was 2nd in total yardage & could have started @ RB. He has a 5.9 yds/carry career average & more carries than the much hyped Cooper who went to BC. Better bet than Carey. The replacements include amuch injured 35 year old Greenwood @ MLB which has to tell you something. Pfeffer isn't Maver. New punter, new LS, new returner. Offence, Defence, ST's - way too many holes. When you look at the Riders & EFC, they are stacked, Bombers have virtually same team coming back & BC is improved. I still see BC at bottom because their front 7 is a hot mess but Stamps......really don't see how they match up with the other 3, Huf or no Huf.
Anon - I agree more than any other year I want to say this is the year they start to slip. On paper they just don't look as good as previous teams. Just can't bring myself to because I've said that before and been proven wrong (though the loses then weren't as numerous)
So, are you doing reviews of Special Teams & Coaches/Mgmt as well as part of your overall analysis of the Riders? Not much for me to add on the backs. Pretty much covered it.
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