Well rookie camp was held last week and main camp was supposed to open yesterday. But the players are not participating as the ongoing drama surrounding the collective agreement negotiations ramps up.
Look, I could write pages on these negotiations. Human resources is what I do when I’m not wearing a robe (for some reason they frown on that) so I could bore you with the ins and outs of collective bargaining (this is all pretty standard tactics/process). I’ll boil it down to this: Both sides are playing a very obvious game of chicken. Everyone knows that neither side can afford to miss games. Even preseason games with their minimal attendance are a revenue source that the owners will not be passing on. So this will 100% be resolved prior to next Monday when the Riders and Bombers open the preseason. I don’t have the energy to wade into this conversation other than to say: The owners are negotiating like dicks. It’s their right to do so and they honestly hold all the power and know it. But the are still using 60s style bargaining tactics and wondering why the players don’t believe them when they say they want them to be partners. Want to use your power to strong arm a deal (as happens every time), go ahead but just remember that there may be longer term consequences to treating your employees as expendable numbers.
But since I much prefer talking actual football, let’s do that by taking a look at the offensive side of the ball and what we can expect to see in camp (when it does eventually get underway)
Projected starter: Cody Fajardo (honestly felt like typing another name here just to get a rise out of people. Only issue is I know someone would take me seriously and agree).
In the mix: Mason Fine, Jake Dolegala, Troy Williams
The only thing to watch here is Dolegala vs. Fine for back-up QB (or as its more popularly known in Saskatchewan “everyone’s favourite person”). Troy Williams is nothing more than an extra arm in training camp. Fine should have the leg up based on spending last year here and seeing the field but Dolegala will have a chance to unseat him.
Projected Starter: Jamal Morrow or Shaq Cooper
In the mix: Trumaine Pope, Frankie Hickson
I was a bit surprised to see both Moreland and Covington released following rookie camp. What started as an open competition is looking more and more like Morrow vs. Cooper and the newcomers are competing for a PR spot. Honestly I think this will boil down more to who pass blocks best. We are a pass-based team so the majority of what the RB will do is block. Cooper has height but Morrow is pretty solid for a smaller guy. My gut says Cooper ends up starting and Morrow is the back-up/returner again. Either way, we won’t know anything about the RBs until preseason games.
Projected starters: Terran Vaughn, Logan Ferland, Dan Clark, Evan Johnson, Jamal Campbell
In the mix: Josiah St John, Logan Bandy, Zach Fry, Diego Alatorre-Montoya (prepare to die), Andrew Lauderdale, Tommy Champion, Na’ty Rogers, Maurice Simba, Noah Johnson, Kooper Richardson
The single most important competition in camp. There are 2 distinct parts to watch. First and foremost, we need to find 2 mildly competent tackles (which would represent a massive upgrade over 2021). Second we need to establish some reliable depth in the interior. At tackle healthy Terran Vaughn will start. Campbell should be the leader for the other one. I see Rogers and Lauderdale as the main competitors as they have experience (though both were on lines that performed terribly last season). Would love one of the new Americans to be awesome but not holding my breath. The retirement of Reilly means that we need to find 2 viable back-ups out of St John, Bandy, Fry and Montoya. Fry (with the ability to play tackle) is the one we really need to pan out. Our Cdn OL depth has taken a hit over the years with the retirements of Reilly, Jake Bennett, Brendan Labatte and Braden Schram and the departure of Shepley to the NFL. We need to start developing the next generation of OL now.
Project Starters: Duke Williams, Shaq Evans, Kyran Moore, Kian Shaefer-Baker, Justin McInnis
In the mix: Paul McRoberts, Xavier Ubosi, Jamal Custis, Jester Weah, Jeremiah Haydel, Jakob Prall, Tevin Jones, Jonathan Johnson, Dieuly Aristilde, Mitch Picton, Jake Harty, Wesley Lewis, Riley Boersma.
Starters are set so this is all about the competition for back-up. At American receiver, we have been searching for a reliable guy for a while. Been through Carlos Henderson, Ricardo, Louis and Paul McRoberts (who is vying to break Mitch Picton’s record for most years spent on the PR) and still looking. Canadian WR won’t really be a competition until 1st round pick Sam Emilus shows up. Picton and Harty are depth, not starters. Honestly don’t see Wesley Lewis doing much here. There is some early hype on Boersma but let’s see if that continues when he’s lining up against veterans and not just guys who have never played the Canadian game before.