George Alexander sports column

George A PortraitAs the Saskatchewan Roughriders embark on their pre-season finale tonight vs the Calgary Stampeders, fans wonder what to expect in the upcoming 2015 CFL campaign. There are many question marks right across the board in Riderville after a disastrous 2014 season. The defence looks to be rounding into fine form and possesses a plethora of talent, however, the Riders may be seriously offensively challenged. First and foremost on the mind of fans is the true health of quarterback Darian Durant, who is arguably the best player in the entire league. Secondly, what will the Riders revamped offensive line bring to the field in 2015?


GA DD 4 Training Camp May3115 copy

2015 Riders Training Camp in Saskatoon. Photo by George Alexander.

As training camp has unfolded in Saskatoon and one pre-season game has been played in Fort McMurray, we have the answers to some of the questions. Yes, DD’s elbow injury seems to be alright for the time being, though it has been minimally tested. We’ll know more tonight as Durant plans to take the entire first half under center against their rival Stamps. Yes, the revamped OL has serious question marks. Ben Heenan and Dominic Picard look to be irreplaceable as training camp has unfolded so far. In fact, the Riders allowed a whopping eight sacks to Eskies just last week. Hardly, a recipe for success on the field and certainly for the health of our prized starting QB.

The receiving core is stacked with the likes of Weston Dressler and Chris Getzlaf and will be fine as long as someone can get them the ball. A few newcomers are trying to break out but none are more promising than 2015 CFL 1st round draft pick, Nick Demski. The kid from Manitoba has speed to burn and will certainly earn playing time as a dazzling return specialist. The running game seems adequate with Anthony Allen and Jerome Messam. The special teams were the Achilles heal of the green and white last season and have to improve. Kicker Chris Milo looks to rebound for a terrible season and has stiff competition from the bearded wonder, Hugh O’Neill. Coverage and tackling woes have to be corrected or special teams coach Bob Dyce will be joining others at the unemployment office real soon.

Defence wins championships! That’s a no-brainer and the Riders have the skill and talent to wreak havoc on their CFL opponents this season. A three-headed monster exists of the D line with John Chick, Tearrius Geoge and Alex Hall, back from a brief stint in the NFL. Shea Emery is a Canadian stud ready to start at middle linebacker. Hopefully, the Riders can find some complementary LB’s as the pre-season concludes tonight. The secondary is rock solid and laden with veteran talent; Tyron Brackenridge, Terrell Maze, Weldon Brown and Tristan Jackson are as good of a unit as any in the entire CFL.

Can we say training camp was a success? It seems so as the Riders remain virtually injury free, unlike many other CFL clubs who have already lost key starters for the entire season. The roster was pretty much in place before camp even started and we only wait on new diamonds to emerge from the rough. The offence will have their struggles, no doubt, but should round into form once the OL settles. I think it’s the Riders saving grace to open up on home field versus the hapless Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Ricky Ray-less Toronto Argos in successive weekends. Let the games begin!

Follow George Alexander on Twitter @Big_G_09




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