That receivers post I had was a bit long, especially since the team released Wheelwright (import) and signed former NFL second-round pick Sinorice Moss (I) on Tuesday. It just goes to show that you can never be caught up in the offseason for very long until something new happens. If it wasn’t obvious, that’s what I’m trying to do with these posts – get you caught up on the green team if you haven’t been following the changes in the offseason.
If you’re like me and follow everything they do, then feel free to correct any of my stupid opinions. And yes, opinions can be wrong.
Now, as much as the offense was a mess last year, the defense wasn’t all that pretty either and it greatly contributed to the slow start in 2011. The Roughriders made a big splash a month ago when the team traded a couple of draft picks for all-star defensive end Odell Willis (I).
I didn’t like the move at the time because I hate when teams trade away future Canadian talent for import players that can be found in the States. Saskatchewan addressed a huge need, but at what cost? Apparently, more than they thought as Willis got a DUI a few weeks later, so I like the move even less. Hopefully they’ll get it sorted out and just move on, but I hope it isn’t a sign of things to come.
The Riders have Brent Hawkins (I) at the opposite defensive end spot, who returns after missing all of the 2011 season due to injury. I’m hoping for better luck for this guy this time around since he was also injured for a lot of 2010. With the release of old-timer and overpaid Dario Romero, the team is only set at one defensive tackle spot with Keith Shologan (non-import) being one of the few Canadian starters on defense. The Riders have a few new and a few returning defensive linemen who will be competing for starting and rotational positions at training camp.
One player that we need to see more out of is Shomari Williams (NI). Being a defensive guy, I hope head coach Corey Chamblin can find out what the former first overall pick’s strengths are and use him better. He was a linebacker in college, so maybe it’s worth a look there. Speaking of linebackers, there’s open game on that position as all three of last year’s starters (Freeman, Simpson, and Lucas) are no longer with the team. This gives the coaching staff an opportunity to keep everyone on an even playing field and let the best players win jobs (as much as coaches with starters say it’s “open competition” in some camps, this will actually ring true).
Returning linebackers Chris Graham (I) and Kye Stewart (I) stood out in limited playing time last year, so I’ve got to assume they’ve got the inside track. The return of Maurice Lloyd (I) is an interesting twist and if he can return to his 2008 all-star form, the Riders’ gamble on him will have paid off. Besides the always rock-solid Mike McCullough (NI), the Roughriders have a lot of rookies and new players to choose from, making this one of the most intense competitions in camp.
In the secondary, my main question is: what do the Riders do with James Patrick (I)? Because of the emergence of West All-Star and 2011 rookie safety Craig Butler (NI), Patrick saw time at halfback and linebacker last year, so it will be interesting to see where the ball hawk will perch. I also have to wonder if the coaching staff will return Tristan Jackson (I) to full-time kick returning duty and look for someone else to play at the wideside cornerback position. It could be the recently signed Paul Woldu (NI), who could serve as a ratio-buster, but the level of talent will dictate where they want to go with that position since they have ratio flexibility there. Otherwise, halfback Chris McKenzie (I) and cornerback Nick Graham (I) will be looking to reclaim their positions on the shortside. I hope the team can find room for rookie Macho Harris (I), not because he has NFL experience, but because his name is just plain awesome.
Of course, these lists are pending a few more free agent signings and the upcoming Canadian College Draft next week, but hopefully it has painted some kind of picture. A shout out goes to Jason Clermont who announced his retirement this week; he was one of the toughest slots to ever play the game and it was a shame that he couldn’t have been used more as a Roughrider. Still, the man won a championship and a couple of Most Outstanding Canadian awards, so you can’t complain too much.