Sunday, 18 November 2018

Roughriders had good season, can’t cannibalize over one game

Kyran Moore celebrates a punt return touchdown for the Roughriders.
    Sheer panic gripped Rider Nation way back in just Week 3 of the CFL season.
    On June 30, the Saskatchewan Roughriders fell to 1-2 dropping a 23-17 decision to the lowly Montreal Alouettes at Mosaic Stadium. With that win, the Alouettes halted a 13 game losing streak that dated back to the previous season.
    That was also the Roughriders “Humboldt Strong” game, where the green and white were honouring the junior A Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
The Roughriders defence played tough in 2018.
    The CFL contest was part of the various efforts to rally and support the Broncos in the wake of an April 6 team bus crash that resulted in the deaths of 16 players and team officials and injuries to 13 other players on the team.
    There was a vocal contingent of Roughriders fans that wondered what type of team they were cheering for. A consensus existed in the fan base that 2018 would be a non-playoff year.
    Fast forward five months and the Roughriders finished second overall in the CFL regular season and the West Division with a 12-6 mark. Had they won just one more game, they would have beat out the Calgary Stampeders for top spot overall in the league and first in the West Division.
Special teams ace Jordan Reaves emerged as a fan favourite.
    If any member of Rider Nation was told that would be the type of regular season the Roughriders would have, they would all likely sign up to take it.
    Unfortunately, the overall memory of the Roughriders in 2018 comes from their last game. In the West Division semifinal just seven days ago on Nov. 11, they dropped a 23-18 decision to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
    In the aftermath of that clash, there was a huge uproar over an unpenalized helmet-to-helmet shot hit delivered by Bombers defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat to Roughriders quarterback Brandon Bridge in the second last play of the game. That hit knocked Bridge out of the game.
    To add further insult to the Roughriders and their fans, the team lost starting quarterback Zach Collaros in the club’s final regular season game on Oct. 27, when he was hit helmet to helmet by British Columbia Lions defensive lineman Odell Willis in a 35-16 Saskatchewan victory.
QB Zach Collaros missed five total games due to injury in 2018.
    The uncontrollable aspects of the game mounted against the Roughriders at the end of their 2018 campaign.
    Still, they were likely two changed plays away from winning the playoff encounter against Winnipeg.
    In an idealistic world, it would be cool to see most of the roster return to see if they can improve on where they left off. Due to the realities of professional sports, there will likely be medium sized turnover at least.
    The Roughriders defence played strong in 2018. Players like defensive backs Jovon Johnson and Nick Marshall, defensive tackle Zack Evans, linebacker Samuel Eguavoen, and defensive ends Willie Jefferson and Charleston Hughes, despite his legal troubles with charges from an alleged diving under the influence incident that are before the courts, all had outstanding years.
Roughriders DB Jovon Johnson, second from left, was out in the community.
    All were great at dealing with the fans, and in the case of Johnson and Jefferson, getting out into the community.
    Brett Lauther, who was the team’s 28-year-old kicker, played a full CFL season for the first time in his life, and he made 54-of-60 field goal attempts with his long coming from 56 yards out. The Truno, N.S., product played well enough to earn a look from an NFL team. He deserves that chance to come his way.
    Special teams ace Jordan Reaves grew into a fan favourite with his hustle and the fact he got his nose dirty doing unglamourous work like blowing up blocks.
    On offence, the Roughriders bit the bullet and decided to go with a younger group of receivers, and they steadily improved as they gained experience as the campaign moved on. You pass catchers like Jordan Williams-Lambert and Kyran Moore were fun to watch.
Jordan Williams-Lambert, left, became a key receiver for the Roughriders.
    The ground game was in the capable hands of Tre Mason, Marcus Thigpen and Cameron Marshall.
    The offensive line had some ups and downs, but always had a steady base anchored by Brendon LaBatte and Dan Clark.
    If the Roughriders had more consistent play at quarterback, they would have placed first overall in the league. Bridge seemed to regress, which was unfortunate. Bridge is a phenomenal person who is easy to cheer for.
    Collaros appeared in 14 of the Roughriders regular season games and missed four regular season games and the club’s playoff contest due to injury. He was good at reading defences and had a good command of the offence.
HC and GM Chris Jones did a great job guiding the 2018 Roughriders.
    The Steubenville, Ohio, product seemed to struggle throwing the ball deep and throwing wide side outs. There were times opposing defences gave him those options and focused on defending short and intermediate routes expecting him to struggle with deep and wide side out throws.
    Seeing those physical flaws, a few Roughriders fans have gone public with a dream that the team might be able to sign soon to be free agent Edmonton Eskimos star quarterback Mike Reilly.
    Head coach and general manager Chris Jones often takes criticism from the fans. He has always been a great coach, and he is improving in the general manager’s role. Looking at the Roughriders over the past three seasons, Jones is proving to be a good hire by the club.
Rider Nation is always ready to back their team.
    An incoming football operations salary cap next season will mean Jones will be releasing some coaching staff and other football operations staff.
    In 2018, it seemed like the expectations for the Roughriders by the fans increased as the team’s win total grew larger.
    When a loss did happened, it seemed fan criticism went more overboard than normal, which is part of life being with the Roughriders.
    Overall, the campaign was a good one for the Roughriders, and it created a lot of excitement for the fans.
The Roughriders celebrated victory on 12 occasions in 2018.
    The good did overshadow the bad for the green and white in 2018.

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