CFL

Saskatchewan Roughriders

Division: WestGM: Brendan TamanHead Coach: Corey Chamblin
2012: 8-10 (3rd in West)vs. division 4-6
Points25.4 (5th)
Yards349.4 (6th)
Pass Yards259.4 (7th)
Rush Yards111.5 (3rd)

Riders gear up for run at home Grey Cup

It's a Bird, It's a Plane...

Geroy Simon aka Superman, the CFL's all-time receiving yards leader, is one of many new faces in Riderville this season.

On Sunday, November 24, 2013, the 101st Grey Cup will be contested in Regina, marking the first time in a decade that Saskatchewan has played host to the CFL's marquee event.

And the Saskatchewan Roughriders plan on being the headliners for the big game, not just the hosts.

If they want to do so, they'll have to find some of that old magic from a few seasons ago.

Just a few short years ago, the Roughriders playing for the Grey Cup was a common occurrence. From 2007 to 2010 the Roughriders appeared in 3-of-4 Grey Cups, winning it all in 2007.

The team bottomed out in 2011 though, finishing dead last in the CFL.

The Green Riders had a better year in 2012, finishing the season at 8-10 and making it back into the playoffs. Their season would come to an end in the Western Semifinal though, as they dropped a 36-30 decision to the Calgary Stampeders.

This year, with the Grey Cup being played on their home turf, just making the playoffs simply won't be enough.

The team has loaded up on talent during the off-season adding players like Geroy Simon, Ricky Foley, John Chick and Dwight Anderson with an eye on playing for Canadian Football's biggest prize in front of their hometown fans.

"This is the best roster I've ever had and we've got a chance to do some great things. There is a real buzz in Regina and Saskatchewan as to what is happening. I'm still bothered by 2009 and the way the Grey Cup ended, but I really think we can live up to the expectations that people are putting on us," quarterback Darian Durant told reporters during training camp.

Bevy of weapons for Durant

Offensively, the leader on this team is still Durant and no one is more motivated than him to lead the Riders back to the Grey Cup.

Durant was a backup to Kerry Joseph when the Riders hoisted the Grey Cup in 2007. As a starter he is 0-for-2 in the big game, losing to Montreal in 2009 and 2010.

"The fact I haven't led this team to a championship still haunts me and it's something that fuels my fire each and every year." Durant said during a pre-season conference call.

While the team struggled at times, Durant actually had one of his best seasons as a pro in 2012. He completed a career-best 64.4 percent of his passes and threw 20 touchdowns against 12 interceptions, the best ratio of his CFL career.

Roughriders Head coach Corey Chamblin knows that Durant will be key to the team's success this season and thinks his quarterback has what it takes to take them to the Grey Cup.

"I'd like to see him take that next step because I think he has the tools to be a great quarterback and to be remembered in this league. That's the pressure that I put on him," Chamblin said.

And to help Durant take that next step, the Riders have surrounded him with bevy of offensive weapons.

First and foremost among those weapons is Geroy Simon whom the Roughriders acquired in a trade with the BC Lions during the off-season. Simon, the CFL's all-time receiving yards leader, will be motivated to show he's still a premier receiver.

He instantly becomes the Riders most decorated pass-catcher but he certainly isn't the only star. In fact, Durant thinks this year's receivers are the best group he's ever played with.

"I don't want to take anything away from the Canadian Air Force, but you have Dress (Weston Dressler), Getz (Chris Getzlaf), Rob (Bagg), Geroy (Simon), Taj Smith, Greg Carr, Kory Sheets and Jock Sanders. It's overwhelming to see what this team has given me to work with and it's going to be fun coming to practice every day and fine tuning things week in and week out," Durant said.

Besides the players on the field to help Durant, the team also brought in George Cortez as offensive coordinator to guide Durant and the Riders offence.

Cortez has worked with some of the best quarterbacks the CFL has ever seen including Damon Allen, Jeff Garcia, Doug Flutie and Henry Burris.

"It brought a smile to my face when I learned that we had coach (George) Cortez to guide the offence because of what he has done in this league," said Durant. "Take nothing away from Bob Dyce because he helped me to what I think was my best season since I've been up here, but a guy like George can give us so much."

In The Bagg

Rob Bagg will be an interesting player to watch as he returns to action following a series of knee problems. Bagg tore is left Anterior Cruciate ligament late during the 2010 season and then re-injured the same ACL training to return and ended up missing the entire 2011. He returned in 2012 but only lasted three games before tearing the ACL in his right knee. Now he is back, looking fit and fast and hoping to re-establish himself as a threat in the Riders offence.

Corey Watman

Analysis: Offensive line was a major priority heading into the draft for the Riders and they addressed that need with their first two picks in Corey Watman and Matt Vonk. Watman may be the most pro ready O-line prospect in the entire 2013 CFL Draft class. Vonk meanwhile will likely shift from guard to tackle in the pros but has the potential to grow into a solid pro down the road. Levi Steinhauer and Spencer Moore also have the potential to make it as special teamers for the Riders.

Rd. Pick Player Pos School
1 4th overall Corey Watman OL Eastern Michigan
5 38th overall Matt Vonk OL Waterloo
5 39th overall Alex Anthony WR Wilfrid Laurier
5 40th overall Levi Steinhauer DL Saskatchewan
5 44th overall Spencer Moore TE McMaster
6 49th overall Thomas Spoletini LB Calgary
7 56th overall Eric Armitage OL Western

All on the line

Happy Returns

After years of trying unsuccessfully to replace him on the D-line, John Chick is back in green and white after three seasons in the NFL.

Opposing quarterbacks beware.

One of the areas the Roughriders needed to improve on during the off-season was the pass rush. Gone are Odell Willis and Brent Johnson, but with the return of John Chick and the acquisitions of Ricky Foley and Jermain McElveen the Riders look to have vastly improved along the line.

Chick was a dominant force for the Riders from 2007-09 and was named the CFL's Most Outstanding Defensive Player in 2009 before leaving for the NFL. Now he is back and looks to be picking up right where he left off.

"I'm back to where I'm having fun, I love doing what I'm doing and I'm back with some guys that I know and love getting ready to take this journey to the 101st Grey Cup," Chick told reporters after his first practice with the team.

The Riders signed Foley away from the Toronto Argonauts as a free agent after he was named the top Canadian in last season's Grey Cup. He had a career-best 12 sacks with the BC Lions in 2009 when he was named the CFL's top Canadian.

05
The Riders have stocked up for a run at the Grey Cup on their home turf.

Chick, Foley, McElveen and returnees like Tearrius George and Keith Shologan, the Riders defensive front four is once again a unit to be feared in the CFL.

Elsewhere on the defence versatility seems to be the name of the game as defensive coordinator Richie Hall has more than a few players moving positions to fit into some new schemes.

"Oh I think you can be very creative. The one thing we've always asked our players to do is we want football players, not halfbacks or this or that. That means they can play multiple positions," Hall told reporters.

Most notably on the move are Tyron Brackenridge and Craig Butler. Brackenridge was the team's top defensive player a year ago with 77 tackles, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and a touchdown from his linebacker position. This year Brackenridge is being employed as a safety giving him more freedom to roam and make plays.

Butler meanwhile has made the switch the other way and is lining up more in the box as a linebacker.

The team also added flashy defensive back Dwight Anderson to help shore up their secondary and add yet another proven winner.

The Riders defence was second in the league last season in both points allowed at 22.7 per game and yards allowed at 333.7. They might be even better this year.

DEPTH CHARTS

OFFENCE

DEFENCE

LT

Fulton
Hill

LG

LaBatte
Clark

C

Picard
Watman

RG

Best
Vonk
Armitage

RT

Heenan
Valdez

WR1

Smith
Carr

SB1

Simon
Riley

SB2

Getzlaf
Anthony

WR2

Bagg
Harper
Thompson

QB

Durant
Willy
Sunseri
Burko

RB

Sheets
Sanders
Dorsey

SB

Dressler
Sisco

Special Teams: P/K (Milo, McKnight, Schmitt), LS (Huclack, Matechuk), RS (Sanders, Dressler, Miller)

Depth Chart is for pre-season game against Calgary (6/21)

Expert Analysis
Chris Schultz: Pressure is on for Grey Cup-host Roughriders

The pressure is on for the 2013 Saskatchewan Roughriders; and it comes in two distinct forms. First and most obvious, to have a great season; one that generates sold out stadiums and propels them to the Grey Cup. Second is to win the Grey Cup at home; just like the BC Lions did in 2011 and the Toronto Argonauts in 2012.

Matt Dunigan: Not much changed with Riders' QBs; a good thing

Not much has changed with regards to the names and numbers that are playing the QB for the Roughriders. This, I believe, is a good thing! What has changed in my opinion is a bit of a coo for the Green Machine: the hiring of their new offensive coordinator George Cortez.

WK AGAINST DATE WK AGAINST DATE
1 @ June 29, 3:30pm et/12:30pm pt 11 @ Sep 8, 4pm et/1pm pt
2 vs July 5, 9pm et/6pm pt 12 vs Sep 14, 9:30pm et/6:30pm pt
3 @ July 11, 7:30pm et/4:30pm pt 13 vs Sep 22, 4:30pm et/1:30pm pt
4 vs July 21, 7pm et/4pm pt 14 @ Sep 29, 1pm et/10am pt
5 @ July 27, 7:30pm et/4:30pm pt 15 @ Oct 4, 10pm et/7pm pt
6 BYE WEEK 16 vs Oct 12, 4:30pm et/1:30pm pt
7 @ Aug 9, 9pm et/6pm pt 17 vs Oct 19, 7pm et/4pm pt
8 vs Aug 17, 4pm et/1pm pt 18 @ Oct 26, 7pm et/4pm pt
9 vs Aug 24, 4pm et/1pm pt 19 vs Nov 2, 5pm et/2pm pt
10 vs Sep 1, 4pm et/1pm pt      

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