The Saskatchewan Roughriders had one of the league’s better defences last year, finishing first in yards allowed at 317.5 per game and fourth in points allowed at 24.7 per game.
But the team’s offence was in the bottom half of the league in both categories, and it will be a focus this season for that unit to catch up. For that to happen, the Roughriders will need better play from their quarterback, Zach Collaros.
Collaros is a household name in the CFL based largely off his time with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The 30-year-old was a front-runner for the league’s Most Outstanding Player in 2015 before suffering an ACL tear in the second half of the season. Since then it’s been a string of injuries for Collaros, which has left him feeling like he’s playing catch up.
“I feel like I’m behind the eight ball. I want to be the guy, I want to get to that point,” Collaros told TSN Football Insider Dave Naylor. “But I feel like the last three years has kind of stunted my intellectual growth in sports because I haven’t learned anything. I’ve learned a lot about myself.”
Collaros played in 14 games for the Roughriders last season, his first in Saskatchewan, finishing with 2,999 yards passing, nine touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. He said he’s looking forward to his second season in the Roughriders’ offence.
“Any time you’re coming back to a familiar situation, you’re more comfortable and for me that is the case,” Collaros told TSN’s Jermain Franklin, “just knowing the guys made it a lot easier.”
It won’t be entirely on Collaros to improve the offence, however. With running back William Powell and receivers Manny Arceneaux and Justin McInnis, the team’s first round pick this spring, added to the skill position groups, the entire offence can look to take a step this season.
“You’ve got Naaman Roosevelt at receiver, Manny Arceneaux coming off an injury, Kieran Moore’s looked good,” said TSN’s Farhan Lalji. “Is there enough dynamic pieces in the receiving corps? And last year offensive line was a real concern for this team. An inability to protect saw this team get so conservative with its offensive schemes under Stephen McAdoo with all the screen game and the hitch passes and the short plays. Are they capable with the other pieces to allow Zach to push the ball down the field?”
Roughriders defensive end Charleston Hughes led the league in sacks last year with 15, narrowly edging out Michah Johnson, who finished with 14 while playing with the Calgary Stampeders. After Johnson signed in Saskatchewan, arguably the league’s two top pass rushers will be attacking quarterbacks together.
With team bragging rights and $1,000 on the line, the sack race could have some added interest this season.