The riders’ record produces a strong mid-course report

The Saskatchewan Roughriders boast the second-best record in the CFL and their performance produced strong marks in their mid-term report.

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The Saskatchewan Roughriders midterm report may be framed.

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They reached the midpoint of the 2021 CFL season with a 5-2 record and in exclusive possession of second place in the West Division.

The Riders rebounded from back-to-back losses to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who lead the West Division with a 6-1 record, with wins over the Toronto Argonauts and British Columbia Lions.

Both losses leave room for improvement, but wins in five of seven regular season games contribute to an overall B rating.

Here’s how the Riders rank, position by position, ahead of Saturday’s game in Calgary against the Stampeders.

Quarterbacks

Cody Fajardo rebounded from two below-par performances against the Blue Bombers with wins over the Argonauts and Lions. He leads the CFL in completed passes (154), attempted passes (213), is third in passing distance (1644) and fourth in touchdown passes (seven). He also leads all quarters for rushing attempts (45), yards (267) and touchdowns (four). Isaac Harker only appeared in one relief match. Former NFL player Paxton Lynch has yet to dress for a CFL game. Class: Unless.

Toronto Argonauts defensemen can't beat Saskatchewan Roughriders running back William Powell (29) in a run in the first half.
Toronto Argonauts defensemen can’t beat Saskatchewan Roughriders running back William Powell (29) in a run in the first half. Photo by Brandon Harder /Regina Chief Position

Ball carriers

William Powell, the Riders’ primary running back, is the CFL leader in runs (99) and third in rushing yards (448). He’s averaging 4.5 yards per carry with one rushing touchdown. He contributes off the backfield with 17 receptions for 127 yards and remains an elite tackle at the age of 33. Kienan LaFrance and Jamal Morrow are rarely used as running backs. Class: B.

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Receivers

Kyran Moore became Fajardo’s favorite receiver with Shaq Evans (broken foot) on the six-game injured list. In 2019, Evans was the Riders’ main receiver, with 1,334 receiving yards and five touchdowns, and was a CFL all-star. In 2021, Moore leads the league in targets (59) and receptions (43) and is 10 years olde in receiving yards (373), with two touchdown receptions. The emergence of Ricardo Louis, who collected five receptions for 71 yards against British Columbia in addition to scoring his first CFL touchdown, bodes well for the future. Kian Schaffer-Baker leads all CFL rookie receivers in catches (24), receiving yards (293) and touchdowns (one). Second-year slotback Brayden Lenius has been the only threat over 30 meters this season. Regina Mitchell Picton’s product has also stepped up this season. Class: B.

Offensive linemen

The 17 sacks surrendered by the Riders are the third among the nine teams in the league. They are 10 behind the Stampeders and Lions, co-leaders of the CFL in this category. It could be worse for the Greens and Whites given the injuries and changes to the offensive line. Andrew Lauderdale and Cameron Jefferson started off as left and right tackles respectively, with limited CFL experience. Lauderdale (ankle) missed Friday’s win over the Lions and Brett Boyko took his place. Center Dan Clark, CFL star in 2019, remains an anchor point. Guards Logan Ferland and Evan Johnson performed admirably. Fajardo’s quick release helped cover up some of the offensive line’s shortcomings. Class: B-less.

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Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive lineman Jonathan Woodard celebrates one of his league-leading seven sacks.
Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive lineman Jonathan Woodard celebrates one of his league-leading seven sacks. Photo by Brandon Harder /Regina Chief Position

Defensive linemen

Jonathan Woodard is having a monster season, with seven sacks leading the league from his defensive position. His performance helped the Riders survive the departure of six-time CFL star Charleston Hughes. Defensive end AC Leonard and defensive tackle Garrett Marino are tied for second with the Riders with three sacks apiece. Marino (knee) is on the six-game injured list. Leonard returns for Saturday’s game after serving a three-game suspension for failing to provide a sample for drug testing and verbal abuse and unacceptable behavior towards doping control officers. Defensive tackles Micah Johnson and Mak Henry are performing at a high level. Class: A.

Linebackers

The Riders advanced after the departures of Solomon Elimimian (retired), Derrick Moncrief (now Edmonton Elks) and Cameron Judge (Toronto). Micah Teitz stepped up his role as the weak side linebacker in Judge’s absence. Teitz leads the Riders with 34 defensive tackles and contributed two sacks. Deon Lacey was solid as a center linebacker with 22 defensive tackles and two sacks. AJ Hendy started the season as a strong linebacker, but injuries helped him transfer to defensive back before being placed on the one-game injured list last week. Godfrey Onyeka skillfully completed, starting two games at linebacker on the strong side. Class: B.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros (8) looks to pass while being chased by Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy (5).
Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros (8) looks to pass while being chased by Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy (5).

Defensive backs

The defensive backfield was hit hard by injuries. Safety Mike Edem, a 2019 West Division star, is on the six-game injured list with a dislocated wrist. Defensive backs Ed Gainey (toe) and Loucheiz Purifoy (rib) have missed games due to their injuries. This forced the Riders to play newcomers such as Hendy and Christian Campbell. The shuffle in the defensive backfield helped the Riders rank sixth in passing yards allowed (1,870). Gainey and Nick Marshall are tied for the team lead in interceptions, with two. Class: B-less.

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Special teams

Brett Lauther had 10 straight goals to start the season, and his now on a streak of six in a row. Between sequences he was 4-by-9. The overall accuracy rate: 80%, compared to 90 in 2018 and 78 in 2019. Jon Ryan, who turns 40 on November 26, remains among the best in the league in his position with an average of 47.2 yards per kick. clearance. Saskatchewan’s returning teams have improved with Morrow’s promotion from the practice roster. The cover teams have been strong. Class: B-less.

framing

The Riders continue to take whatever head coach Craig Dickenson asks, just like in 2019, when he was the West Division Coach of the Year. Dickenson had a problem with the management of the clock at the end of the first half, which he needs to fix. We are still waiting to see the aggressive air attack promised by offensive coordinator Jason Maas. There were signs of a vertical passing game against the Lions, so Maas could start to open things up. The defense continues to improve under the guidance of coordinator Jason Shivers. The defensive backfield has undergone a reshuffle due to injury, but remains strong despite this challenge.Class: B.

Player staff

General manager Jeremy O’Day, assistant general manager Paul Jones and director of player personnel Kyle Carson have the Riders in contention even as the team suffered a slew of injuries that started with four Achilles tendons torn during pre-workout camp training. There is a strong group of Canadian receivers, led by Lenius and Schaffer-Baker. O’Day solidified the defensive line with the signings of Woodard, Marino, Keion Adams and Pete Robertson. Teitz may be even better than Judge. Morrow may or may not be the answer to the Riders’ rematch, but there is potential. The Riders are competitive despite the injuries. This is the result of the judicious signings of the Riders. Class: B-more.

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