What do the Riders have to do to get back to the top of the mountain?
After a dismal second half of the 2014 campaign, there is a lot of work to do in Riderville.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders flew out of the gate earlier on this season, yet I think we all know where it went wrong in Saskatchewan. A huge injury that knocked starting quarterback Darian Durant out of the Banjo Bowl for the rest of the season set the tone for the 10-8 final record for the green and white.
So, what’s next in Saskatchewan?
First of all, offensive coordinator George Cortez’s era in Saskatchewan must end. Sure, Cortez had a lot of success with the club in recent history, but it’s time for a shake up in the offense. Cortez struggled running his offense when the Riders lost both Weston Dressler and Kory Sheets to the NFL and even with help from players such as Rob Bagg, Anthony Allen and Jerome Messam, he couldn’t bolster the offense the same even with Durant in the lineup.
When Durant went down, Cortez’ schemes became frustrating to watch, as he and the coaching staff were unable to play off the Riders’ strong parts on offense and everything fell apart. It’s time to give it up with Cortez and go in a new direction with a more vast understanding of playing to the offensive strengths.
Next, the Riders need to find a reliable backup quarterback. We saw how much Durant is and was worth the star quarterback title in Saskatchewan. The signing of a Kevin Glenn or even – dare I say it without causing a riot – Henry Burris for insurance purposes wouldn’t hurt Saskatchewan. I believe that Tino Sunseri is a viable backup, but he needs someone there to help guide him and show him what it takes to be a better quarterback. If Durant is unable to come back from his gruesome injury he might be rushed back too soon. It is better to find a good backup before that happens.
The special teams for the Riders this year were also quite the head scratcher. They were streaky and at times looked like a well-oiled machine, on the other side – especially in placekicking and punting – the team just didn’t have what it took. Placekicker Chris Milo needs to go, or at least needs to be challenged in training camp next season, most likely by Riders prospect Johnny Mark out of the University of Calgary Dinos program.
On defense, I don’t see there being much of a turnover. Maybe looking for a couple guys in the secondary is in the cards, but this defense just ended up looking tired and beat from carrying the club all season. Some rest and a few younger bodies in there will give the team what they need on the defensive side of the ball.
All in all, a lot can be taken from the 2014 version of the club. To keep up with the times in the tough Western division, the Riders can’t sit back this offseason. If they don’t blow up the club, this team has another shot at redemption next season. The pieces are there; it’s time to start looking towards next year and looking to the 103rd Grey Cup in Winnipeg.