Saskatchewan Roughriders Bye Week Report Card: Coaching & Offence

Saskatchewan Roughriders Bye Week
REGINA, SK - JULY 06: A.C. Leonard #99, Loucheiz Purifoy #28 and Derrick Moncrief #42 of the Saskatchewan Roughriders take the field for the game between the Calgary Stampeders and Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium on July 6, 2019 in Regina, Canada. (Photo by Brent Just/Getty Images)

Four games into the 2019 season and one could say it’s been anything but a normal start. Week 1 set the tone for the odd start to the season with starting quarterback Zach Collaros going down after a controversial headshot from Ticats linebacker, Simoni Lawrence.

Backup Cody Fajardo gave Rider fans a reason to believe in Week 2 in a shootout loss to the Ottawa Redblacks 44-41. A convincing win over the Toronto Argonauts in Week 3 had optimism high before a 37-10 trouncing this past weekend at the hands of the Calgary Stampeders brought everyone back down to earth. This Saskatchewan Roughriders bye week report card breaks down the coaching and offence. Next week will be the defence and special teams.

Coaching

Grade: B-

Head Coach Craig Dickenson has had his fair share of adversity four games into his tenure. Despite the promising play from Fajardo, it’s never easy to lose your starting quarterback in the first game of the season. Dickenson hasn’t necessarily had any big-time blunders like saying kicking a field goal on 1st & 10 down by 10.

However, this coaching staff as a collective bears the responsibility of this slow start. Jason Shivers needs to get more out of this defence. After a promising Week 1 in holding the lethal Jeremiah Masoli offence to just 23 points, the Riders defence have allowed more than 30 points twice in four games. For context, the Riders allowed 30 or more points just four times in the entirety of 2018 and five times in 2017.

Offensively, Stephen McAdoo appears to have opened up his playbook with Fajardo under center. Prior to the Calgary game, the Riders offence looked quite potent with convincing efforts against the Redblacks and Argos. Many thought the offence would be running through William Powell, though he has surpassed his 20 carry total since Week 1. He has still been a focal point in this offence.

All things considered, this start is par for the course in Saskatchewan. In 2017, the Riders started 1-3 and last season started 2-2 and 3-4 before turning the corner. No reason to call for any changes on the coaching staff.

Quarterback

Grade: B

As mentioned previously, the Riders were thrown an obvious curveball with the head injury sustained by Collaros. Fajardo and Isaac Harker showed flashes in a tightly contested loss to the Ticats in Week 1. It would be in Week 2 that Fajardo temporarily silenced the doubters in an impressive starting debut. Following their first win over the hapless Argos at home, Fajardo looked unstoppable.

However, a reality check was in store for the young pivot and it came at the hands of the division rival Stampeders. Here’s how Fajardo’s season has shaken out so far.

Yards Passing Touchdowns Interceptions Rushing Touchdowns Completion Percentage QB Efficiency Rating
945 (4th) 4 (5th) 2 (T-5th) 4 (T-1st) 71.1 (2nd) 107.1 (3rd)

*Note: League rankings in () based on minimum two starts and prior to any Week 5 games being played.

Rider nation should by no means lose faith in Fajardo after a disappointing loss against Calgary. However, it will be very vital that he respond against BC next week to prove he can put up the kind of numbers he’s capable of against West Division rivals. A ‘B’ feels like a fair grade here.

Running Back

Grade: B+

Powell, prior to Week 5 is third in the league in rushing with 276 yards. He has also capped off two touchdowns to boot. With 60 carries on the season, Powell has been the bell-cow back of the offence, the next closest is Marcus Thigpen with 17 for 104 yards. Ideally, the Riders would like to spread those carries out more to keep Powell fresh for 18 games. This was one of the more difficult position groups to find a fault within the Saskatchewan Roughriders bye week report card.

Wide Receiver

Grade: B+

The emergence of Cody Fajardo has also done tremendous favours to the receiving corps of the Riders. Kyran Moore burst on the scene in 2018 but has continued that momentum in 2019 including his 98-yard touchdown against the Argos.

Shaq Evans and Kyran Moore’s performances over the first four games of the season have the two receivers in the top 10 in receiving yards heading into Week 5. Naaman Roosevelt and KD Cannon round out what’s been quite an electric group to watch over the first four games of the season. Cory Watson and Justin McInnis have stepped in when need be. This group has limited their mistakes but will need a sharp bounce-back game as the passing game struggled against Tre Roberson and the Calgary defence.

Offensive Line

Grade: C

Perhaps to no fault of there own as the sport of football is known to be a physically demanding one, the Riders have started four different offensive line combinations in the first four weeks of the season. That’s included changes at left tackle, right guard and right tackle. The two consistent pieces have been Philip Blake at left guard and Dan Clark at the center position. The result? Nine sacks allowed in the first four games of the season, including the five sacks allowed last week against Calgary.

To be fair, the sky isn’t falling for this group. I had similar sentiments last season around this time and the group went on to allow the least amount of sacks in the CFL. There are worse units in the league (looking at you, BC). However, if this offence is to bounce back after last week’s performance, they’ll need this group to have a similar trajectory as last season.

What’s Next?

At 1-3, there is no reason to hit the panic button. This Riders team has shown flashes of what it could be in games against the Redblacks and Argonauts. Just as it’s shown dents in the armour against the Stampeders. Time will tell what the outlier truly is. Whether or not the Riders continue with Fajardo once Collaros is deemed healthy enough to play remains to be seen but it will offer an interesting wrinkle when the time comes. Keep your eyes open for next week’s edition of the Saskatchewan Roughriders bye week report card for defence and special teams.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Good article but on a “REPORT CARD SO FAR”, how does a coach get a B- with a .250 winning %? Based on what he may do? I’ve never understood how when 10 points down it matters whether you go for 3 then 7 or 7 then 3. With the Eskimo defence there’s a good chance they can get the ball back to the offence for another try. In fact they gave the ball the offence TWICE. Dropped passes were the problem. OMG they’re taking the THREE first & going for SEVEN next. WOW that’s just, like, so WRONG. The offence was walking up & down the field on the Bombers all game. No need to bash a 3-1 coach to make a 1-3 coach look better. Maas, as mentioned on TSN, doesn’t get enough credit. At 3-1 Maas & Dickenson are apples & oranges.
    OL is too often mentioned in terms of sacks allowed, completely ignoring sacks allowed per dropbacks. Though tied with Stamps for least sacks allowed last year, they had far fewer dropbacks & the Stamps attempted more 20+ passes than anyone while we had the famous dink & dump. Hard to get sacks when you’re not throwing the ball or quickly dumping it off to your RB. Your C is a fair rating for this team but it will be interesting to see what happens if they loosen the hounds & let the QB’s throw more than 5 yards consistently.

    • Thanks for the feedback. That wasn’t a total slight on the entire Edmonton coaching staff but it was a significant blunder and it carried more impact considering the same thing happened in the 2017 West Final against Calgary. While Edmonton is rolling, Maas has consistently coached one of the more undisciplined football teams in the CFL over the last number of years. I went with B- because but C+ may have sufficed.

      As for the O-Line sacks allowed, I like that sacks allowed per dropback statistic and will use that going forward. Thanks!

      • First I want to emphasize I like reading your comments & don’t disagree with any of them. I won’t say any team is a favourite of mine – I’m a CFL guy 1st & foremost. But Jason Maas gets picked on a lot. Hot tempered – still no different than Chris Jones who railed at players as they came off the field but he’s a defensive guru so he often got a pass. Austin wouldn’t be mistaken for a bag of balloons either. In defense of Maas I say this. Benevides, in an interview with Lalji after being let go, said what he would miss most was not being able to work with Jason Maas. Reilly, after the season, said Maas was the best coach he ever had, something he never said about the coaches he won a Grey Cup with. Sunderland, when questioned about the loss of Reilly heading into free agency, stated that they would have no trouble attracting talent because players like playing for Maas. Unlike Jones, for instance, where departures often resulted in publicly voiced bad feelings I can’t recall this with Maas. And, as a stats guy there is this. Among the top 10 passing leaders in CFL history, over half never had a 5500 yard season. Reilly had 3 in the Maas offence, the only QB not named Flutie to have 3 consecutive. As OC with Burris in Ottawa, Maas has had 4 consecutive years of QB’s accomplishing this. The chances of Reilly having a 4th look slim – Harris not so much. There is no doubt in my mind he is the brightest offensive mind in the CFL today, along with Dave Dickenson, & both get scant credit. And despite adding 2018 MOP candidate Dean, league & division all-stars in Ellingson, Rogers, Muamba, Orange with Santos-Knox, Harris & Daniels to boot, most experts completely ignored free agency & picked them 4th or 5th. Why? Because Jason Maas “can’t coach” & a lot of this comes back to the so-called blunder which was repeated in Winnipeg. Sunderland landed 7 of the top 25 free agents ranked on cfl.ca. Don’t see this as a criticism. I think your articles are very fair & I was a bit surprised to see my comments passed muster. This site is better than most when it comes to CFL news.

        • Thanks so much, I’m glad you like what we do. We take a lot of pride in our work and are happy to receive feedback like that. Maas is by no means a poor coach. He’s an offensive genius in the league and as you mentioned gets the best out of all his quarterbacks. If he is able to run a tighter ship with his teams discipline wise it would be hard to find any cracks in his game (the late game decision making can be debated). You seem to be very passionate about CFL, if you’re ever interested in writing on it, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Application link on the top left of your screen!

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