Saskatchewan Roughriders Bye Week Report Card: Defence & Special Teams

Saskatchewan Roughriders Bye Week
REGINA, SK - JULY 01: McLeod Bethel-Thompson #4 of the Toronto Argonauts looks to throw over the rush of Charleston Hughes #39 of the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the game between the Toronto Argonauts and Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium on July 1, 2019 in Regina, Canada. (Photo by Brent Just/Getty Images)

In part one of my Saskatchewan Roughriders bye week report card, I broke down the performances of the coaching staff and offence. This edition will take a look at the defence and special teams. I alluded to defensive coordinator Jason Shivers in part one, mentioning that he needs to get more out of this defence.Β The special teams, on the other hand, have left much to be desired in their coverage.

Secondary

Grade: C+

The Riders secondary has had its moments but difficult games against the Redblacks and Stampeders hurts their overall grade through four games. The Riders faced an uphill battle against Calgary with Nick Marshall out. However, that doesn’t exactly excuse Arbuckle’s career day of 19 completions on 22 attempts, 262 yards and two touchdowns. LWOS’ own Nik Kowalski breaks it down for us on Twitter with his charts.

Just as Marshall had a difficult game against the Redblacks, so too did Purifoy against the Stampeders. The frustrating thing with this secondary is that there is no shortage of talent here. It’s been inconsistent outliers as previously mentioned that is dragging this group’s grade down. They don’t have to play lights out week in and week out but definitely keep an eye on this group to be more consistent. They’ll have their first test against a desperate Mike Reilly led BC Lions team.

Defensive Line

Grade: B+

Charleston Hughes appears to be in his old bag of tricks once again this season. The veteran pass-rusher has five sacks in four games. Behind him is AC Leonard with four of his own. While Micah Johnson has yet to register a sack, his value to the defensive line can’t go unrecognized. An underappreciated stat that doesn’t get accounted for enough is quarterback pressures. As Derek Taylor points out, the Riders have been just fine in this category.

There’s simply too much talent on this defensive line to worry beyond this point. Zack Evans, Hughes, Leonard and Johnson make up one of the best units in the game. Their leadership and playmaking ability will be vital for the defence to get back on track. They’ll have a good chance of doing so this week against a beat-up Lions offensive line.

Linebackers

Grade: B

Cameron Judge and Derrick Moncrief have jumped off the page in terms of seeing these players fly around the defence. They’ve been everywhere the ball has been over the first four games of the season and that’s nothing but good news for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Moncrief and Judge both lead the Riders in tackles with 23 and 22 respectively. Moncrief has even added two sacks and an interception for his troubles.

One thing I would personally like to see this linebacking core do more of is forcing fumbles. That goes for the entire defence, in fact, this defence has just two interceptions to show for their work and zero fumble recoveries. Perhaps the return of Solomon Elimimian can aid in this process.

As a whole, this defensive unit hasn’t lived up to expectations, however, there is still plenty of room for optimism. They have yet to allow for an individual 100-yard rusher for what it’s worth. Though Terry Williams went five carries for 59 yards for an average of 11.8 yards-per-carry. With the Saskatchewan Roughriders bye week, all finished up, the general feeling is that this defence is a few adjustments away from bringing it together, the onus will be on Jason Shivers.

Special Teams

Grade: B-

Kicking wise, the Riders don’t seem to have any problems. Last year’s standout, Brett Lauther is 7/8 including a 57-yard make this season. Though he appears to be battling injury coming out of the bye, the Riders will be relying on Gabriel Ferraro to hold it down until Lauther returns.

Punting wise has been a different story, Jon Ryan was signed on with quite a bit of fanfare but according to Derek Taylor’s breakdown ranks just seventh in yards above average. (Which I know now is more accurate than just net yards).

The results of such have led the Riders to allow big yardage returns in games against Hamilton and Ottawa where they allowed 103 yards and a touchdown as well as four returns for 100 yards in those respective games. If the Riders are to trust anyone to correct this it’s head coach Craig Dickenson who’s specialty lies with, well, special teams.

What’s Next

The Saskatchewan Roughriders bye week has concluded. Now, at 1-3, the Riders have a back-to-back with the struggling Lions before three straight matchups against an Eastern Division opponent. One of which includes the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, without Simoni Lawrence who will now be serving his two-game suspension. The others are tilts against Montreal and Ottawa.

After that, it’s the Labour Day Classic with matchups against the currently undefeated Winnipeg Blue Bombers. If the Riders can split with BC, win two of the three against their Eastern foes, that would have them sitting at 4-5 going into Labour Day. Sweep BC and suddenly their season is on the ropes (if it isn’t already) and the Riders are right back in the thick of the race for the West.

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