With the 2010s quickly coming to a close, ’tis the season for decade lists! Yes, it’s been quite a decade for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Starting with a Grey Cup loss for the second year in a row at the hands of the Montreal Alouettes and ending with a goal-line heartbreak in the West-Final to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Sandwiched in between was everything from a Grey Cup win on home soil and a three-win season. With so much turnover in the middle of the decade, it made putting this Saskatchewan Roughriders All-Decade list together a challenge.
This list aims to pay tribute to all who contributed to the roller-coaster decade that was Saskatchewan Roughriders football. No, it won’t be perfect and it probably won’t be what you like but as always, discussion and debate are encouraged. Without further ado, the Saskatchewan Roughriders All-Decade Team.
This one wasn’t too difficult of a decision to make. Durant, of course, spent 2010-2016 with the Riders this decade. In that time he made two Grey Cups, winning one of them. But unfortunately, he battled injuries his final two-and-a-half seasons. However, he was unstoppable in 2013 posting 4,154 yards, 31 touchdowns, 12 interceptions. His defining moment coming in the West-Semi Final against the BC Lions when he rushed for 97 yards to put the game on ice. He’s been one of the most pivotal players for the Riders not only this decade but I’d argue this century.
Despite only being with the team for two seasons in the entire decade, Sheets’ impact will be felt for a long time. Kory Sheets burst onto the scene in 2012 rushing for 1,277 yards and 11 touchdowns. That was just the appetizer. In 2013, Sheets would eclipse and surpass his yardage totals with a whopping 1,598 yards and 12 touchdowns to boot. To cap off his historic year, Sheets would win Grey Cup MVP with a massive performance of 20 carries, 158 yards and two touchdowns.
Unfortunately, for Sheets. His football career quickly drew to a close in 2014 after rupturing his Achilles at Oakland Raiders training camp. He has since opened up about his life after football, you can read that here.
Wide Receiver (2)
No player has exemplified the true meaning of “grit” this decade more than Rob Bagg. From the beginning of his career where he went undrafted out of Queens University to the plethora of injuries he faced, Bagg continued to be a consistent presence in green & white over the decade. His numbers speak for themselves with 4,705 yards, 24 touchdowns and 364 catches. Former-teammates had nothing but great things to say about Bagg after his retirement earlier this year a truly underrated component of this franchise this decade.
This was a difficult decision to make as there has been a lot of movement in this position in Saskatchewan over the years. This one came between Taj Smith and Duron Carter. Both of their best season’s have similar stat lines. Smith put up 1,007 yards on 78 catches to go with seven touchdowns in 2013. Carter meanwhile put up 1,043 yards on 73 catches to along with eight touchdowns.
Smith had a longer tenure in Saskatchewan (2012-2015) compared to Carter (2017-2018), however, in the transition period that the Riders were facing in the Chris Jones era, Carter stepped in as the face of the franchise, albeit for a short period of time. Something the Riders desperately needed during the rebuild. While things came to an abrupt end, Carter’s impact can’t be understated in his short stay in green & white.
This also made a good case:
— Global Regina (@GlobalRegina) August 4, 2017
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a bigger uproar from Rider fans than when Chris Jones decided to release Weston Dressler in 2016. Even years later, fans had been pushing for a reunion. That shows what Dressler meant to the fanbase and franchise as a whole this decade. Since 2010, Dressler passed 1,000 yards receiving in 4/6 seasons as a Rider and put up a monstrous 14 touchdown season in 2012. To cap it off, Dressler also led the Riders receivers in receiving yards with 81 in the 2013 Grey Cup.
Another fan favourite for the next slotback position as Getzlaf, a hometown hero, also won the hearts of Rider nation in his tenure in Saskatchewan. Though his production tapered off towards the end of his tenure, in his prime, Getzlaf was a legitimate threat and part of the “Canadian Air Force” receiving corps that helped guide the Riders to two straight Grey Cup appearances in 2009 & 2010.
This was another difficult decision as many would like to see Andy Fantuz in this spot here. Take it from someone who still owns an unopened box of Fantuz Flakes, I’m not happy about omitting him from this list. However, in terms of this decade, Fantuz only played a season and a half with the green & white in the 2010s. Back to Roosevelt, he was the lone bright spot in his first season with the Riders during their 3-15 2015 campaign. From there, he became the model of consistency at the slotback position this decade.
Keep in mind, Roosevelt joined the Riders during the period of most uncertainty at the quarterback position (2015-2019) and still managed to post two separate 1,000-yard campaigns. The often reliable Roosevelt saw a dip in his numbers in 2018 but returned to form in 2019 with 946 yards on 77 receptions.
In his four seasons with the Roughriders, Fulton anchored the second most important position on offence, left tackle.
In what was considered one of the biggest signings in 2012 free agency, turned out to be one of the biggest acquisitions of the decade for the Riders. In his eight seasons as a Roughrider, Labatte has started in at least 15 games six of those.
Clark has recently been rewarded with a two-year extension to stay with the Riders. Similar to Labatte, Clark has also been a model of consistency starting in at least 14 games in his eight years, six times.
Chris Best was a big part of Saskatchewan’s offensive line in his 10 seasons with Saskatchewan. Though he had tougher luck with injuries than Labatte or Clark, when Best was healthy, it was difficult to find a better starting guard in the CFL. A Saskatchewan Roughriders All-Decade list seems incomplete without Chris Best on it.
The former first-overall CFL draft pick from 2012 may not have the longevity of his peers on this list, but his impact can’t be understated. From 2012-2014 Heenan was among the best tackles in the league, earning him an NFL opportunity with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts. He has since retired.
Defensive End (2)
Chick gained prominence at the end of the 2000’s decade when he and Stevie Baggs were terrorizing quarterbacks en route to an oh-so-close Grey Cup loss in 2009. However, Chick gets on this list due to his three seasons that followed his NFL journey. From 2013-2015 Chick posted 15, 11 & 14 sacks respectively and started in 18 games all three seasons. Absolutely dominating his competition.
Many wondered how much Hughes had left in the tank when he signed with the Riders in 2017. Hughes put their worries to rest in a hurry. In two seasons with Saskatchewan Hughes has posted 85 tackles, 31 sacks and seven forced fumbles. And it appears he may not be done yet.
Defensive Tackle (2)
In his four seasons since 2010 with the Roughriders, Shologan was a monster in the interior of the Riders defensive line. Unfortunately, the Riders would lose Shologan to the expansion Ottawa Redblacks in 2014, ending a successful tenure with Saskatchewan.
After only playing in eight games in each of his first two seasons with Saskatchewan in 2012 & 2013, Evans would go on and become a dominant interior lineman in Ottawa for the better part of the decade before returning to the Riders. However, since returning to Saskatchewan in 2018, Evans has been a key component of the defence. His presence was missed during the seven games he missed in 2019.
Jeff Knox Jr.
If Roosevelt was the lone bright spot on offence in 2015, then Knox Jr. was his defensive counterpart. Knox Jr. posted 112 tackles that season in 18 games played and tacked on an interception to boot. Knox Jr. tried his hand at the NFL and never returned to the Riders.
Another player with a short tenure but a big impact for the Riders this decade. In 22 games, Muamba put up 100 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions and five forced fumbles.
Moncrief has made his presence felt on the Riders defence in the latter half of this decade. Since 2017, Moncrief has posted five interceptions, four sacks and 126 tackles. He’s one of the most versatile linebackers in the game and a key component of this Saskatchewan defence.
Defensive Backs (5)
Throughout his tenure in Saskatchewan, he was the enforcer on the backend of the defence. In fact, he was voted as the Hardest Hitter in 2013. He was a staple in the Riders secondary starting in at least 16 games from 2012-2015.
Gainey was a part of a flurry of moves in the 2016 off-season when Chris Jones was shaping the team in his vision. Gainey hasn’t disappointed starting in at least 17 games in all of his seasons in green & white, amassing 18 interceptions and three touchdowns. Truly a remarkable defensive back for the Riders this era.
Also known for his abilities as a returner, Jackson did it all for the Riders in his time with Saskatchewan. His best season came in 2014 when he posted four interceptions and 47 tackles.
Even though he didn’t join the Riders until the tail-end of his career, Johnson still played a key role on the 2017 team that saw them go to the East Final. Beyond the leadership he brought to a young secondary, Johnson posted three interceptions and two forced fumbles and a touchdown in his time with the Riders. One of the great corners the league has seen in its time.
Call it recency bias if you will but Marshall has been the real deal in Saskatchewan since coming onto the scene in 2018. Eight interceptions, three touchdowns and one forced fumble in his time with Saskatchewan. He also cracked Nik Kowalski’s Top 20 CFL Pass Defenders list for 2019. And he’s just getting started.
Special Teams (2)
This was a difficult choice with Chris Milo being such a big part of the Riders teams of the early 2010s, however, Lauther’s game-winning field goals over the last two seasons have won me over on recency bias. Despite seeing his percentages dip since his stellar 2018 campaign, Lauther makes the all-decade team as the Riders kicker.
— #JayAndDan (@JayAndDan) September 2, 2019
I was critical of Bartel heading into free agency last season and was promptly educated by a number of his peers on Twitter. However, since then I’ve come to appreciate what Bartel brought to the table. No, he didn’t have the biggest punting averages or gaudy numbers but he was consistent in what he was asked to do for the Riders special teams unit from 2014-2018.
The Last Word
Riders fans have seen plenty of players come and go over the last decade, many leaving moments and memories that will last a lifetime. They all played a roll in laying the foundation that opened a brand new stadium, brought a Grey Cup to Saskatchewan and allowed them to host another one in 2020. As we close the book on the 2010s Roughrider fans should be thankful at all who wore green & white with pride every week, whether they made the Saskatchewan Roughriders All-Decade team or not.
Main image credit:
Embed from Getty Images