Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Position Looks: LBs

With the CFL exhibition showdowns right around the corner, I promised you guys that we’d start taking a closer look at the position groups in camp, and a maybe a few of the guys you should look out for when you’re watching the games.  It gets very real now for the guys who are competing for spots on this roster, and the reality of this business is that Fort Mac may be the first, and only, time some of these guys get the opportunity to put something positive on film.

I’m going to start with the Linebackers.  A lot of our mailbag questions have centred on that group, understandably, and there’s definitely a lot of guys there that are competing for a shot to play alongside the cerebral veteranShea Emery.  

The plight to replace the production of Brian Peters was on the to-do list of all the Arm-Chair GMs in Ridernation, and so far in camp, there hasn’t been a guy that has stepped up and laid claim to the vacant spot.

The fact that nobody has grabbed the reigns here is not necessarily a bad thing.  Last year it looked as though Chad Kilgore owned the competition all camp for the middle spot in Richie Halls defense before he got hurt.  When he ended up getting back into the fray, it never panned out.  Kilgore just couldn’t catch on to certain aspects of the Canadian game.  As we all know Chad is no longer with the Green and White.  Sometimes it doesn’t matter how good of an athlete one is, or how hard one can hit.  Experience is the most valuable tool one can have in their belt.  Whoever wins the open spot is going to go through a few bumps in the road.

Now the upside to this deal is that even though Shea Emery is learning a new defense himself, the Riders have someone at a crucial position that is going to be able to help navigate, whoever wins the job, through the rough patches that the CFL season entails.  At least the teams new LB will have the benefit of a proven winner right there beside him.  Neither Peters, Kilgore, nor Sam Hurl had that advantage in 2013.

Let’s get into it


Jake Doughty (#50)


• Doughty isn’t a physically imposing guy however he’s faster than he looks, and really loves the physical aspects of football.  Thus far he’s spent the majority of his reps at the Middle LB spot which probably fits his athletic skillset a lot more than the other spot that really demands more in terms of coverage responsibilities.  

On Saturday the Utah State alum is going to have to prove he knows all his plays, but that really goes for everyone in that group.  Individually, Doughty will need to show he can keep pace with the speed of the game.  Offensive Linemen in this league really get on their horse when they are trying to stretch zone plays, and offenses can surprise a guy with what they decide to do with their RBs in the passing game.  At times Doughty has been cautious when diagnosing the play in front of him and ends up having to make up for the ground that he's lost .  As was first pointed, Doughty likes to play physical, but he’ll have to ensure that he doesn’t get buried into Offensive Linemen that he takes on at the second level.  In order to make plays, he’s going to have to hit and then get off quickly, otherwise he risks being enveloped by the lineman and compromising his gap responsibility.  Doughty will also have a full slate of Special Teams to perform on so there is definitely going to be chances for him to create some separation from the group.





Eltoro Freeman (#48)


• For a guy that hasn’t played football for 3 years, Freeman hasn’t looked as out of place as one would have imagined!  What you notice about him right away is the intensity that he goes about practice with.  You can really tell that #48 just loves to be playing football.  He’s a strong guy that looks the part, and like Jake Doughty, he loves to hit.  It was nice to see how jacked up he was during the mock game when he got in a couple plays.  He definitely has a nose for the ball, as he is constantly around the rock whenever he get a chance at some reps.  One has to wonder how he is going to handle the real time game speed that he hasn’t felt since 2012.  The biggest test for Eltoro Freeman may be conditioning!  One can prepare all he wants in a training facility, but one cannot match the conditioning of the side to side pursuit that LBs will go through, along with having to shoulder a heavy Special Teams load.  
Many in Ridernation are pulling for Eltoro Freeman, but he’s in tough against the younger athletic LBs that are here for that same position.  Primarily he’s been locked into the 3rd team mostly, and that’s probably where his reps will come from during the Edmonton Exhibition game.  The benefit of where Freeman may get his snaps is that he'll probably be going up against guys that are new to the CFL and inexperienced, much like himself.  He may be able to capitalize on some mistakes or bad plays and get some good film out of the deal!  Any advantage helps when you're trying to make a pro team.


Kevin Regimbald (#43)


• #43 has been noticeable at times during the 1st full week of camp.  The playbook doesn’t seem like it’s been tough for him to learn and he runs around the field with confidence.  He’s not the most athletic of the group but he's a guy that makes up for what he lacks athletically with a great motor, and a decent football IQ.  Regimbald’s bread and butter will be to take advantage of the Special Teams opportunities that he will be given and play with great effort.  Once he secures a roll on the roster through special teams, he can then start to focus on being a key depth guy that spells guys or steps in should an injury situation occur. The Roughriders are a team that doesn’t have a ton of Canadian defensive players, so hopefully the coaching staff finds value in what Regimbald can do holistically.


Telvion Clark (#13)


• At 6’1 and 235, Telvion Clark may be the best athlete of the group.  Definitely top 2.  He’s been rotating with Jeff Knox at the coveted spot next to Shea Emery with the 1s and has yet to look out of place.  Telvion seems to be getting quite comfortable with the pace of the game, and it shows in the confidence by which he is beginning to play with.  Clark possesses the foot speed, and hip dexterity of a defensive back, and that’s a huge advantage for him.  He is very comfortable dropping into coverage (which that position demands), and also shows great change of direction and speed burst when dealing with potential RBs leaking out for passes and is able to close ground on ball carriers quickly.  Another thing you’ll notice about #13 is how much space he can cover in a few strides.  Lateral movement is just as important as vertical movement for LBs and Clark doesn't miss a beat.  The jury is out as far as his tackling ability. And that’s a judgement call we may all be able to make on Saturday.  The Riders haven't out the team into any live tackling drills so Saturday will be his first shot to 'wrap-up'.  It’s all about mental reps and visualization at this point before the exhibition game.  The more that Clark can trust himself with his assignments, the more likely it is that he starts making the plays that the coaching staff knows he is capable of.  Keep an eye on #13 on D and contributing on Special Teams.






Jeff Knox (#49)


• Knox is from the same University that Rider Great Wes Cates went to, the University of California of PA.  He’s another great athlete and only gives away a few lbs to Telvion Clark.  Knox is also being rotated in and out with the 1s at the vacant LB spot.  #49 is very smooth in what he does and the way he plays.  There’s not a lot of wasted motion in anything he commits to, and he can cover RBs and Slots as well as find the right drop locations in the zones that he’s being asked to play.  At this point in camp one can still see a hint of hesitation when it comes to trusting what he sees, and that will remedy itself in time and really give us a glimpse at his game speed.  Like some of the other LBs in this group, #49 likes to mix it up physically.  He also possesses the ability to defeat a RBs blocks on the way to the QB.  He can use his quicks to get around a blocker or call on his physical explosiveness to drive through an RB that goes face up with him.  This talent will go far with the aggressive style and blitz capabilities of this year’s defence. 

So there you have it folks.  Check these guys out, as well as the other LBs that round out this group.  The herd should start thinning itself out after Saturday's clash.  Corey Chamnlin will play the best players available.  These guys get a chance to interview for why it should be them.

Hope this helps your individual notes.  As always, keep the questions coming.





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