Today is by far the WORST day in Pro Sports. Unfortunately, this is the business that we all chose, and Final Cut-Down Day is part of the deal.
Now that I find myself on the other- far less stressful- side of things, the question that I hear the most is,
“Are you surprised by any of the cuts today?”
Well the short answer is easy… “NO” …But if there’s anything that we’ve learned throughout our football conversations together, it’s that in this BUSINESS one can NEVER be surprised!
As I glossed over the transactions made by the Saskatchewan Roughriders this afternoon, none of the names came as a complete shock. I did anticipate that the announcements would raise a fair amount of questions, specifically from the members of Ridernation who have followed this team throughout camp.
I think this is a great opportunity to illuminate the fact that once people take their focus off who got released, and zero in on who’s still in the locker room, they’ll really appreciate the decisions that this coaching staff made during one of the toughest periods of time in professional sports.
Let’s jump to the Wide Receivers first and one of the bigger names that was in this group, Clarence Denmark. The case of the former Blue Bomber will help us in this particular conversation.
We can sit around all day and argue the pros and cons of releasing a veteran receiver who has produced consistently in this league, OR, we could look at this is a fantastic opportunity to grow a player in Ricky Collins who may mess around and be the next Weston Dressler.
I’ve gone on record here at Pro Perspective and have said that Collins is a future STAR here in Saskatchewan. It’s Collins’ outstanding potential, mixed with the depth of the rest of this unit, that makes the deletion of Denmark justifiable.
Don’t forget folks, for as much as we’ve talked about Rob Bagg and Namaan Roosevelt having a career year, there’s a multi-faceted score-zone threat in Kendial Lawrence that teams have to deal with, and the kicker here is that Nic Demski comes into the 2016 regular season after having a FANTASTIC Training Camp. #9 may have had the most consistent camp out of everyone.
This receiving core has plenty of talent and it allows Ricky Collins to find his way without any pressure. The group is also in good shape if an injury or two hits. Ryan Lankford who ran with the 1s for a good chunk of camp, and Josh Stanford, are guys that this coaching staff can have confidence in if needed in a crunch.
There was some heavy competition at the Receiver position during Training Camp. I really liked what I saw in a couple of guys who didn’t make it, specifically Kyle Kawamoto. He did everything he could to make this final roster, but in the end it’s a huge feather in the cap to guys like Demski, and Collins for coming in and competing. Keeping Denmark on the roster would have been AWESOME, however it would have also taken reps away from some young guys that have the potential to be special.
For those of you who’ve followed me closely during the Saskatchewan Roughriders Training Camp, I consistently talked about the impression that Dillon Grondin made during the early weeks of June. Now some of you may think that his release would come as a surprise to me considering I was clearly a fan of his, but it underscores the important point of understanding WHO ELSE IS IN THE ROOM.
That SOMEONE ELSE, in this case, may be Jordan Reaves!
We talked a lot about Reaves this camp, specifically about his unbelievable athleticism. This is a kid that came into Florida as a SAFETY, and is now playing at Defensive End. With small 42-46 man rosters and the ever present ratio management issues, teams simply cannot keep everyone.
I’d be interested to see how Grondin graded out during the exhibition games, and how quickly he managed to process information at the pro level. I can talk all I want about what I saw ON THE FIELD; however, the film is the ultimate evaluator. Hopefully the young Jr. out of the Windsor Jr program didn’t have troubles in the playbook department. Some of the best football players in the world never catch on simply because they can’t get a handle on a Pro scheme.
At any rate, despite his passport, Grondin may have expendable when one looks at the skill set of a guy like Reaves who Coach Jones can take and put all over the place in his system of Defence. Right now it may come down to Reaves, and even a guy like Levi Steinhauer (who has also proven how multiple he can be) offering more value RIGHT NOW.
Another thing that Ridernation should be happy about, and needs to be considered with todays cuts, is that now that camp is done, players that have been out of the spotlight get to step back into the equation with the MAJOR evaluations being.
For example, up until this point, we’ve barely mentioned Canadians Matt Webster, and Graig Newman.
During one of our very first training camp discussions, we spoke about guys being moved around to unfamiliar spots, and the fact that it was the controllable factors that those players focused on that would make or break them. That conversation alone was an illustration of the two veteran Canadians plight.
Newman and Webster took those moves in stride and made the most of the reps they were given. Now that training camp is over, and Newms can get healthy, the fact that they’ve had a crash course in multiplicity bodes well for their opportunities to contribute.
Both of those players can now be a factor when it matters, and I’m sure they’ll take a spot on the opening roster vs. a starting spot on the depth chart in the Green and White game. We could have very well been reading about the release of Webster and Newman if the vets had gone around pouting about not being in familiar spots. Thankfully, the Riders have two more PROs in the room because of it.
All in all, don’t lose your mind when debating about the cuts that were, and weren’t, made. Before you guys know it, one of the players you finally agree on won’t be here either. We can’t be surprised if there are bodies getting flown in and out over the next couple of week’s folks…Shoot, for all we know, the roster could have changed by the time you finish reading this sentence. #JustLikeThat
The Saskatchewan Roughriders are going to be a good group, and in the coming days we’ll get further into that. The problem is that right now it’s a whole lot easier to be a nay-sayer than an optimist because of the mix of 2015's record and the current anxiety caused by change.
With legacies cemented by Grey Cup rings, and Chris Jones' staff understanding that they're here to WIN and not make friendly decisions, it makes unfortunate sense that Hazan Hazime (who can play on both sides of the Line of Scrimmage) gets the nod over local talent like Aaron Picton.
None of the decisions made today were easy. This was a competitive camp all across the board and the team that is about to get unveiled to Ridernation is a DYNAMIC one.
The players that are in the locker room today were made better by the players who are not.