Sunday, 12 June 2016


For those of you who watch some of the shows that I'm fortunate enough to be a part of on, like our Training Camp shows, and Chalk Talk, you'll know how much Dan Plaster LOVES talking football on any level.  In fact, todays Training Camp/Exhibition Game recap comes from the conversation Dan and I had in Regina before we head back up to put to Saskatoon for the final days of the Saskatchewan Roughriders 2015 Training Camp.


By now many of you have made your own assessments of the individual performances during Saturday night’s exhibition game vs. the BC Lions but the overarching theme that Plaster and I discussed was how good the CANADIAN content of this team looked last night.


One of the prevailing themes that most successful organizations in this league adhere to is that in order to win Grey Cups, teams must have the best, or at the very least, a substantial pool of wealth, when it comes to CANADIAN PLAYERS.


Yesterday's first look at the 2016 Saskatchewan Roughriders not only gave fans a glimpse at the CANADIAN talent assembled here in Regina, but I don't know if you guys thought about this or not yesterday, but nobody's missing 1st Round pick Josiah St. John as far as the need for Canadian depth!


I don't want to make it a habit of comparing last year to this year because every CFL season is a different journey and a different set of circumstances and ideologies but right now the Green and White look like they're substantially farther ahead with Canadian talent than they were in 2015.


Here's some Canadian guys that stuck out as Dan Plaster and I contemplated how many Starbucks coffees we could consume without giving ourselves a heart attack…

Before we go deep, we'll lead with the EASY one...The Offensive Line for the Green and White is going to be the STRENGTH of this team. Aside from the Guard-Centre-Guard team of Labatte, Clark, and Best, the addition of Andrew Jones cannot be understated.  It's been the development of Aaron Picton that's been awesome to watch.  The former Regina Ram has proven that he can hang  physically and is willing to take the coaching.  With his ability to play all of the interior spots, the Riders now sit pretty with a number of travelling AND injury options at their disposal. Hopefully Picton doesn't have to contribute significant minutes this year, but that's not to say he wouldn't be up to the task. He's looked like a gamer thus far!


• We talked about Levi Steinhauer’s value during the Exhibition Game Primer here on Pro Perspective and The Big Ginger didn't disappoint at all.  There wasn’t a ton of FB reps to go around between him and Spencer Moore during offensive plays but on Special Teams Steinhauer stood out.  He was consistently around the ball on Cover Teams, even registering a couple of tackles, and he got the job done during his Return Game assignments.  The next week of camp is a big one for the best thing to come out of Moose Jaw since Plaza of Honour member Scott Schultz.  He needs to continue to invest himself in the playbook and capitalize on any reps he receives.


• Quinn Van Gylswyk didn’t do anything spectacular during the Lions game but he’s definitely the future of the kicking position in Riderville.  As I stated on Rod Pedersen’s podcast today, the future doesn’t necessarily have to be right now.  With Van Gylswykand Crapigna in the stable, AND the addition of Josh Bartel who’s kicked the ball efficiently all camp, the Riders have time to nurture the UBC product if they want to.  He doesn’t need to be forced into action, and as Dan Plaster expertly pointed out, the 2016 Draft pick has another year of CIS eligibility left.  Van Gylswyk has all the tools to be a 10+ yr guy in this league.  In the CFLs ever-present mission to find the next Justin Medlock, this youngster is going to be a huge part of the Canadian talent corps for the Green and White.


• This cat caught peoples eye during the Florida mini-camp that the team held in March and Dillon Grondin, from the Windsor Jr program, looked like he continued to build on a head-turning Training Camp during his first ever CFL action last night.  What evaluators may like about Grondin is the effort that he puts into every rep.  He managed to get from sideline to sideline effectively against the Lions and his work ethic registered on the stat sheet a couple of times. Grondin is a guy that I’d love to see on film, especially during Special Teams meetings because that’s where his opportunity is going to lie on a 2016 roster.  Right now Chris Jones has his starting Middle Linebacker in Greg Jones, who was also effective last night, but this team needs 1 or 2 quality LBs with Canadian passports.  Dillon Grondin may be a guy that transitions into a role that Mike McCullough held here for so many great years - A guy that contributes significantly in the Special Teams department, gives the Roughriders a SOLID 12-20 reps per game, and can start for stretches of the year if need be due to injuries.  McCullough turned that role into an 11 year, 2 Grey Cup career that will be capped with a Plaza of Honour Induction…Pretty sure any player would take that.


• Some of the athletes that Chris Jones and his staff have brought into Saskatchewan to compete for jobs would get a spot on some of your CFL Fantasy squads strictly off of the "eye test" alone.  One of those athletes is Jordan Reaves who arrived via Brandon Manitoba.  I remember Dan Plaster and I sitting up in the Press Box during Day 1 of Camp and contemplating the potential of moving this raw DB to Defensive End.  As I took in Saturdays game closely I zoomed in when Reaves hit the field because although he shares the physical characteristics that CFL teams would jump at as a pass rusher, he’s never put his hand in the dirt before this year.  One of the things that I wanted to see was how Reaves handled the physical aspects of Trench Warfare outside of the guys that he’s been going against in practise…What we saw was really encouraging!  Reaves was game for anything yesterday and the best part about his reps in the 3rd and 4th quarters were that HE BROUGHT THE ATTACK to the opposing Olineman.  Reaves didn’t wait and react like some younger guys who have never played the position would.  Like Grondin, Reaves used EFFORT as his edge against the Lions and he sniffed out the ball a few times during his limited action.  I’m not sure what he was credited with on the stat sheet but coaches, ESPECIALLY THIS STAFF, love high effort guys.  Coaching and film study are #77s best friends right now.  It’s all about building his FOOTBALL IQ because the technique is going to come to anyone that is willing to learn and listen.  Little things, like how he approaches different down and distance situations, or reading an Offensive Tackles run-or-pass keys are going to turn this kid into a playmaker once he learns how to use all of the tools in his naturally gifted toolbox.  Like many of the players in camp right now, Reaves is a work in progress but this CANADIAN has an upside that may be higher than anyones on the roster.  

As Dan and I sat there today, we scanned the depth chart that the Saskatchewan Roughriders turned into the CFL before the 1stExhibition Game of the year, and it is ripe with NATIONAL talent.  

This team has youngsters who have come in and opened some eyes during various stages of Training Camp like Kyle Kawamoto and Draft Pick Josh Stanford, however the Green and White also have Canadians like Rob Bagg and Nic Demski to lead the way while others adjust to the requirements of being a pro.  

Matt Walter hasn’t been talked about a whole lot during the early stages of the season but he took advantage of Curtis Steele getting the day off and ran the bell incredibly well during the 1sthalf of the Lions game.  

One won’t find a better example of how valuable QUALITY Canadian players are to a 42-man roster than the one that exists at that Running Back depth chart.  

It seems to have slipped some people’s minds that Reaves and Kalongi Kashama are simply an added BONUS when one considers that Justin Cappiciotti and Dylan Ainsworth haven’t suited up since the Day 2 here in Riderville.  That’s a WIN folks.

To conclude this CANADIAN retrospective, I submit item #DB2745…Right now the Saskatchewan Roughriders have been able to get a glimpse at Graig Newman and Matt Webster in spots that neither player has been listed at previously.  

The only thing that gave Chris Jones this ability to switch two quality EXPERIENCED Canadians out of their traditional positions was the acquisition of Kevin Francis, and Troy Adams.  Both of these players, especially Francis, look to be guys that are going to be able to contribute in all phases of the game during 2016.  

To have a rotation of 4 NATIONAL players in the defensive backfield that are all capable of making plays is something that the Roughriders were not able to honestly say last year, and it simply underscores the fact that this team looks like it has taken a significant step forward in the Canadian department.




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