Monday October 20, 2014




Riders air offence needs to step it up

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The Saskatchewan Roughriders are 4-2 to start the 2014 CFL season after a come-from-behind 23-17 win over the hated Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the second loudest stadium in the CFL (sorry Winnipeg, but you’ll have to try harder if you want to top the best fan base in organized sports) last Thursday.

The victory also gives the Riders a winning streak as they have picked up W’s in their past three games.

So if one were to simply glance at the standings, they’d most likely say that the season, so far, has been fairly successful. Sure, the Riders are tied for last place in the West with B.C. But they’re still 4-2 and just one game back of Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg who all have five wins and, keep in mind, the season is still mighty young.

But if they were to dig deeper they’d find that not everything has been positive. Yes, the running game has been strong, even without the indomitable Kory Sheets in the backfield, as the trio of Anthony Allen (241 yards on 41 carries, one TD), Will Ford (226 yards on 43 carries, five TDs) and Jerome Messam (140 yards on 22 carries) have done yeoman’s work thus far this season for Cory Chamblin’s squad.

The defence, too, has been strong with John Chick leading the league in sacks with nine while the surprising Mark LeGree and Tyron Brackenridge sit one-two on the interceptions list, hauling in three and two picks respectively.

But the problem, the glaring negative if you will, is the performance of Darian Durant and the, as of right now inept, Roughriders air attack.

Last year Durant was outstanding, throwing for 4,154 yards and 31 touchdowns in the regular season. This year, however, it seems as if Durant is out, standing in a field, looking for his lost offensive game while calling out ‘Weston, where are you? I need you’ at the top of his lungs.

But before it seems like I’m throwing Durant under the bus, let me say that it’s not only his fault. His offensive line has been just average this season after being stunning last year and his main targets, Taj Smith and Chris Getzlaf, haven’t really been 100% healthy so far in 2014.

Add to that the fact that every team will be chomping at the bit to knock the Riders off their high horse, after all they are the defending Grey Cup Champions, and you have a recipe for a futile offence.

However that’s still no excuse for Durant and his offence to be playing such subpar football, especially when his top three targets this season are ones that he has hooked up with often over the past couple of seasons (injured or not).

This season Durant has connected for just six touchdowns while tossing up five interceptions. His receivers, meanwhile, have dropped some very easy passes that should have been completed, both in the end zone and elsewhere on the field. For some reason, perhaps the departure of Weston Dressler, the chemistry between Durant and his receivers has been upset and they need to get it back.

And I, for one, don’t care how they do it. Whether they go to dinner at a fancy restaurant, or take a hot yoga class together to build chemistry the fact remains: Darian Durant and his wide receivers simply need to get back on the same page, or at least the same paragraph, otherwise the Riders will start to fail.

Their running game can only keep them afloat for so long before the other teams key in on the run game and stop it. And if Durant and company still aren’t clicking at that point and time, well, things may turn ugly really quickly in Riderville.


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