Category Archives: Craig Dickenson

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Beware of the “Trap Game” for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Toronto Argonauts

Many Saskatchewan Roughriders fans are optimistic despite their 0-2 start. After a toe-to-toe battle with the upstart Ottawa Redblacks, the Riders offence was clicking on cylinders, the problem was, they were trailing the entire game. Fajardo gave fans a reason to believe after posting impressive numbers of 27/34 completion, 360 yards, two touchdowns to zero interceptions.

Cody Fajardo connects with Shaq Evans in the end zone to cut into the Redblacks’ lead before halftime! #CFLKickoff pic.twitter.com/Huctyfbci3
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) June 21, 2019

It’s the most balanced the Riders offence had looked in years. Marcus Thigpen and William Powell combined for 20 carries for 102 yards and two touchdowns. Fajardo added one of his own as well. Whether it was because the team was trailing at key points during the game or if that was the gameplan going in, it’s the best this Saskatchewan offence has looked in a while. However, as good as Fajardo was, Dominque Davis and the Redblacks offence was even better. Rider fans witnessed one of the more poor performances from this defence in a number of seasons.

Here are some key things to keep an eye on for Canada Day’s tilt between the Argonauts and Roughriders.
Toronto Argonauts Offence
The Argos, on the other hand, is coming off an embarrassing loss in their home opener to their vaunted rival Hamilton Tiger-Cats. A 64-14 spanking was not how Corey Chamblin and company imagined their season kicking-off. It’s hard to point to one particular section of the team that a fan could pin the loss on, the Argos were severely outmatched in all three phases of the game.

James Franklin was 16/26, 211 yards and an interception. By no means horrible but obviously not enough to keep up with a potent Hamilton offence. On the other hand, the Argonauts failed to get any traction in the run game. James Wilder Jr. had just 12 yards on six carries and Chris Rainey never had a carry or reception. For all the hype surrounding the depth at that position this off-season, there simply weren’t enough looks to those two players last game.

If Franklin is going to get comfortable in this offence, Jacques Chapdelaine will have to lean on playmakers such as Wilder, Rainey, SJ Green, Derel Walker and Armanti Edwards.
Saskatchewan Roughriders Secondary
All eyes will be on Nick Marshall and how he responds after being picked on by Dominique Rhymes in Ottawa a little over a week ago. The Riders have no shortage of big names in their secondary from Ed Gainey to Loucheiz Purifoy and Mike Edem. It’ll take a collective effort to ensure Franklin doesn’t have a bounce-back game. As previously mentioned, the Argos boast their own weapons on the offensive side of the ball, it’s a matter of execution on their end.

Derrick Moncrief and Cameron Judge will also be vital in ensuring the Argos don’t get too creative with their stable of running backs. If the front four can generate a pass rush like last week and produce four sacks again, perhaps this won’t have to be the nailbiter that many fear it may be.
Special Teams
Both the Argos and Riders struggled to contain their opponents return game in Week 2. Brandon Banks made Toronto pay for a missed field goal at the start of the fourth quarter while Ryan Lankford of Ottawa had four punt returns for 100 yards and five kick returns for 95 yards, with 42 and 36-yard returns included in each of those respectively.

Brandon Banks returns one to the house and shows why he’s one of the most electric players in the league 😱 @Ticats#CFLGameDay pic.twitter.com/3fQiARX6A2
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) June 22, 2019
While Brett Lauther has been nearly automatic for the Saskatchewan Roughriders since taking over, it’ll be key for the Riders to keep contain on kickoffs and punts. The Riders can ill-afford to give a desperate Argos team any momentum in this phase of the game. Field position will play a big factor in how Saskatchewan’s defence responds.
Matchup to Keep an Eye On
Micah Johnson versus first-overall pick Shane Richards
Richards will face one of the most difficult tests of his career, in just his second game. Johnson has yet to hit the stat sheet with sacks but he’s been key in opening up the lanes for Charleston Hughes and A.C. Leonard who had a combined three sacks last week. It remains to be seen if Toronto will keep an extra running back to help protect Franklin however, look for the Riders to generate significant pressure if Richards can’t hold his own against Johnson.
Happy Canada Day Weekend
From everyone here at Last Word on Canadian Football, enjoy your time with friends, family and football! Make sure you’re following us on Twitter and Facebook for all our latest articles, analysis pieces and predictions!

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Saskatchewan Roughriders Training Camp Battles

After a very long off-season that consisted of everything from a wild free agency period, a tutorial in provincial labour laws thanks to the CBA negotiations and everything in between, football season is almost here. Saskatchewan Roughriders training camp battles will be the consuming the headlines in the weeks to come, below is a primer of who will be competing at what positions before week one. Under the watch of new head coach Craig Dickenson, there will be plenty of positions up for grabs.
Back-up Quarterback
Last season around this time, it was a battle for the starting quarterback position that was dominating headlines. Zach Collaros and Brandon Bridge duked it out for the starting spot. Collaros ended up winning out but Bridge saw plenty of time in Collaros’ absence, including the West Semi-Final.

That brings us to 2019, after striking out on Bo Levi Mitchell, Mike Reilly and Trevor Harris, the Riders brought back veteran pivot, Collaros. But it didn’t stop there, Saskatchewan brought aboard journeyman quarterback Cody Fajardo to compete with David Watford. Many fans will remember Watford getting his reps during Chris Jones’ infamous quarterback carousel in Collaros’ absence.

Fajardo brings with him three years of CFL experience but just 414 yards passing to show for it. His rushing stats are what stand out, however, with 437 yards and 13 touchdowns to show for his work.
Wide Receiver
The receiver position has overgone an overhaul over the last number of seasons. Back in 2017, Duron Carter, Bakari Grant and Naaman Roosevelt led the way. All three eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards that season. The up and coming Caleb Holley also put up 600 yards of his own. Now, two years later, just Roosevelt remains.

In the CFL’s off-season depth chart series, second-year player Shaq Evans appears to have the boundary receiver position held-down. However, opposite of him there’s a battle of Nationals at the field receiver position between Cory Watson and Mitch Picton. Watson was added this past free agency to provide a veteran presence on what is otherwise a young receiving corps.

Watson appeared in 18 games last season for the BC Lions, hauling in 38 catches for 408 yards and three touchdowns. Picton, on the other hand, has been biding his time on the Riders practice roster over the last two seasons. With Collaros firmly supplanted as the team’s starting pivot, both receivers should have equal opportunity to build rapport and prove their worth over camp and pre-season.
Offensive Line
The Riders have an interesting mix of young and old on the offensive line, which may come as a benefit. Left tackle is presumed to be anchored by Takoby Cofield, though Terran Vaughn started the first seven games of the 2018 season. At left guard, Brendon LaBatte will enter as the starter. However, it certainly helps that the Riders signed Dakoda Shepley who can step in if needed. Injuries hit the Riders offensive line in waves last season. Dan Clark will hold down the center position.

The most intriguing battle in the trenches may come at right guard. 33-year-old Philip Blake and former 11th overall pick in 2017 Dariusz Bladek appear to be vying for the starting spot. Both are nationals. At right tackle, Thaddeus Coleman will likely hold his spot as he did in 2018.
Cornerback
Again, citing the CFL’s off-season depth chart, it appears Crezdon Butler will be moving outside after spending a few seasons at defensive halfback. The emergence of Nick Marshall last season at least ensures one of the two cornerback spots are solidified. However, Murray McCormick of the Regina Leader-Post reported May 20th that slotback Kyran Moore was going up against Butler in various drills. Assuming Ed Gainey and Loucheiz Purifoy hold onto their spots, Butler with his experience would be a good fit opposite of Marshall.
Middle Linebacker
Finally, at middle linebacker, an interesting battle is taking place. Let’s pretend for a second that Solomon Elimimian is pencilled in at the weak-side linebacker spot and Derrick Moncrieff is on the strong side. That leaves Cameron Judge and Sam Hurl to compete for the middle linebacker position. Hurl has the experience of having been in the league since 2012 and has also been a major contributor on special teams. Judge, on the other hand, is a former second-overall selection from the 2017 draft. He burst on to the scene last season with 41 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. Both Hurl and Judge are nationals. This may be the most interesting battle at Saskatchewan Roughriders training camp.
The Last Word
Needless to say, there are plenty of more battles that are going to take place at the Saskatchewan Roughriders training camp. Players mentioned above may be surprise cuts or perhaps traded. Others may emerge as dark horses that many did not see coming, such as Marshall last season. No matter how you look at it, competition brings out the best in others and the Riders have plenty to offer in 2019’s training camp. Rider fans will hope it all translates to on-field play come kick-off June 13th against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

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