May the Fourth Be With You

May 4, 2017 - 12:41pm

So the CFL draft is on Sunday and the question is: what other fines can Chris Jones incur as GM/Head Coach of the Saskatchewan Roughriders?

The latest fine last week was for violations last season, including bringing in a junior player from outside Saskatchewan, trying him out and adding him to the roster and for practicing two players on the suspended list.

The infractions were committed in 2016, which begs the question of why the fines were announced now. So after finding out what the ruckus was all about, including former TSN reporter Gary Lawless saying Jones has run of room and needs to win or else, is it wrong to just shrug?

The interesting thing is that Jones either was unaware of the rules or didn’t care, either attitude is scary in a GM. However it appears the Edmonton Eskimo South approach of practice squads and stashing players here and there is hopefully over. I remember stories in the 1970s and 1980s when the Eskimos had their taxi squads of guys working all over Edmonton until their time came on the roster.

So it was not totally wrong to blame Jones for bringing that approach here, but while Rider fans would like to see a winner, they would like to see a winner that plays within the rules.

Then just to add to the headaches was the story the Riders looked at signing former quarterback Michael Vick, who did time for breeding dogs for fighting purposes. Vick once upon a time was an athletic quarterback, but has retired and quite frankly, as a Rider fan, while I am willing to let Chris Jones investigate options, stockpiling old quarterbacks and worse, quarterbacks who did time for what he did, is not what I consider a win/win for the team. Thank Jebus Vick told them he was staying retired.

With that story blowing up last week, add the NFL draft and the signing of Canadian free agents afterwards which affects the draft this Sunday. And we have to ask how exactly the CFL is handling this?

One suggestion I heard which makes a lot of sense is maybe combining the CFL draft with the combine and the CFL week with the draft being the last big event. The NFL holds its event in a public place while the CFL has all the drama of a conference call among insurance salesmen.

Which is a shame since the CFL apparently had a three per cent increase in people identifying themselves as fans last year. Of course there were opposing viewpoints saying the ratings were lower and attendance was lower so the league needs a bounce back year.

Ah, I see the CFL is showing something from 7-9 pm, probably the first two or perhaps three rounds, and the cfl.ca website is showing the draft in its entirety. Apparently the CFL will be using the occasion, or maybe its during the Raptor broadcast, to show their new marketing initiative, bring it in.

So having a draft in an area where people actually like the league and would get excited about the draft would seem to be a natural fit. But then again, maybe there is a reason why Jeffrey Orridge is stepping down as commissioner.

The Riders have the second pick overall and with a number of players signing or getting drafted by the NFL, the Riders have to ask themselves whether they want to draft someone who might come a few years or draft someone who can come in sooner and contribute.

There are two areas worth examining for the Riders – offensive line and linebacker. The Riders had a problem with their Swiss cheese line last year letting in a ridiculous amount of sacks while starting a number of Americans to little or no effect.

So its either a talent or a coaching issue, and watching Josiah St. John get thrown in and not really making an impression makes one think the Rider approach to growing Canadian talent could use a tweak or two.

So with that in mind, consider the following factors. The Riders saw Chris Best retire due to injuries while Brendon LaBatte returns from a kick from the head but is not guaranteed to last the season. The Riders also had problems at centre with snaps fumbled which either reflects on Dan Clark’s ability or his arms being too short.

If St. John has done the work in the gym and come back stronger and better able to play his position, that is hopefully one problem solved, but the Riders are awfully thin on Canadian depth here and could use someone who might help the team cover some holes.

So I am thinking Jean-Simon Roy who got the combine rocking the first night with 39 lifts of 220 pounds. The Rider offensive line was renowned for getting pushed around and Roy, who can play centre and guard, fits the mold Jones is looking for which is versatile players who can fit in in a number of places.

The other potential position for the second overall pick is linebacker where Henoc Muamba is slated to start, and the thinking is if you are going to have a Canadian starter, you also need a Canadian back-up so your Canadian/American ratio is not thrown out of whack. Christophe Mulumba, LB, Maine, may have signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent, but if he shakes out, he could be a welcome addition behind Muamba and ensure the Riders talent is not just a mile wide, but also deep as well.

The more I think about it, the more I like Roy as the Riders second overall pick and latest piece in the ongoing rebuild of the offensive line. The Riders at their mini-camp looked at Mitchell Baines, a free agent signing out of the University of Ottawa, and Alexandre Gagne, a linebacker who can also long-snap, so I think Roy would be the most logical choice.

Shawn Gore has retired from BC, which may mean BC is looking for a Canadian receiver, or they might be looking at building up their Canadian offensive line content considering their trade of OL Jovan Olafioye for David Foucault.

Let’s not forget the saga of Zavier Bingham who was a promising defensive back in the Rider mini camp who announced afterwards on social media he was thanking the Baltimore Ravens for making his dream come true. The problem was Baltimore apparently has backed off and Bingham is coming to Riderville, or at least to training camp.

The Riders could be adding former Argo linebacker Marcus Ball who was let go in the NFL. Former CFLers released also include Alex Bassie (played for BC I believe) and Greg Van Roten, formerly of the Argos. Expect more silly talk as teams adjust their rosters before the start of training camp. The problem with coming open now on the players market is that most teams rosters and budgets are kind of set, and those players may not get what they hoped to get.

Then again, the Riders have to do a better job of due diligence in ensuring the players they sign are comfortable with the potential roles they would play with the team. And Jones is coming to the point where he has to decide whether he wants to continue to churn the roster or start, you know, actually coaching.

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