A Top 10 Sunday! Recaping The Season That Was For The Saskatchewan Roughriders

PHOTOS COURTESY: Steve Hiscock

With the Saskatchewan Roughriders in attendance at last night’s Saskatoon Blades game it gave me the perfect opportunity to look back on all the things that went right for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in capturing the 2013 Grey Cup at home. Here are my ten random thoughts on what lead to the successes of the Saskatchewan Roughriders…

10 The acquisition of Geroy Simon. On January 24, 2013 the Roughriders dealt a 3rd round draft pick and receiver Justin Harper to BC for the game’s all-time leading receiver. From the outset it was clear that Geroy had something to prove after being discarded by Wally Buono and BC. In Saskatchewan the veterans role was much different than I think he even expected essentially being fourth on the Rider receiver chart behind Weston Dressler, Chris Getzlaf, and Taj Smith. While, the relationship at times seemed ready to boil over the veteran savvy, which perhaps was the most important acquisition by the Riders in the trade, prevailed. Geroy was a calming influence in the huddle and when it came time to perform on the grandest of stages, the Grey Cup, Simon had arguably his best game in Green and White.

The Saskatoon Blades Host the Lethbridge Hurricanes at the Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon, SK. January 4, 20149 The return of John Chick. The fan favorite signed a deal to return to the Riders, after losing his spot in the NFL, the night before training camp opened here in the Bridge City. At the time when asked if there was ever any doubt that he would return to Saskatchewan after being courted by a number of CFL teams including Hamilton, he said with a coy smile that he was happy to be here. While his detractors may say that he didn’t get as many sacks as when he was named the CFL’s top defensive player in 2009. Those same critics need to look closer at his body of work. While Chick was drawing double teams and special attention on the defensive line it allowed the likes of Rey Williams, Keith Sologan, and Rickey Foley the opportunity to make big plays.

 

 

8 The return of Rey. While Rey Williams season ended at the Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg when he suffered a knee injury, his passion and intensity gave the defense an identity. Playing with a chip on his shoulder and relishing the opportunity to return to the Green and White Rey lead the defense through his actions and vocally on the field.

The Saskatoon Blades Host the Lethbridge Hurricanes at the Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon, SK. January 4, 20147 Adding George Cortez to the coaching staff. This in my mind was one of the biggest gambles taken by the Rider coaching staff and football operations. There is no doubt in my mind that he has one of the most astute offensive minds in the CFL. That coupled with his desire to prove Hamilton wrong in firing him after one season at the helm was going to be a big plus for the Green and White. The two risks; One Darian Durant would have to yet again learn another offence and Two if for whatever reason things went south early in the year Cortez could be a natural to move into the H-C position which could create internal strife. At the end of the day the addition of Cortez was ingenious and the composure and experience that he brought to the table was huge.

 

6 Jock Saunders. 2012 was a season to forget for the returner/receiver as he went down with a season ending knee injury just as he seemed to figure out playing slotback in the Canadian Football League. However, the decision to stick with him despite some fumble issues proved big for the Riders. Not only did he provide some big returns in the play-offs while not coughing the ball up, he also was a nice compliment to Kory Sheets in the back-field. Saunders can be a premier returner in the CFL and it will be interesting to see if he can supplant Weston Dressler as Mr. Reliable on punt/kick returns.

The Saskatoon Blades Host the Lethbridge Hurricanes at the Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon, SK. January 4, 20145 Ricky Foley. The defensive lineman came to Riderville with something to prove, similar to Geroy Simon. After being let down by contract talks to stay at home in Toronto the non-import signed with the Riders. Not only was his play determined on the field his experience in trying to play at home in a Grey Cup was extremely valuable. It will be interesting to see if his motor runs as high this season as it did last but one thing that is for sure is his love of playing for the Riders.

 

 

4 Weldon Brown. With the addition of future hall of famer Geroy Simon and the proven pedigrees of Foley, Anderson and Chick those off-season additions took the spotlight when it came to Brendan Taman’s free-agent moves. The one often over looked was Weldon Brown. The former Eskimo was a difference maker on the field. If you look at any of the Rider wins this year it is tough to not find a play that Brown made that didn’t change momentum, build confidence or add an emotional lift to the team. Brown truly is a big play player and his insertion into the Rider defence is often over looked but should not be underestimated.

The Saskatoon Blades Host the Lethbridge Hurricanes at the Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon, SK. January 4, 20143 Moving Butler. Craig Butler in my opinion is one of if not the brightest non-import starter in the CFL. Butler has done everything asked of him in Green and White from supplanting all-star James Patrick (remember him) in the secondary to moving from safety to linebacker this year. That move allowed the defence the flexibility to put him in coverage, have him blitz the quarterback and provide an increased level of physically in the flats. Never knowing if he was coming on the blitz or where he might end up in coverage kept CFL offences off-balance all year long.

 

 

 

2 Dwight Anderson. Love him or hate or sometimes both in a 3 minute span in a game, Dwight Anderson proved that at this time he is the best cover defensive back in the Canadian Football League. D-A likes to talk but on most occasions is able to back it up on the field. Anderson’s ability to limit the effectiveness of some of the top pass-catchers in the league, an element that was missing from the Saskatchewan Roughriders in recent memory, was a big upgrade and factor in the three play-off wins. Not to mention his penchant for coming up with big plays at big times makes him a big part of the Rider success.

The Saskatoon Blades Host the Lethbridge Hurricanes at the Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon, SK. January 4, 20141 The acquisition of Alex Hall. Yes, if you look back at this list this is the only move made by football operations during the season. Beside the definition of rental-player in the dictionary there is a picture of Alex Hall. His size, ability and results on the field are definitely going to land him an NFL opportunity. His addition to the team, though, added more size, athleticism and depth along the defensive line which allowed a greater rotation keeping players fresher longer. Those were all positives but don’t forget the Riders also picked up a draft pick in the deal. Now the Riders did have to give up local product and offensive lineman Patrick Neufeld. However, as General Manager Brendan Taman explained at the time Ottawa most certainly was going to select Neufeld off their roster in the expansion draft. So looking at the deal not only did they get value for a blossoming talent on the offensive line with a fourth round pick (By the way Neufeld was originally a fifth round pick of the Riders in 2010) they also got an immediate return with the insertion of Hall in their line-up, and the Riders were afforded some cap space as Hall was making the league minimum while Neufeld had just signed a richer contract extension. Basically another stellar move by B-T that now has been capped off with his first Grey Cup victory.

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