REGINA — Darian Durant didn’t want to miss the Roughriders game in Montreal on September 16th as he recovered from a hip injury suffered the week before.
However, missing that contest may have been a blessing in disguise for the veteran quarterback, as he has since guided the team to back-to-back wins over divisional foes Calgary and B.C. while re-shaping his game in the process.
The injury, which Durant admits still bothers him, has forced him to abandon his running style. Rather than scrambling out of the pocket and putting himself in harms-way, Durant now opts to smoothly roll out, often giving himself more time to find his man downfield.
His new strategy has translated into successful results, as he has completed 48 of 69 passes for 635 yards and five touchdowns.
Perhaps sitting out in Montreal did more than he initially thoughy.
“I could step back and see how teams wanted to attack us,” Durant said after practice on Wednesday.
“It allowed me to be patient, sit back and relax and realize that someone else is open if Getz (Chris Getzlaf) and Dress (Weston Dressler) have been taken away. When you have running ability, you rely on that a little more if your first read is gone. I think I was guilty of doing that, but now that my mobility is limited, it forces me to sit in there, make the reads, let guys get open and take the check-downs when it’s not there.”
Durant’s ability to scramble is still there, however, it’s when he chooses to utilize it that has given defensive corodinators across the league sleepless nights.
“I think so,” Durant said with a laugh when asked the question. “We’ve won the last two weeks and I haven’t taken off with the ball once. If you can win like that and I get healthier, it allows me to play the type of game I have the past two weeks and have the opportunity to use my legs when the time is right, I think it does make me a better quarterback.”
Head Coach Corey Chamblin agrees with that assessment.
“I think that’s what makes him more dangerous. When is he going to become more healthy? Nobody knows the exact percentage but himself and how much he can take. There’s still the opportunity for Darian to take off. He could evolve back to that. We don’t know that. That’s purely up to how he feels in that time during the game.’’
While players never want to miss any game time, Durant says this has perhaps been a blessing in disguise as he forges ahead as the Riders quarterback.
“No doubt about it,” said Durant.
“Once you get to a certain age, your athletic ability begins to leave you and you have to find another way to win and to win games mentally and I think that’s the path my career is starting to take. I’m not near the end of my career, but when you’re young and able to run, you lean on that. With the injury happening, I have found that I don’t need to lean on my running, but I can still use it to break defenses down and to frustrate them. If I can hurt teams while being in the pocket and hurt them while running it a little bit, you become more dangerous and you extend your career. So far, so good!”