- Free Agency
To say Rider Nation is getting used to instability at the quarterback position is an understatement. It’s now become a sure sign of summer in Saskatchewan that there is drama behind centre.
Just take a look at the list of quarterbacks that have made their way through Saskatchewan since the start of the 2014 season: Darian Durant, Kevin Glenn, Brett Smith, Tino Sunseri, Kerry Joseph, Seth Doege, Brandon Bridge, Keith Price, Mitchell Gale, GJ Kinne, Jake Waters, Zach Collaros, David Watford and now Cody Fajardo and Isaac Harker.
This year it was on the fourth play of the opener when Zach Collaros was injured and the Riders were back to jumping on the QB carousel to see what they have.
Against the Ottawa REDBLACKS, you’ll see Cody Fajardo get his first start in Saskatchewan but head coach Craig Dickenson also says rookie Isaac Harker will get to see time as well.
Nobody knows what these two quarterbacks have to offer, but offensive coordinator Stephen McAdoo should be well experienced making a game plan for a different quarterback than the guy he originally had at the start of the season.
However, this year it should be an easy answer on helping Cody Fajardo or Isaac Harker to succeed.
The Riders spent some decent money to bring in Powell, who could have won the rushing title last season if he wasn’t rested at the end of the season.
Powell does it all well and in the season debut for the Riders, they ran the ball 20 times after Collaros got hurt on the third offensive play of the season.
And Powell doesn’t mind the workload. Since 2017 he is tied with Andrew Harris for the most carries by a running back in the league.
Powell isn’t exactly buying the theory he’s going to be even busier, though.
“We have confidence in them so we’re going to let them throw the ball and we’re going to try to run the ball and we’re going to try to be a full circle offence,” he said. “We don’t want to be one dimensional regardless of who is in the game.”
Although, Powell better get ready to run, as head coach Craig Dickenson already said in training camp that the ground game and long sustained drives was his vision for a successful offence.
So here Dickenson is with two quarterbacks with little starting experience in the CFL and a raw rookie who has been in the league for all of six weeks.
The other factor for the Riders trying to run the ball a little more are injuries to starting offensive linemen Brendon LaBatte and Dariusz Bladek. This leaves rookie Dakoda Shepley set to make his first start in his second CFL game.
“We have confidence in them (QBs) so we’re going to let them throw the ball and we’re going to try to run the ball and we’re going to try to be a full circle offence. We don’t want to be one dimensional regardless of who is in the game.”
Allowing the offensive linemen to get rolling on the ground will only help offset some of the pressure a defensive coordinator like Noel Thorpe may be trying to dial up on the two quarterbacks planning to see time on Thursday.
It’s something Shepley is definitely hoping is in the game plan.
“I mean that’s what we like, right, running the ball,” said Shepley. “When you have an offensive line that likes to run the ball and a running back that knows how to do it, I think that’s the golden combination. I’m really excited to see what happens in this game in the air as well as on the ground.”
What can’t happen for the Riders to get some wins with their backup quarterbacks is what we saw some of in the opening game against Hamilton.
A punt return for a touchdown was actually the difference and when coach Dickenson is a special teams guru, you know the new head coach is not thrilled a special teams mistake made the gaffe that helped cost them game one.
The third phase of the game doesn’t appear to be the question mark again this year in Saskatchewan. The defence held the Tiger-Cats to under 250-yards of offence last week, which allowed the Riders to be right in the game until the bitter end.
And it could be the defence tasked again to make up for any misgivings on offence.
With William Powell, however, the Riders are better set than previous years to find success with a workhorse running back who has been able to take over games. He might have to have a few more of those this season for the Riders to try to stay in the conversation in the division.