Hewitt Commentary: And then, it turned out nice again
Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Cody Fajardo runs in the winning touchdown during second half CFL action at Mosaic Stadium in Regina on Thursday, August 1, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor
February 12, 2019, didn’t end all that great and the weather matched the mood.
CFL free agent day had long been anticipated in the frosty climes of our great province.
Three marquee free agent quarterbacks were up for grabs, allegedly, and Roughrider supporters were hoping and dreaming for good news.
They didn’t get it.
Bo Levi Mitchell went back to Calgary, Mike Reilly returned to Vancouver while Trevor Harris jumped west to Edmonton.
Some fans were upset with Saskatchewan GM Jeremy O’Day because he didn’t reel in any of the three big fish. A few nibbles, but no catch.
That describes my average day in a fishing boat.
Everyone and their pooch then picked the Riders to finish dead last in the West, especially after free agent QB Zach Collaros was re-signed.
There was absolutely no chance for Sasky to make the playoffs.
Zero. Minus zero.
Fast forward to early August and the apocalypse has yet to arrive.
Mike Reilly and the BC Lions have won one game. Bo Levi Mitchell is hurt and has barely played. Trevor Harris and the Eskimos are currently tied with the Roughriders with 4 and 3 slates.
With Collaros now gone to Toronto, the Rider offense is in good hands with a young pivot named Cody Fajardo, while O’Day has more money to spend on other players.
As the late, great, Cactus Jack Wells used to say: “and then, it turned out nice again”.
In my last commentary, I wrote the following: “The Rider receiving group needs one more speedster. K.D. Cannon back into the lineup ASAP would certainly help”.
Two days after that column was posted, Cannon was released outright.
Apparently, I have a ton of clout over there at Rider world headquarters.
Cannon did ask for his release, but that was likely because he wasn’t playing. I have always believed a receiving corps must stretch the secondary, make them worry about the long ball, thus setting up the short and intermediate passing game along with the running attack.
It’s a big field, you have to have speed.
So, why didn’t the Riders play perhaps their fastest receiver?
I don’t know all the reasons, but the structure of their offence does give us a clue.
In offensive coordinator Stephen McAdoo’s playbook, receivers must be good blockers. Many of Mac’s plays rely on receivers getting squarely on a body. Cannon may have struggled with that, and I don’t know about his route running.
McAdoo and our Head Coach Craig Dickenson both know newly acquired receiver Kenny Stafford from their time together in Edmonton, so clearly Stafford’s skill set must fit better with the Rider offensive schemes.
Ironically Stafford took Cannon’s old number five jersey.
I have heard Stafford being called a journeyman. He is better than that.
Christion Jones went the other way and look out, he’ll be taking a few to the house in green and gold. Hopefully not against the real Green.
In 2015, McAdoo tailored an offense to the strengths of Mike Reilly, and it looks like he’s now running a very similar playbook to that but with Cody. It makes sense because Reilly and Fajardo have similar strengths and style of play.
It appears like every season more and more injuries are occurring in the CFL. Let’s hope Shaq Evans’ ankle is OK. Right now, the Roughriders have ten players on the six game injury list with three on the one game.
Some teams have more.
So why is this injury trend continuing to rise?
Despite the extra bye week, it’s mainly due to the players being bigger, faster and stronger. The calibre and intense play of the CFL continues to rise, and injuries are going along with it. Just like the NFL.
You must have a certain amount of young players as they get injured less often.
Now, if only fans in some CFL markets could understand the high quality of football we see every week.
On a dirty play, Hamilton defensive tackle Dylan Wynn twisted Fajardo’s ankle but no call. Cody refused to blame his former teammate.
Speaking of bye weeks, the Riders played horribly before their first 2019 bye week, getting pounded by Calgary. The Green enjoy a bye next week, so hopefully there is no looking ahead until the contest concludes Friday in Montreal.
The CFL now does a better job of hiding bad news. The Alouette salary cap issue has not made too many headlines lately, after former GM Kavis Reed was fired amid accusations he was cheating on the cap.
Is it fair the Riders may be playing a team with higher paid players?
Will all this be just swept under the carpet while the Als are for sale?
It’s a very difficult situation for everyone involved.
Enjoy this beautiful summer weather, with our climate, we shouldn’t take it for granted.
Don Hewitt started covering the Saskatchewan Roughriders for CKCK-TV in 1979.