Hewitt Commentary: Can the Roughriders win the West?
Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive back Ed Gainey (11) wrestles for the ball with Calgary Stampeders wide receiver Markeith Ambles (17) during first half CFL action in Regina on Saturday, July 6, 2019. After a disappointing 37-10 loss to Calgary Stampeders on July 6, the Saskatchewan Roughriders are hoping a bye week, followed by a good week of practice, will enable them to get back on the right track Saturday against the B.C. Lions on Saturday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Matt Smith
REGINA -- Like me, did you suffer from the Roughrider “bye week jitters” too?
For over a week, so little information from the Riders, and during the season yet! Is that superb marketing, with one sell-out this year? We the fans were salivating for even the tiniest morsel of team news, and are thrown but a mere scrap regarding a defensive back signing.
I feel like Oliver Twist.
The “bye week jitters” are just that. You start jittering.
Thankfully, the Roughriders are now back to practice and we have something to talk, write, gab or regurgitate about.
It’s great to see Brendon “Blue” LaBatte back on the field practicing at his guard spot after several surgeries. This is a huge boost for Saskatchewan, who have played all season without their star guard.
As CTV News Regina’s Claire Hanna reported, LaBatte thought his career might have been over. Wow! It’s sad to think of the Roughriders without Brendon on a permanent basis, hard to fathom.
But not yet!
The Roughies want to play smash mouth football and Brendon is made to order. At 6'4" and 320 rock solid pounds, the Weyburn bulldog is a leader by example both in the locker room and gridiron.
As of the Rider’s first practice this week, recently returned receiver Jordan Williams-Lambert was working with the second team offense.
This must be some sort of silly “team fooling the media” trick. If JWL is not starting Saturday in Toronto, there should be a full judicial inquiry.
Speaking of Toronto, the Roughies will face Argo starting pivot James Franklin. Coming off the bench last week, Franklin almost beat the Stampeders. While the Roughriders are a better team, this Argo game is not a gimme. It’s very important the green dudes don’t look ahead. The two points in Hogtown could eventually compute to a home playoff game.
After the important tilt against the Boatmen, Saskatchewan plays their last five regular season games against Western opponents - two against Edmonton along with one each versus BC, Winnipeg and Calgary.
Three of the five Western games are on the road.
It’s hard to believe Saskatchewan doesn’t play the Eskimos until the last two weeks of the regular season. Who drew up that schedule? Edmonton never players here in the summer for reasons unclear.
Sorry, I digress, so when you look at the tight CFL West standings, minus BC, the last third of the season will determine first, second, third and fourth in the mighty West.
It all boils down to now. It’s GO time.
So, how will the Riders do from here on out?
First off, injuries are the big unknown, so, touch wood, knock on wood, the Riders stay healthy.
Here are the positives;
• This Sasky CFL team is very close knit, opponents play against every single player dressed.
• LaBatte’s hopeful return helps the offensive line.
• William Powell plays for the Roughriders.
• Williams-Lambert boosts the receiving corps.
• Williams-Lambert boosts Cody Fajardo.
• Fajardo has moxie and is no longer a rookie starter.
• A rest for Charleston Hughes is a big plus.
• Micah Johnson is rounding into his usual all-star form.
• Derrick Moncrief plays for the Roughriders.
• The Rider coaching staff have their own chemistry under Coach Craig.
• The Riders have a lot of seasoned veterans.
• The Riders have the big play chain.
• The colour green is considered a lucky colour - this according to trusted leprechauns.
Here are the negatives;
• The Rider O still have to prove they can pass the ball if the running game is getting stuffed.
• On D the team still needs to prove they can sack the quarterback without Charleston Hughes or aid of blitz.
• Calgary and Winnipeg have both pounded the Riders in the trenches during previous games.
• The Riders are too old.
• The Riders hesitate to make slight personal changes for fear of disrupting team chemistry.
• Winter is coming and the new Gainer needs to put on some quick beef.
At the end of the day, once you get through all the calculations, tape measures and science, along with the mountains of stats, let’s just hope the leprechauns are with us.
Don Hewitt started covering the Saskatchewan Roughriders for CKCK-TV in 1979.