'It created an opportunity': Departure of 3 starting linebackers leaves hole for Riders' newcomers
REGINA -- The Saskatchewan Roughriders’ defence is still feeling the effects of losing three starting linebackers from 2019.
“I love all those guys, got good relationships with them, it’s part of the business,” Jason Shivers, the Riders’ defensive coordinator, said. “And it created an opportunity.”
Middle linebacker Solomon Elimimian retired, weak-side linebacker Cameron Judge signed with the Toronto Argonauts and strong-side linebacker Derrick Moncrief signed with the Los Angeles Rams in the NFL.
Seun Idowu is one of the players making the most of the circumstances. The Pitt Panthers’ alumnus has been getting a significant amount of repetitions at the middle linebacker position during training camp.
“When you get an opportunity like that you gotta step in and really just reach for those and try to fulfill those to the best of your ability,” Idowu said.
In 2019, the 24-year-old from Wexford, Penn. registered 15 tackles on defense. Idowu played behind Elimimian, a West Division all-star in 2019, and soaked up what he could from the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player in 2014.
Idowu is also trying to learn as much as he can from Larry Dean. The linebacker was one of four players who tore his Achilles at pre-camp and was a three-time divisional CFL all-star. Dean was expected to start in the middle linebacker position this season.
“I’ve seen him play, love his playstyle love everything he does. Definitely a big fan of his, didn’t get a chance to really tell him that but he’ll probably see this,” said Idowu.
Micah Teitz has been seeing practice action on the weak side. Teitz, a Calgary product who also played with the University of Calgary Dinos, has been with the Riders since 2018 but made his first start on defence in October 2019.
Mike Edem, who has played safety with Saskatchewan since 2017, is currently getting repetitions in the strong-side linebacker position.
“The more you can do the longer you’ll last. Versatility is the key thing in this game and I pride myself in being versatile,” Edem said. “It’s team first, so anywhere the team needs me, that’s where I’m going to be and I’m going to give it my all.”
Edem has always been a vocal defensive captain. Shivers says he moved Edem into the strong-side linebacker position to inject more leadership and experience into the group.
“Felt good putting him there, that he could help lead that group, even with Larry Dean being there and being a vet,” Shivers said. “Just somebody that Larry could lean on and ask questions.”
LACEY SIDELINED UNDER COVID-19 PROTOCOL
Riders’ linebacker Deon Lacey didn’t practice on Tuesday; the 30-year-old is now on COVID-19 protocol, according to the Riders.
Lacey reported to Riders’ training camp a day late, on Sunday. Players were required to quarantine for a week before joining the team and to provide three negative COVID-19 tests before joining the team.
The linebacker practiced at training camp on Sunday and Monday. Following training on Tuesday, head coach Craig Dickenson said Lacey had to quarantine another day.
The Riders then issued a statement saying Lacey is now in COVID-19 protocol, but wouldn’t provide details on what that entailed.
Dickenson said Lacey would be back at practice as soon as possible.