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June 30, 2018

Five players (or things) to watch during Saturday’s game

The Saskatchewan Roughriders are looking to get back on track.

Saskatchewan opened the 2018 CFL regular season with a 27-19 victory over the visiting Toronto Argonauts on June 15, but was handily defeated 40-17 by the host Ottawa Redblacks on June 21.

The Roughriders will be eager to get back in the win column Saturday (7 p.m., CKRM, TSN) when they face the Montreal Alouettes at Mosaic Stadium.

Montreal is riding a club-record 13-game losing streak and, with a loss Saturday, would tie the Shreveport Pirates — remember them? — for the third-longest losing streak in CFL history.

Here’s one man’s list of five things to watch during Saturday’s game.

 

  1. The line forms here: The Roughriders’ offensive line has been feeling the heat since the loss in Ottawa. Saskatchewan surrendered only three sacks, but head coach-GM Chris Jones told reporters this week that Roughriders quarterbacks Zach Collaros and Brandon Bridge were hit 11 times during the game — and they only attempted 32 passes between them. Guard Brendon LaBatte has been particularly vocal about the play of the O-line and the role it played in Collaros’ concussion, so expect LaBatte and his cohorts to make a concerted effort to improve. As has been well-documented this week, Bridge — a genuine running threat — will start at quarterback Saturday in Collaros’ absence.
  2. Marcus Thigpen: The international tailback didn’t play in the Roughriders’ first two games due to a CFL-imposed suspension for a positive PED test, so he’s eager to contribute Saturday. The 32-year-old speedster brings a wealth of talents to Saskatchewan’s offence because he can play running back or receiver — and he’s also a proven returner. Thigpen could give a boost to a ground game which went into the week ranked eighth in the CFL with an average gain of 4.5 yards per carry and which has yet to record a rushing touchdown.
  3. Mic’hael Brooks: The former B.C. Lions defensive tackle was signed Sunday and is in the lineup just six days later. Brooks was considered a run-stuffer with the Lions, so he can expect to see a lot of Tyrell Sutton on Saturday if the Als’ tailback gets a lot of carries up the middle. But Brooks also can get after the passer — he had three sacks as a CFL rookie in 2015 — and could team with Zack Evans, Makana Henry and Eddie Steele to give the Roughriders an inside push. That could allow the defence to answer the question …
  4. Where’s Willy?: The Alouettes went into the week having allowed a league-high eight sacks, all of which have been absorbed by Drew Willy. The former Roughriders pivot isn’t as mobile as some quarterbacks in the league, so Saskatchewan’s defensive line should be able to find him somewhere in the pocket. The Roughriders got to Ricky Ray three times in their season-opening victory over Toronto, but Saskatchewan didn’t record a sack — and generally didn’t produce much pressure on Trevor Harris — in its loss to Ottawa.
  5. Duron Carter: The receiver-turned-cornerback recorded a 28-yard interception return for a touchdown in Ottawa, giving him two pick-sixes in as many career starts as a corner. Jones said this week that Carter will remain a DB until Nick Marshall is ready to return from the broken hand that he suffered against Toronto. Carter has to clean up some things — in Ottawa, he gave up a 56-yard TD to Diontae Spencer and took two penalties that led to another major — but Jones has the confidence in Carter’s talent and athleticism to keep him on the defensive side of the ball.