@
July 9, 2024

Ball-hawking Roughriders tops in turnovers

The Saskatchewan Roughriders are experiencing quite a turnaround in the turnover department.

After four games, the Green and White leads the CFL in takeaways (14) and has also turned over the football fewer times (four) than any other member of the nine-team circuit.

“You said we had 14 (turnovers),” cornerback Deontai Williams said. “We’re supposed to have, shoot, 30!

“We’ve missed a lot of opportunities, but that’s us growing into the new system and growing into the new defence.

“The ball is just rolling right now. Everybody is getting their chance to touch the ball and there’s more to come.”

The 4-0 Roughriders have a league-best turnover differential of plus-10. The Green and White was minus-three at the four-game mark last season, albeit with a 3-1 record.

Saskatchewan has registered five takeaways in each of its last two games, the most recent being Thursday’s 30-23 victory over the visiting Toronto Argonauts. Williams had the first of Saskatchewan’s four interceptions in that contest.

Overall, the Roughriders boast a league-best nine interceptions.

Defensive halfback Rolan Milligan Jr. is the league’s most prolific interceptor. All three of his picks have been registered over the last two games.

Linebacker C.J. Avery is in a three-way tie for second in interceptions, with two.

Williams, linebacker Jameer Thurman, cornerback Marcus Sayles and defensive halfback DaMarcus Fields each have one pick.

“The linebackers were leading us in picks for the first couple of weeks,” Williams said. “We were like, ‘Oh my gosh! We can’t let the linebackers beat the DBs in picks,’ but it has started kicking back up.”

Thurman leads the league in fumble recoveries, with three. Nobody else has more than one.

He is also first in defensive takeaways, with four. Milligan Jr. is alone in second at three.

On Tuesday, Milligan Jr. was named to the Honour Roll, as selected by Pro Football Focus, by virtue of having the highest grade (86.3 out of 100) of any CFL defensive back in last week’s games.

Milligan Jr. also made the Honour Roll for Week 2, during which he received the league’s best grade on special teams. He had four special teams tackles in a 33-30 victory over the host Hamilton Tiger-Cats on June 16.

B.C. BECKONS

The Roughriders are to return to action on Saturday against the host B.C. Lions (5 p.m., TSN, CKRM) in a battle of the West Division’s top two teams.

B.C. is 4-1 heading into a showdown with the undefeated Saskatchewan side. Both clubs are on four-game winning streaks.

“We know we have a great opponent in front of us — going into the Lions’ den, so to speak,” Head Coach Corey Mace said.

“We’ve got to be on it to give ourselves a shot but, speaking with the guys and the staff, everybody’s up for the challenge. We’ve just got to make sure we prepare.”

Lions quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. is off to a scorching start. After five games, he has thrown for 1,752 yards and 11 touchdowns, with only one interception.

Asked what the Roughriders’ defence is going to have to stop, Mace chuckled and replied: “Everything.”

INJURY UPDATE

Defensive tackle Charbel Dabire and defensive end Christian Albright will be sidelined for several weeks after suffering knee injuries against Toronto.

Both players are likely facing surgery after injuring their anterior cruciate ligaments.

“It’s tough for those guys and tough for the team,” Mace said. “Speaking to both of them, they both want to stick around and do their rehab here, so that’s good for everybody.”

The Roughriders dressed nine defensive linemen for the Toronto game. Dabire, Micah Johnson and Anthony Lanier II were listed as defensive tackles on the depth chart. The ends were Albright, Habakkuk Baldonado, Malik Carney, Bryan Cox Jr. Nicholas Dheilly and Lake Korte-Moore.

Miles Brown was on the one-game injured list last week. Fellow defensive tackle Caleb Sanders, who played in one game last season, is on the practice roster.

“We kind of have some depth (on the defensive line) and some guys who can swing a couple of spots for us,” Mace said.

“If there’s someone who jumps out at us to bring in, we’ll certainly look at that.”

BANE’S BACK

Receiver Shawn Bane Jr. returned to the practice field on Tuesday. He was away from the team last week while dealing with a personal matter.

What does it mean to the team to have him back?

“It means everything,” quarterback Shea Patterson said.

“He’s a spark to our team. He’s probably the fastest guy out there. Just to get him back in the room and to get his energy back in the room is huge.”

Bane Jr. has 13 catches for 211 yards and three touchdowns this season. All three TDs were scored in a season-opening, 29-21 victory over the Edmonton Elks on June 8 at Commonwealth Stadium.