Saskatchewan Roughriders Assistant V.P. of Football Operations and Player Personnel John Murphy was in studio on 620 CKRM’s SportsCage on Thursday to discuss the team’s wave of signings and trades during the 2016 free agency season and their plans at back-up quarterback behind Darian Durant.
The club added over a dozen players through the first three days of free agency while releasing a pair. While the team is far from done retooling its roster before training camp, Murphy’s happy with what’s transpired.
“We’ve made a lot of good improvements,” Murphy said. “It’s a slow process. We’re still looking ahead including the free agent workouts that we’ll continue to do this month and then meet in Toronto for Evaluation Camp. It’ll be our coaching staff’s first chance to lay eyes on the prospects and poke and prod those players. We’ll also have the minicamp in Florida in April (Vero Beach April 8-10).
“Those will be a lot of guys that fill up our roster, the guys that are in these camps. Jeff Knox Jr. was a guy who went to an open tryout a year ago and look at what he produced. These guys will be on our roster and practice roster, and more importantly when injuries pop up like they do, a lot of these guys that are trying out for us in these camps will be the first call-ups. It doesn’t seem as important as the last three or four days but it’s equally important if you want to perform at a winning level all year.”
Murphy was asked by co-host Kelly Remple what they’re hoping for game-to-game in the 2016 season.
“There’s nine teams playing and the expansion team made it as close to winning a Grey Cup as anyone else last year,” Murphy reasoned. “If a team that’s only been existence for two years can get to that point, there’s no reason to say that we can’t. But I think the work that’s gotta be done both on and off the field before then to be competitive is tremendous. We need to continue to develop the Canadian talent and the quarterbacks for the future. We’ll have an excellent competition in training camp at lot of positions. We’ll evaluate that talent at the end of training camp and then at various points throughout the regular season.”
Many in the Rider Nation are wondering what the Riders will do at the back-up quarterback position behind Darian Durant. Kevin Glenn was shipped off to Montreal at the trade deadline and the club finished the year with rookies Brett Smith and Keith Price.
“I would argue there is a CFL-experienced quarterback right here when you look at the circumstances under which he played,” Murphy said. “Why is it such an anamoly that Brett Smith is not that guy? 15 touchdowns, nine interceptions, second- or third-leading rushing quarterback, and again, taking it into context, if there’s so much excitement over Jon Jennings in B.C., why is there so much criticism of Brett Smith?
“Down the stretch, the game in Hamilton, is that a young quarterback forcing the issue because he’s being pressured? Yes. There was a lack of a running game at that time, guys dropping balls and receivers in and out, that was a guy pushing out there. Can you judge a guy who was out there trying to make a play? A guy who was putting it out there on the line every play even though he was getting his butt kicked? I liked the factor that he showed some oomf. Maybe not the talking back and the body language, but he didn’t want to come out of the games. He wanted to fight with his teammates. He earned a lot of respect from people. Smith’s also one of the three or four youngest players on the team.
“B.J. Coleman has done some real nice things for us in the workouts and has a nice pedigree. He did some things in the NFL. He had an excellent run in the Arena League and we’re still evaluating Keith Price plus we’ve looked at five or six other quarterbacks. Until otherwise noticed, I don’t think there’s anybody else out there who could put us in a better situation to be successful than Brett Smith.”