1 – SASKATOON: “Energy” was the buzzword on Day 1 of Saskatchewan Roughriders 2017 Training Camp here at Griffiths Stadium on Sunday. That word was on the lips of Head Coach & GM Chris Jones as well as quarterback Vince Young when they met with the media after the abnormally windy session. Veteran QB Kevin Glenn said all the players came in “ready and prepared” for the start of training camp, and the plays are still fresh in their minds from the Florida minicamp in April.
2 – I would characterize the opening session as “sloppy”, what with the large number of interceptions, fumbles, and time count violations which marred the day. Chris Jones admitted as much, saying they weren’t nearly as crisp as he’d like to see but we all know there’s an incredibly long ways to go. They weren’t wearing pads on Day 1 either.
Unlike the Florida minicamp which was a highly intense three day session six weeks ago, main training camp is a marathon, not a sprint.
I’ve covered 19 Roughriders training camps now and Day 1 is always a get-acquainted session. Would you like to be judged on your first day on the job? So therefore I put very little stock into individual performances although I appreciate the meticulous analysis I’ve seen on message boards and social media postings from fans on Sunday.
I stood on the sidelines for a portion of the workout and a lot of rookies were confused by Chris Jones’ “Double Barrel” concept where they line up back-to-back and run plays in rapid fire. It was far quicker than they’re used to, but they’ll have picked it up by Day 2.
3 – Some players did jump out though. Rookie DB #19 Mark Roberts registered a pair of interceptions and his solid overall play had me checking my roster several times for his name. It wasn’t long before his name stuck in my head and he’ll be one to watch over the next few weeks.
Rider great Don Narcisse tipped me off on Roberts – who participated in the Florida minicamp – because Narco is close friends with Roberts’ father from their days in Port Arthur, TX. Don asked me to keep an eye on Mark Roberts and was pleased with the Day 1 assessment.
4 – The first interception of the day came from veteran Tevaughn Campbell (the Regina Rams grad) who picked off Vince Young midway through the first morning session. Veteran Kacy Rodgers came up with a pick too while linebacker Dillon Grondin scooped up a fumble.
Clearly it was the veterans who stood out on the opening day of training camp and that’s generally the case although, again, the two picks from rookie Mark Roberts were notable.
5 – CKRM football analyst Luc Mullinder labelled the Riders’ starting receiver group as “scary” and he’s right. Rob Bagg was Rob Bagg, scoring touchdowns and catching everything which came his way. Naaman Roosevelt is back from the knee injury which ended his season last year and looks primed for a 1000-yard season.
6 – We’ll be keeing a close eye on star receiver Duron Carter of course, who I tabbed as the player I’m most keen to watch in training camp. His size and skill are undeniable and it’s clear this game comes very easily to him. Although I was particularly impressed by the screens he set downfield, or the “little things” in his game.
“I can get anybody open,” Carter smiled to Mullinder on the Riders’ livestream broadcast after practice on Riderville.com.
CFL types feel Carter is the best receiver in the league and I think he could be the best overall player in the entire CFL if he puts his mind to it. But he comes with considerable baggage, after being kicked off the Montreal Alouettes with three games to go last year.
“He’s one of those guys who’s a completely different player off the field,” surmised Carter’s former Montreal teammate Kevin Glenn on Sunday, who would know him better than anybody. “He’s definitely misunderstood.”
My fingers are crossed for the Riders that Duron Carter has a breakout season this year in Green & White.
7 – Kevin Glenn continues to sparkle and if he’s the quarterback who leads the team into its Week 1 showdown at Montreal, I’m very comfortable with that. He was so good in Florida that he basically got Days 2 and 3 off and that eased any concerns I had about him being the #1 guy. Glenn didn’t drop off any on Day 1 here.
8 – Rider fans are particularly curious about veteran Canadian quarterback Brandon Bridge and that tells me he has a lot of people pulling for him. I didn’t track every single rep because I was catching up with the media types after a long off-season, but their assessments of Bridge were wide-ranging. “He’s really struggling,” offered one reporter while the next said, “Bridge is having a real good day.”
TSN’s Farhan Lalji was at the Day 1 workout and will appear on Monday’s SportsCage as he makes a tour across West Division CFL training camps. It’s clear that Farhan is a huge supporter of Bridge, remarking “All he needs is a chance.”
9 – All quarterbacks struggled with the wind at Griffiths Stadium on Sunday and that includes Vince Young. Again, I didn’t put too much stock into any individual performance because of the long road ahead before the first preseason game on June 10 against Winnipeg in Regina.
But Vince was good. His 6’5″ frame is a huge benefit as his launch point is several feet higher than any other quarterback here and he has no problem seeing the field. Young displayed his cannon for an arm on occasion but was also accurate on short passes. His upside in the CFL is huge.
Many have asked if there’s a huge media glare around Young in this camp but the only American media outlet in attendance is Sports Illustrated who sent up a photographer.
And Young was a lot more guarded with reporters than he was in Florida, or during his initial news conference in Regina in March. He had a real downhome, folksy demeanour about him in past media sessions but on Sunday he was somewhat robotic.
Clearly, he’s danced this dance many times over before.
However so far, he doesn’t appear to be having any second thoughts about this comeback.
10 – OTHER DAY 1 OBSERVATIONS: It was tough to get a read on the first group of the offensive line due to the absence of Derek Dennis and Peter Dyakowski. Kennedy Estelle and Josiah St. John filled the LT and RG spots … I’ll watch much more closely on Monday, including the 1-on-1’s … Luc Mullinder was particularly impressed by the play of rookie OL Dariusz Bladek … Rookie QB Maty Mauk hit Nic Demski on a 45-yard touchdown which drew a roar of approval from the large crowd at Griffiths Stadium … Rookie Canadian receiver Mitch Picton of Regina was as expected: smooth and sure-handed … Veteran WR Ricky Collins made the circus catch of the day, a one-handed grab which delighted everyone on the field. A few reps later he went down with an apparent ankle injury but he returned shortly … Punter Josh Bartel was absent so his reps were taken by kicker Tyler Crapigna who did a nice job … The list of players auditioning on punt returns was as long as a phone book so it’s way too early to make any generalizations there … DE Jordan Reaves has come back as an absolute monster and looks to have packed 15 lbs of muscle onto his frame. It’s hard to believe he was ever looked at as a DB however he was much leaner a year ago … We haven’t even discussed the running backs, so I’ll take a harder look at that position on Monday.
620 CKRM’s Sportscage will originate from Saskatoon all week with myself and Luc. Everything starts at 4.