Thirteen weeks ago the Riders steamrolled the Argos. While the same teams play again Saturday, QB Cody Fajardo almost doesn’t recognize the defense he’ll face.
“(They are) completely different,” says Fajardo. “A team that is competitive. A team that has nothing to lose. They’ve changed their personnel a little bit. And I think you’ve got guys fighting for jobs over there.”
The Argos have changed three important pieces on their defense: adding defensive tackle Davon Coleman, cornerback Jonathon Mincy and middle linebacker Bear Woods.
“The guy who stands out to me is Bear Woods,” says Fajardo. “A guy who’s got something to prove. He wasn’t on the roster to start the year and he wants to show people he an still play this game. Watching that Calgary tape last week I saw him all over the field. And the one thing I know is, if I’m running the ball, Bear Woods is coming for me.
Fajardo adds: “He understands the RPO aspect of this game, which a lot of young linebackers don’t–the pull to throw. He does a good job of getting in passing lanes and being able to come up and stop the run.”
Fajardo says the Argos have been done in by bad luck more than a few times this season. And that makes him wary.
“They’re about three plays away from having three more wins. Things just didn’t go their way. That’s pretty crazy to think about.”
After missing 12 games, guard Brendon LaBatte returns to the Riders lineup. That has a lot of people excited, including Head Coach Craig Dickenson.
“He’s a glue (guy). He’s one of the guys that holds the group together. Guys just seem to gravitate towards him and he sees to keep that hole group together and working well.
“He’s got a lot of miles under his belt, but he’s not that old. He played at a young age and has played a lot of football but he’s still strong, still healthy and his body feels good so we’re excited to see him back.”
Dickenson spoke cautiously when asked about LaBatte this week–wanting to make sure the Riders star was really ready before the coach committed to playing him.
“We wanted to push him a little bit in practice and make sure his body responded and it has. Knock on wood, we hope it holds up but physically he’s ready to go.
Mentally it’s probably going to be a little bit fast for him. But he’s a 10-year vet so it’ll come a little quicker than other guys.”
Labatte slots into the lineup for Dariusz Bladek, who will be the sixth offensive lineman on Saturday. Defensive end Charleston Hughes and receiver Cory Watson will return to the lineup.
With the Bombers loss on Friday, the Riders will tie them atop the west with nine wins should they beat the Argos. Kickoff is 5:00 pm on Saturday on the Cooperators Roughrider Radio Network. The pre-game show on 620 CKRM begins at 2:00.