It was back to regularly scheduled programming on Monday’s edition of the SportsCage as the Craig Dickenson Show returned with the head coach of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Over the past few weeks in March , the Roughriders coordinators, Kent Maugeri (Special Teams), Jason Shivers (Defensive) and Kelly Jeffrey (Offensive) filled in for Dickenson on the SportsCage.
The Riders coaching staff recently returned from a coaching excursion to Texas. Dickenson said it was nice to get away and enjoy some warm weather as the coaches began preparations for the upcoming season. He added the trip “was well worth it.”
Jeffrey will probably receive the most scrutiny this season as the first-year offensive coordinator takes over a new-look offence.
The Roughriders offensive coordinator vacancy created plenty of headlines in the early stages of the off-season. Saskatchewan interviewed several candidates, including Regina’s Marc Mueller and Ottawa’s Offensive Coordinator Khari Jones. In the end, Saskatchewan elected to promote Jeffrey to the role after spending the season as the team’s running backs coach.
Dickenson is excited to see what Jeffrey will bring to the unit this season. Even though the Roughriders explored other options before naming their offensive coordinator, Dickenson explains that Jeffrey had no problem with the team interviewing other potential candidates.
“We’ve known each other for a while now, and we communicated right from the start and I told him that I was going to take my time with it and I felt he was a good candidate but I wanted to kick the tires on a lot of different guys. ”
Dickenson added, “In the end I think we made the right decision.”
Another new coach of the offensive side for Saskatchewan is former Rider receiver, Naaman Roosevelt, who has joined the team as an offensive assistant coach. Dickenson says Roosevelt will mostly work with the team’s wide receivers alongside the positional coach, Drew Tate. The Riders head coach added that Jeffrey will have input on how the coaching staff will utilize the Roosevelt.
On the defensive side of the coaching staff, Del Cowsette joins the team as the defensive line coach following the resignation of Ben Olson. Dickenson says that Cowsette arrives with glowing recommendations including one from Edmonton Elk Assistant GM and former Rider Geroy Simon.
Wide Receiver Mix
One position that will see plenty of competition this spring at training camp is wide receiver. It will be a new-look group in Saskatchewan after the signings of players like Jake Wieneke, Shawn Bane Jr., and Derel Walker.
Saskatchewan did receive a blow to their plans with the news that last season’s top receiver for the team, Kian Schaffer-Baker recently had hip surgery.
Dickenson said there is always concern about a player after surgery, but he noted that the team is confident that Schaffer-Baker will be back with the team for the stretch drive towards the playoffs. The Riders head coach is expecting the Canadian receiver to be out for the first 6-9 games of the season.
The receiver with the most impressive resume currently on the team is Walker, who had over 800 yards receiving last season despite playing with multiple different quarterbacks in Edmonton.
At 31, Dickenson believes that Walker has plenty left in the tank.
“I think Derel has a chip on his shoulder, he still wants to prove to people he’s still an elite player.”
Over the weekend, the CFL combine wrapped up in Edmonton. This year a new format was introduced to the event that expanded the combine to five days.
Dickenson said there could be ways to shorten the event but wants to give the players a proper chance when they’re at the Combine.
“You’re going to always err on the side of going a little long, because you want to give them every opportunity to show what they can do.”