“I think we’re growing confident as a group.” OT Eric Lofton one element of a resurgent Roughriders offensive line

It has been a revolving door at left tackle for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2023, and for now, Eric Lofton has closed the door.

Lofton moved into the starting position following an injury to Brandon Council in late July. Before Council, the Roughriders had hopes of Jerald Hawkins, Jordan Tucker or Canadian veteran Philip Blake taking the reins at left tackle but the team lost all three players to significant injuries in the early portion of the season.

In August, over a three-game span with Lofton at left tackle, the green and white offensive line allowed three sacks in three games, with Saskatchewan assembling a 2-1 record.

OT Eric Lofton (#52) at practice

At the beginning of the season, the Philadelphia product was the team’s starter at right tackle before Colin Kelly took over following his suspension that carried over from last year.

Lofton thinks remaining in the same position for an extended length has helped him out at left tackle.

He noted there isn’t much difference between playing left and right tackle.

“Just getting equilibrium down.” said Lofton, “because everything becomes the opposite hand or foot first, especially in pass protection.”

The Roughriders coaching staff has decided not to tinker with a good thing as Lofton will remain at left tackle despite the return of Council.

On Wednesday, with Kelly out of the lineup indefinitely, Council was practicing at the right tackle spot with Lofton remaining at left tackle.

Confidence hasn’t been an issue for the former Temple Owl. He said the familiarity of the rest of the offensive line has helped him out.

“It’s just nice playing beside the same people for more than an extended period of time. I think we’re growing confident as a group. “

Dickenson noted that Lofton’s time at Temple has helped out the offensive tackle.

“The guy (Lofton) is tough as nails.” said the Roughriders head coach. “Guys who come through that program at Temple are always tough.”

The depth of the Saskatchewan offensive line was tested on Sunday during the Roughriders 32-30 overtime win in the Labour Day Classic against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. With Kelly sidelined, right guard Logan Ferland bumped out to right tackle, with Logan Bandy replacing Ferland at guard.

Saskatchewan may have to shuffle around the o-line again on Saturday in the Labour Day rematch with Evan Johnson battling a foot injury. The former University of Saskatchewan Huskie was injured on Sunday but remained in the game.

Bandy will start if Johnson is unable to play in Winnipeg.

Moving around is something that Lofton has become familiar with after he entered the Canadian Football League.

The 30-year-old signed with the Ottawa REDBLACKS in 2017 and remained in the Nation’s Capital until 2019.

He would later bounce around with the BC Lions (2019), Edmonton Elks (2019-2020) and the Blue Bombers (2020-22) before signing with the Roughriders this past February.

Lofton is happy to make a home in Riderville.

“I’m very grateful that Sask. brought me into compete and they trusted me to protect the quarterback and be apart of this offensive line, so I’m extremely grateful about it.”

After being on the visiting sideline during the last couple of Labour Day Classics, Lofton enjoyed being a part of a victorious home win this past week against his former team.

“It was tough playing against Sask., it was such a big rivalry to the two places.”

With the green and white expecting a not-so-friendly reception on Saturday at IG Field, the former Blue Bomber expects the opposite of the Roughriders experienced at the Labour Day Classic.

He noted it’s special competing against a successful team like Winnipeg.

“They’re champions for a reason, so it’s nice to play them in their house. “

Even with his recent run in the starting lineup at left tackle in Saskatchewan, Lofton isn’t looking past the next game in front of him.

“As you’ve seen through my career, stretches where I played, stretches where I don’t play, I’ve never been afforded the opportunity to treat games more important than the others.”

Practice Notebook

The injury report released after Thursday’s practice confirmed the Riders will be without guard Evan Johnson and safety Jayden Dalke on Saturday. QB Mason Fine (hamstring) won’t return to the lineup this week.

Dickenson said that Jaxon Ford would start in Dalke’s place at safety.

RB Frankie Hickson (illness) and DB Nelson Lokombo (knee) are questionable.

With Pete Robertson out of Saturday’s game due to his one-game suspension, Dickenson said the team will have to rely on a rotation of players at defensive end. Cody Roscoe or Christian Albright will be called up from the practice roster for this week’s game. Dickenson also said the Canadians will play a role this week including 2023 first round choice, Lake Korte-Moore.

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