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Selnes: Riders could use some magic

Saskatchewan Roughriders Head Coach Craig Dickenson isn't impressed with his team's performance in the last three games, writes columnist Bill Selnes.
Bill Selnes
Saskatchewan Roughriders Head Coach Craig Dickenson isn't impressed with his team's performance in the last three games, writes columnist Bill Selnes.

Saskatchewan Roughriders Head Coach Craig Dickenson is a candid guy. After Friday, Sept. 16’s 26-24 loss to the Edmonton Elks he summed up the Riders in three words: “not very good.”

A few weeks ago he had described the team as a 50/50 team. They have deteriorated in their last three losses. Dickenson continued that the team was not very good when they were 4-1.

On how they are not very good late in the season, he said it starts with the lines.

The offensive line gets the most public attention. On Friday night the Riders gave up eight more sacks. Dickenson shared the blame. He said some were on the O-line. He said some were on Cody Fajardo in that Fajardo needs to step up not step out. Lastly he said some were scheme related.

What was equally concerning Friday night for the O-line was their struggle in creating room for rushing the ball. The Riders have had a good running attack. It was startling to see Frankie Hickson get but 14 yards on 10 carries. 

Without Logan Ferland and Dan Clark, the offensive line has been woeful. If they are back in the lineup in two weeks I am hopeful there will be a tolerable line. If they are still injured it is going to be bad.

As with most head coaches Dickenson is rare in criticizing his starting quarterback. Fajardo loves, when under pressure, to pivot to the left. The move is too predictable. Perhaps he feels he cannot step up but it is clear his head coach thinks he could step forward. As well, Fajardo has been reluctant to throw the ball away.

With regard to the defensive line Dickenson lamented there is no pressure. Where the Elks could get pressure with three rushers the Riders could not get pressure with four rushers.

Since returning from injuries A.C. Leonard and Pete Richardson have not been getting the pressure they showed early in the season. 

I had been thinking the line was not the same since Garrett Marino was cut. Dickenson said Marino had to go but they are not as good without him.

Dickenson further stated that they are also missing their second-best interior lineman in Anthony Lanier being injured.

What is most frustrating is the failure to contain quarterbacks. The Riders have currently lost the ability to contain. After three weeks of quarterbacks running free surely they can correct that issue.

What Dickenson did not address were a pair of coaching decisions.

On third and 1 early in the game the Riders went shotgun and brilliantly executed a long pass to Shaq Evans for a touchdown. What I question was on third and 1 in the third quarter the Riders went shotgun again and Hickson was stopped. When they were going to run it should have been Fajardo on a quarterback sneak.

With eight minutes to go in the game the Riders went to a tempo offence, not huddling but moving immediately to the line after each play. They scored on consecutive drives to take the lead. Fajardo is at his best in tempo. Last season it was successful. I think the Riders need to go tempo much more often.

Brayden Lenius and Dickenson both spoke of Duke Williams addressing the team after the game. Lenius spoke of Williams saying they can be a Cinderella story that some great teams go through facing adversity. Lenius said they have to be a band of brothers. I hope Williams is right. The Riders could use some magic.

Bill Selnes, who’s based in Melfort, has written about the Saskatchewan Roughriders since the late 1970s. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, Football Reporters of Canada wing on Nov. 24, 2013.

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