Slowly but surely the Saskatchewan Roughriders defence has been getting better.
The improvement took time, but really kicked into gear after the firing of head coach Corey Chamblin, who had been essentially acting as the defensive coordinator.
“Guys (are) just knowing their assignments a whole lot more better and playing fast,” said linebacker Jeff Knox Jr.
“Just playing hard, playing hard and through the whistle.”
Some of that credit certainly deserves to be placed at the feet of defensive coordinator Greg Quick. Since he’s gained full control of the defence, it seems the game plan has been simplified.
“He’s a genius. A master-mad genius of the whole defence right now. What’s he’s cooking for us is allowing us to have the success we’re having right now,” said Knox.
The turnaround peaked last week with the defence causing four of Winnipeg’s five turnovers in the Banjo Bowl.
It’s important to note, however, that the defence had its best two games of the year against the lowest-scoring team in the league, the Blue Bombers. This week, they’ll face a much stiffer test in the Ottawa Redblacks, the same Redblacks offence that lit them up for 351 yards of total offence just a few weeks ago.
“We’re hungry. We let that game slip away from us. That was a game we knew we could go in and pretty much takeover but we let it get away from us,” said linebacker Tyron Brackenridge.
“That game kind of hurt us. We can’t wait to get back at them.”
Of those nearly 400 yards of offence, 92 yards and three touchdowns were created by running back Jeremiah Johnson.
Part of the reason for Johnson’s success was the schemes the Riders were running. Simplifying the defence might solve that problem.
“They had a good scheme against us. They did a lot of double teaming,” said Knox Jr.
“We got a different game plan going into this game.”
Not only will the Riders’ front seven be tested, so will the secondary.
In the Aug. 30 game, Redblacks quarterback Henry Burris led the offence down the field for two touchdowns on Ottawa’s first two drives of the game. After stalling in the middle part of the game, Burris started to heat up again late in the third and into the fourth quarter.
This time around, the last line of defence is going to have to be much sharper from the very start.
“Any holes that (are) in a defence, (Burris) can definitely find because of the experience that he has,” said defensive backs coach Tony Misseck.
NEWS AND NOTES
Running back Anthony Allen did not practice on Thursday. Following practice, Interim head coach Bob Dyce said Allen was having a rest day and would play Saturday against Ottawa.
Defensive back Terrell Maze did not practice once again. Maze is still going through the concussion protocol and won’t play on Saturday.
With Maze out, look for Junior Mertile to take his place in the secondary.