The Roughriders aren’t taking their next opponent lightly.
In fact, going around the locker room there was a lot of respect and compliments being thrown in the direction of Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly.
And it’s no wonder. Reilly is leading the league in passing yards with 2,063, passing touchdowns with 13 and rushing touchdowns with five.
“I consider him the best quarterback in the league by far because he’s a dual threat. He can throw the ball, he can stick it in and he can run,” said defensive lineman Zack Evans.
Add to that an unmatched toughness, according to Willie Jefferson, and you’ve got yourself a problem.
“He gets hit a lot and you can just see him get up and just shake it off and get back to the huddle and keep the game going. He’s one of the sole players that keeps that team moving and just him alone being as tough as he is, keeps that team motivated,” he said.
So how exactly do the Roughriders stop a quarterback who is capable of beating them in so many ways?
The blitz won’t be too effective if you ask head coach Chris Jones, who coached Reilly before he came to the Roughriders.
“Good luck on that. The percentages don’t say to. He knows right where to go with the football.”
But that doesn’t mean they don’t have a plan. One that includes disrupting Reilly early.
“I think we have the personnel to do it, I think we have the scheme to do it,” Evans said. “I’ve been in games where we’ve gotten to him quick and early and kind of thrown him off his game so hopefully we can get there and kind of disrupt him a little.”
Jefferson, for one, is hoping he can get his hands on his former Eskimos teammate. Reilly and Jefferson played two seasons together and won a Grey Cup in 2015.
“Me playing with Mike Reilly and then going over to have to play against him is a real good feeling because over the years in practice you beat the offensive lineman and then you just have to pull away from the quarterback. I’m pretty sure it’s the way Charleston (Hughes) felt last week going against (former teammate) Bo (Levi Mitchell), so here we go,” Jefferson said.
Hughes, by the way, was able to sack Mitchell twice in the Roughriders 34 -22 loss to the Stampeders.
The Roughriders also have some extra reinforcements this week on offence that may put them in a better position.
For starters, quarterback Zach Collaros was activated from the six-game injured list in time to play this week in Edmonton.
Collaros missed four games with a concussion he sustained against the Ottawa Redblacks in week two.
The Roughriders have also activated defensive back Nick Marshall, who broke his hand in week one. Since then receiver Duron Carter had been filling in, but he makes his return to offence Thursday night as well.
All of this means the Roughriders are playing a roster very similar to the one they started the season with and beat Toronto 27-19.
Given all the tools that Reilly and the Eskimos bring to a game, having three playmakers back in the lineup can only help the Riders odds of securing the win.
Game time is at 8 p.m. At Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.
Here's the Riders depth versus Edmonton.
Nick Marshall is back, Caleb Holley sits and Duron Carter's in on offence. pic.twitter.com/H70ulOXD11
— Arielle Zerr (@arielle_zerr) August 1, 2018
Depth chart day!
Here is how we will line up tomorrow when we take on the Saskatchewan Roughriders!
— Edmonton Eskimos (@EdmontonEsks) August 1, 2018