PREVIEW: Riders take on Eskimos in regular season kickoff

Green Zone Pre-Game show begins at Noon on News Talk Radio
Reported by Joel Gasson
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After three weeks of training camp, and two pre-season games, everything finally begins for real this afternoon.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders are in Edmonton taking on the Eskimos as both teams begin the regular season.

"I'm ready to get to the game, we've been practicing long enough," said head coach Corey Chamblin. "I can't wait to see the players take what they've learned from the classroom and take it to the field."

Learning has definitely been the name of the game so far this season the Riders, on both offense and defense.

Offensively it's all been about a group of mostly returning players learning the play book of offensive coordinator George Cortez. For many of the veterans like Weston Dressler, Chris Getzlaf and Darian Durant it's the first time they've ever learned a new play book in their professional careers.

"We've put in the work, we had a great week of practice," said Durant. "We're just ready to go out and execute and have some fun."

The offense will likely be very very different this week compared to the pre-seasons, as in those games the team rolled out a very bland play book. One because the players need to work on getting the basics back in order, secondly because Cortez clearly wasn't going to show much in a game that didn't mean anything.

That being said, the learning does continue.

"We've only been together as a group for about three weeks now," said Durant. "There's no way you can master it in that amount of time."

So likely we'll see a few kinks being worked out as the game goes on this week, and perhaps for the next few weeks as well.

One learning experience that will have to go into at least next week is building chemistry between Durant and Geroy Simon as he won't be in the line up (a full depth chart can be found at the bottom of the page).

The defense will be without one of their starters too, as defensive lineman Terrius George has to sit out this one as he serves a suspension he received in the west semi-final last year.

"It sucks to not have him because he's a good player, especially in the pass rush," said defensive lineman Keith Shologan. "He's explosive."

Shologan is actually the only player to return this year on defense and play the same position he did last year. The rest of the defense is new, or has move to a new position or is playing multiple positions.

Tyron Brackenridge is now at safety, Craig Butler is a linebacker, and Terrell Maze could line-up anywhere on the field, as the secondary has been a real puzzle so far this year.

While some might feel the defense might not get the full test in this game, as the Eskimos offense isn't expected to be great. Defensive coordinator Richie Hall thinks there is a number of play makers on that side of the ball for Edmonton.

"Guys maybe that you hadn't heard about in the CFL on a regular basis," he said.

This game could come down to a battle in the trenches again, as the Riders defensive line easily beat the Eskimos new offensive line in the pre-season. That being said, it was a pre-season game.

The Riders offensive line will also have to be better than it was against the Stampeders last week. Offensive line coach Doug Malone feels his players have been picking up his new system pretty well, but he also feels Calgary did a lot of blitzing and stunting you don't normally see in the pre-season.

"We needed to see some, because we didn't see some the first week," said Malone.

One question along that line will be Ben Heenan. For the first time in his pro career he's lining up at right tackle thanks to the injury to Patrick Neufeld.

"Ben has played there before, so it's not like it's the first time he's ever been out there," said Malone.

Heenan himself thinks he's coming along at the position and has been leaning on the veterans to learn as much as he can.

The Green Zone's pre-game show starts at Noon live from The Lancaster Tap House in Regina. The post-game show follows the final whistle.

The game itself starts at 1:30 p.m. and is on TSN.