Riders Training Camp Preview: Defensive Backs

This is a position that is so up in the air. You could see a complete overhaul, a change or two or no change at all with the talent brought in to compete with the six regulars from last year.

In: Paul Woldu, Talmadge Jackson, Graig Newman, Macho Harris, TJ Rushing, Dominic Noel, Jalil Johnson
Out: Tamon George, John Eubanks, Jamal Fudge, Leron Mitchell
Returning: Tyron Brackenridge, Lance Frazier, Nick Graham, Tristan Jackson, Craig Butler, James Patrick, Eddie Russ, Chris McKenzie

Camp Battle Grade: B (or F) - This actually could end up as being the most interesting battle in all of training camp. It could also end up as the most boring.

All six regulars (Graham, Frazier, McKenzie, Butler, Patrick and Jackson) are back. But adding some players with NFL experience makes it clear consideration is being made to some changes that could see some (or one, or none) familiar names not make it out of training camp.

Among those looking to push the current crop of starters out, the most likely to crack the roster is Tyron Brackenridge. As I said in a previous blog, it could be as a linebacker or as a defensive back. In the games last season filling in for Lance Frazier, I thought he looked comfortable taking on receivers who have the benefit of the waggle. Macho Harris has the same potential but needs a quick start in camp to prove he can handle the nuances of coverage in Canada.

Nick Graham was really pushed hard in the mini-camp by Coach Chamblin and Coach Miles on technique. You can tell they are working on a lot more press coverage like Chamblin ran in Calgary with Dwight Anderson and Brandon Browner. That may indicate more size is necessary, have especially with McKenzie and Tristan Jackson.

McKenzie however was all over the ball in mini-camp (the coaches seemed very impressed) and I was told by a few of his peers that James Patrick is the best coverage guy the Riders have. That makes me think Harris, Eddie Russ, Breakenridge and the other newcomers may be pushing Frazier and Graham more so than the others for jobs.

If T.J. Rushing (5’9) makes the team it will have to come at the expense of Tristan Jackson (5’8). How much room can there be for two players, who are known more so for their return capabilities and lack of size than their coverage.

The other intrigue is free agent signing Paul Woldu. He has the potential to be a ratio buster that can be thrown out at corner. The Roughriders could use that extra Canadian to throw a bunch of different looks on the field and realistically have both ball hawking safeties Craig Butler and James Patrick mix it up like you’d see in the NFL with free and strong safety. An added bonus for the non-import/import ratio is Graig Newman. I don’t think he looked too out of place in his first camp with the Riders last year, so the Hilltop could easily be a special teams regular.

As for Talmage Jackson and Jalil Johnson. They are young (both 23) and with the experience in front of them it’s likely they’re battling each other for a practice roster spot.

Other Previews:

Defensive Line

Offensive Line


Running Backs