Riders Training Camp Preview: Defensive Line

I know it's early, but I couldn't help myself, thus begins a series of training camp previews to lead you to the start of main camp on Sunday, June 3rd.

First off the defensive line.

In: Boo Robinson, David Veikune, Odell Willis, Chris Ellis, Mick Williams, Curtis Gatewood
Out: Dario Romero, Remond Willis, RJ Roberts
Returning: Brent Hawkins, Tearrius George, Keith Shologan, Mathieu Boulay, Kenny Rowe

Camp Battle Grade: C - Two of the four spots are in ink. Lets not kid ourselves, DT Keith Shologan and DE Odell Willis are day one starters. It’ll also be hard to bump Tearrius George out of a five man rotation. The intrigue comes at defensive end and the open defensive tackle spot.

The Roughriders know they drastically need to improve the defensive line after last season. They were among the bottom of the league in sacks and lacked consistent pressure of the edge.

The Riders rotated 9 players through at defensive end. The only mainstay became Tearrius George but he had to wait until midway through the season to make his debut. Why I don’t know. He was clearly a better choice than Luc Mullinder, Montez Murphy and R.J. Roberts, who all got starts before the former Stampeder.

George may also move inside this season as it appears Head Coach Corey Chamblin may want to go with a more athletic defense all around as the team departed with veteran tackle Dario Romero after one season with the team. (That move alone will save them 10 or so yards a game in penalties)

The Roughriders hope Odell Willis is worth what they paid for by giving up a second and fourth round pick to the Blue Bombers for last year’s league leader in sacks. So far Willis hasn’t warmed himself to Rider Nation with a DUI charge just two weeks after the trade. But it’s what he’ll do on the football field that will be the final analysis on the deal.

While Brent Hawkins is a returning player, he can also be considered a new face after missing all of last season with a shoulder injury. He and Willis have the potential to be a dynamic duo off the edge.

Kenny Rowe, Chris Ellis, Curtis Gatewood and David Veikune are the others in the mix at defensive end who are more than capable of leap frogging Hawkins with a good training camp. I don’t foresee anybody overtaking Willis after the team gave up so much to get him in Green and White.

Rowe has a bit of an edge after playing in five games last season and got a good sense of what he needed to do in the off-season to come back better for 2012.

At defensive tackle, the Roughriders are set with Keith Shologan and George if they decide to go that route, but Boo Robinson is coming in highly touted after a few years bouncing around the NFL. (Good thing he’s got a simple nickname because calling him by his real name of Shaynteryous will make for some interesting mispronunciations by myself and other colleagues.)

Mick Williams is also up for a job in the middle of the Riders defensive line.

Look for the Riders to also add a non-import defensive lineman or two before camp as Mathieu Boulay is the only other Canadian on the line now that Shomari Williams has moved to linebacker.

Other Previews:

Offensive Line


Defensive Backs

Running Backs