As the third installment in our series of 2021 CFL team previews, here's a look at perennial West Division contenders the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The Riders topped the West Division in 2019, posting a 13-5 record on the strength of a potent offensive attack led by dual-threat QB Cody Fajardo. He remains the focal point of the offense heading into 2021 but will need to adjust to a new offensive coordinator in former Edmonton head coach Jason Maas. There's little reason to anticipate any growing pains, however, as most of the key pieces at the skill positions are back including wide receiver Shaq Evans and RB William Powell.
We will see a new-look Riders offensive line but that's not necessarily a bad thing as for every departure there was a solid addition. As long as that group can mesh together in short order, this offense has the potential to find its way among the league leaders in yards per game and scoring average with an aggressive play-caller like Maas at the helm.
Defensively, the Riders boast studs all over the field with cornerback Ed Gainey (who signed a new contract earlier this year) serving as the anchor. The Riders are looking to build a 'no fly zone' of sorts in the secondary as they prepare to face some of the league's best quarterbacks who happen to reside in the West Division (Bo Levi Mitchell of the Stampeders and Mike Reilly of the Lions come to mind).
It will be a different looking Saskatchewan defense, however, with Solomon Elimimian retiring and Charleston Hughes bolting for Toronto. All told, the Riders lose four starters on the defensive side of the football. Changes are really nothing new for the Riders though as they welcomed a new coordinator in Jason Shivers in 2019, taking over for mastermind Chris Jones. Not only that but the Riders were also forced to replace a number of key cogs on the field that year as well. All Shivers did was shape the defense into one of the league's most dominant units and I'm confident he can do the same with the 2021 edition.
The Riders are currently priced around 6-1 to win the Grey Cup, slotting in between the Tiger-Cats and Stampeders in the league's projected top three teams.