The defensive backs brought in by Roughriders head coach Chris Jones might require a double take.
“It’s like a basketball team out there we’re playing against, it’s crazy,” laughed receiver Naaman Roosevelt after a warm day four of training camp.
It’s true that it’s a tall bunch of guys brought in to play defensive back. Ten of the 16 players are at least six feet tall and six are at least six foot two inches tall.
“This is definitely the tallest defensive back corps that I’ve had to face in practice every day, which is great, it makes our guys better,” said receivers coach Markus Howell after a Wednesday practice that saw his receivers face off in one-on-one drills against the defensive backs.
Roosevelt said he had a blast during the drills.
“We talk a lot of stuff to each other, you know DBs and receivers, we don’t like each other, right? We just like to have fun and when we get one on ones, it’s just fun,” he said.
The height and speed of the defensive backs are forcing the receivers to be better, Howell said, adding the receivers have to be crisp in their route running and focus on ball security or it will be punched out, but overall he said the receivers have been competing well and getting better everyday.
“Early in camp (the pace) was obviously a shock to their system … they’re coming around. They’re getting their second wind,” he said.
Getting that second wind hasn’t come without some pain. According to Roosevelt, ice baths are mandatory, but still he’s appreciating the intensity and the speed.
And the receivers trust their coaches. The Roughriders were in last place in the league, and their final record was not something to brag about, but it didn’t stop Kendial Lawrence from leaving the Grey Cup winning Edmonton to Eskimos to follow Chris Jones and his coaching staff to Saskatchewan.
“This team, they were the worst team in the league last year, but that doesn’t really matter,” Lawrence said. “You can change a program in one year, Coach Jones proved that two years ago.”
It means some pretty intense days for receivers, and that’s by Howell’s own admission. He said the reason it’s exhausting is twofold. First the receivers are getting overloaded physically, they’re asking a lot from their bodies, but the second part is mental and in the classroom. But it’s all part of a larger plan to figure out the best of the best.
“Next couple of days we’re going to slow down on the install and then let them catch up mentally, and then we’ll separate them athletically on the field.”
Among those already separating themselves? Rob Bagg, which should come as no surprise to the Rider Nation, as Bagg has been a solid contributor for years. Howell also singled out Clarence Denmark who signed with the Riders as a free agent last month and Roosevelt, who was a bright spot on the Roughrider offence in the second half of the season.
There’s a few new names he mentioned too, including Qudarius Ford, who is new to the offensive side of the ball, Ricky Collins and Canadian Joshua Stanford.
And as a whole, the offence is impressing the man they need to.
“The offence has had a lot thrown at them and I’ve been real proud,” Jones said.
TRAINING CAMP NOTES:
Justin Capicciotti, Jeff Knox Jr. and John Chiles were absent from practice again on Wednesday.
Tyree Hollins went down near the end of practice and left for treatment, his status is not know right now.
Long snapper Jorgen Hus arrived for his first day of camp today and the team got right to work on punting and return drills.