It’s no surprise to Craig Dickenson that special teams needs a little “more oomph”.
The Roughriders special teams coordinator is happy with the kick game, but said the team has been tinkering and working hard to improve the return game, which is fledgling.
“We’re trying to mix and match the personnel a little bit,” Dickenson said. “Trying to get a little bit bigger body out there, a little more physical player … we’re just okay right now and we feel like we should be better.”
As it stands right now the Roughriders average just 8.1 yards on punt returns – good enough for worst in the league. It’s not much better for kick returns, which average 20.2 yards. Only Ottawa has a worse average than the Riders there, and it’s on six less touches.
The Riders have leaned mostly only Kendial Lawrence in the return game. He had a break out year in returns in Edmonton in 2015 but hasn’t seen that success in the green and white yet.
“Certainly Kendial feels he could do better, and we believe he can do better as well,” Dickenson said. “But it’s everybody, we haven’t blocked for him very well.”
As an example, Dickenson pointed to a situation where Lawrence was able to catch the ball and avoid one defender just to have another come in right behind him.
“We think he’s going to have some improvement,” Dickenson added. “He’s going to break out for a few. We just got to do a better job around him.”
Dickenson said the coaches have went on to simplify as much as they can with the special teams plays, which is something that head coach Chris Jones preaches.
“We win with execution and with being physical and playing fast,” Dickenson said.
Dickenson also added that the coaches have challenged the players to win their one-on-one battles, which will hopefully lead to better blocking for the returner.
“It’s a shared effort,” Dickenson went on to say. “We can get better and that includes everybody, from me all the way down through the returners.”