Roughriders Mailbag: Who’s the QB heir apparent? Is a playoff spot realistic?

Saskatchewan Roughriders

Taylor Shire

Regina Leader-Post

Welcome to another edition of the Roughriders Mailbag where we answer questions readers have about the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

With rookie camp underway at Griffiths Stadium in Saskatoon, there’s a lot of excitement around the team ahead of main camp opening on Sunday.

After hiring an entirely new coaching staff and bringing in several new faces via free agency, there are also several questions surrounding the team which we will address below.

QB is still the elephant in the room. Mason Fine is a decent backup, but we have no heir apparent (to Trevor Harris). Need to bring in a fifth QB as Antonio Pipkin already proved he can’t and Shea Patterson was fourth. Pipkin is purely short yardage and Patterson lost out to Jake Dolegala and Fine (last year). The rest of the team is just a question of who is gonna show up and win spots. From Dan

Even though this was more of a comment than a question, I wanted to address it anyway.

Harris is the answer right now for the Roughriders. And if Harris stays healthy and plays well, there’s a chance he could sign an extension.

The only way to truly develop a quarterback is through playing time. Sure, a young pivot can sit and learn as a backup or on the practice roster, but nothing replaces live action. So if the Riders were to develop a QB, it would not only come at the expense of Harris, but giving this team the best chance to win now. Not going to happen.

If, for whatever reason, they need to make a QB change this year or this off-season, it’s next-man-up mentality as it always is. Obviously the team believes in Fine, which is why they gave him a two-year extension.

Patterson will come into camp with a lot to prove after losing the backup battle and also short-yardage duties last year. Pipkin will handle short yardage this year but what if he puts together a strong camp running the offence? Could he be considered No. 2?

Remember, Cody Fajardo started as a short-yardage quarterback.

Last year, we saw several backup quarterbacks get significant playing time. In Winnipeg, Dru Brown made the most of his opportunity and signed a free agent deal in Ottawa this off-season. Time will tell if he will become an elite QB in this league.

On the flip side, remember when James Franklin was supposed to be the next great CFL quarterback?

There will always be talk of “who’s next?” but right now, the Green and White don’t need to focus on that.

With a rookie offensive coordinator (Marc Mueller) calling plays, how much pressure can a strong running game take off him? From Pete

A strong running game not only takes pressure off the offensive coordinator, but it takes a lot of pressure off the quarterback and offensive line as well. Heck, it takes pressure off the whole team.

After signing running back A.J. Ouellette in free agency, the Riders are destined to rush the ball plenty in 2024. With an improved offensive line, Harris will be able to keep opponents honest with his strong pocket presence and ability to hand the ball off to Ouellette.

As for Mueller, he’s certainly in a good position to develop and run an offence that features an accurate passer and a powerful runner. What more could he ask for?

Is a playoff spot realistic this year? A home playoff game? From Glenn

While they finished with a 6-12 record season last year, the Riders were one win away from securing a playoff spot. Although it might have been a quick exit from the postseason had they got in.

This year, the expectation is 100 per cent to get back into the playoffs.

However, the other teams in the West Division will have a say as well.

Winnipeg finished 14-4 last year and retains most of their key pieces from last year. Will they take a step back? Not likely but maybe.

B.C. was right on their heels last season with a 12-6 record? The Lions might be even better this year.

Then it was a sharp drop-off with Calgary in third and Saskatchewan in fourth with 6-12 records, as the Stampeders held the tiebreaker. The Stampeders brought in a few new faces this off-season but they aren’t drastically better.

Then there was Edmonton, who finished with a 4-14 record last year. And while they looked better in the second half season led by QB Tre Ford, the Elks signed veteran QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson this off-season. Surely, they have improved as well.

So yes, a playoff spot is realistic this year for the Roughriders, but you could make a case for any of the five teams in the West.