Mace leaves his mark on the Rider squad


The Saskatchewan Roughriders' roster reshuffle takes another step on cut day.

On Saturday, the Saskatchewan Roughriders traded 36 players to meet Canadian Football League roster limits.

Moved to the training schedule:

Habakkuk Baldonado, Jacob Brammer, Antoine Brooks Jr., Joe Couch, Zack Fry, Jordan Herdman-Reed, Frankie Hickson, Daniel Johnson, Zakoby McClain, Dohnte Meyers, Joe Robustelli and Caleb Sanders.

Placed on the 6-game injured list:

Dhel Duncan-Busby, Jaxon Ford and Nick Wiebe.

The following players were released:

Richard Aduboffour, Geronimo Allison, TJ Brunson, CJ Coldon, Tre' Crawford, Diego Fagot, Mason Fine, Evan Floren, Nicario Harper, Sidney Houston Jr., Katley Joseph, Brayden Lenius, Kalija Lipscomb, RJ McIntosh, D'Sean Mimbs, Jake Parker, Antonio Pipkin, Morgen Runge, Eric Smith, Nick Thomas and Jordan Tucker.

There are a lot of names to consider on this list. The two that seem to have caught Rider Nation's attention are quarterback Mason Fine and receiver Brayden Lenius. Let's take a closer look.

First, let's start by giving credit where it's due. Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Jeremy O'Day and his team assembled a great group of young, talented and hungry athletes during the offseason. This group of players not only competed for spots on the roster, but also pushed the incumbents to raise their performance and level of competition.

Back to the roster changes, Eva Burrows once said, “People want progress, but they don’t want change,” and that may be true about some of the reactions from Rider Nation.

At quarterback, the competition between Mason Fine, Shea Patterson, Antonio Pipkin and Jack Coan to back up Trevor Harris was intense every day of training camp. While we aren't privy to what went down in the meeting rooms, every rep and every part of their play was scrutinized on the field. In the end, it wasn't so much about what Fine and Pipkin didn't do, but more about what Patterson and Coan did.

Patterson showed control of the huddle and the ability to read coverages and move the pocket when necessary. He led the offense with great success and minimal mistakes. In the two preseason games, he completed 8 of 11 passes for 118 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 completions for 30 yards.

Jack Coan signed with the Riders in March after spending parts of the last two seasons as an undrafted free agent with the Indianapolis Colts of the NFL and San Antonio of the XFL. Coan came into training camp in great shape and while he slowly adjusted to the Canadian game, he made steady progress throughout training camp. His development was evident as he was able to climb up the practice depth chart to get more and more important reps. The coach's decision to have him play the entire third quarter in the second preseason game in Edmonton was further evidence of their growing confidence in the young pivot, even though he completed 1 of 3 passes for just 3 yards.

The receiver room was fiercely competitive throughout training camp, with plenty of talent and playmaking ability on display on a daily basis. The decision to release Lenius was a difficult one. In four seasons with the Roughriders, Lenius caught 58 passes for 659 yards and 5 touchdowns. The 6'5″ and 220-pound receiver from Regina, who was selected in the second round of the 2019 CFL and drafted 19th overall, had a lot of overall. However, after suffering two serious injuries that limited him to two games in 2023 and left him unable to participate in training camp due to the lingering effects of those ailments, other national receivers such as Dehl Duncan-Busby and Ajou Ajou were able to overtake him in the rankings.

Deh Duncan-Busby, who was selected in the third round 23rd showed overall athleticism and understanding of the playbook throughout camp. He was injured toward the end of three evaluations and missed most of last week due to a hand injury that landed him on the six-game injured list.

Ajou Ajou, the Riders' seventh-round pick, played with a certain amount of pressure throughout training camp. His athleticism and concentration made him a reliable playmaker in many phases of the game.

The demotion of running back Frankie Hickson to the practice squad also raised eyebrows in Rider Nation. The committed running back was great throughout training camp. However, Clint Ratkovich's emergence as a fast runner, good blocker, and with the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield was too good for Rider leadership to ignore.

All in all, there were some difficult discussions in the Saskatchewan Roughriders meeting rooms, but ultimately progress requires change, and the Green-Whites have initiated the change by assembling their 2024 roster.