The Saskatchewan Roughriders are ready for a mixed bag when it comes to the Ottawa Redblacks’ receivers.
The Riders are already aware of slotbacks Greg Ellingson and Brad Sinopoli heading into Friday’s CFL game at TD Place due to their production and effectiveness.
Ellingson, the CFL’s leader in receiving yards (1,186) and is second in catches (78), leads the Redblacks with seven touchdown catches. Sinopoli leads the CFL in catches (83), is sixth in receiving yardage (921), and has chipped in with three touchdown catches.
“Their offence is a lot like ours,’’ said Chris Jones, the Riders’ head coach, defensive co-ordinator and general manager. “They move their guys around and they know exactly who their target is.’’
Ottawa’s scheme means that Riders defensive halfbacks Crezdon Butler and Ed Gainey are prepared for whoever lines up in Ottawa’s receiving spots. The same goes for the Redblacks’ receivers while facing the Riders.
“We’re looking at what they do scheme-wise and how it matches up with what we’re doing,’’ Sinopoli said. “We’re just trying to worry about what we do and that’s it.’’
Gainey and Butler are both prepared to see a lot of Ellingson and Sinopoli in pass coverage.
“Ellingson and Sinopoli are savvy, veteran receivers,’’ said Gainey, who leads the CFL with eight interceptions. “Ellingson is a deep threat and they’re going to try to get him the ball. Sinopoli will do whatever he can to get open. When he does, he’s not going to drop the ball, so we’re going to have our hands full.’’
Butler is in his first CFL season and his experience with Ellingson and Sinopoli has been through film study.
“They both have great hands,’’ Butler said. “Ellingson runs great routes and we have to prepare for that.’’
Butler said the Riders don’t have to do anything differently while defending Ellingson and Sinopoli.
“We just have to keep attacking the ball,’’ Butler said. “Other than that, nothing really changes. We don’t scheme for guys. We scheme for offences. We just have to keep doing that and we’ll be successful.’’
Ellingson has been impressed by Saskatchewan’s defence, and with how Gainey has performed, while studying the Green and White’s defensive schemes.
“It’s a game that you look forward to because you’re going up against guys who are having good years and standing out in the league,’’ Ellingson said. “It’s nice to have those matchups and that just comes from being competitive.’’
Gainey added that the Riders can’t just focus on Ellingson and Sinopoli. Diontae Spencer has also contributed to Ottawa’s offence with 53 receptions for 578 yards and five touchdowns.
“Spencer is a deep threat and a speed guy so we have to make sure that we keep him bottled up as well,’’ Gainey said.
Injuries have contributed to changes at who throws the ball to Ottawa’s receivers. Starter Trevor Harris is sidelined with a shoulder injury. His backup, Drew Tate, is nursing shoulder and rib injuries. That means Ryan Lindley, Ottawa’s third-string quarterback, will make his second consecutive start.
Lindley completed 16 of 36 passes for 152 yards and an interception in a 29-9 loss to the host Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Sept. 22. Lindley knows that he has to keep an eye out for Gainey.
“In a professional football league there isn’t any luck, so to compile a season like that with four or five games to go is impressive,’’ Lindley said. “Really, they have a whole crew of ball hawks in the secondary. They want to get their eyes on the football and create turnovers. That is their game and you have to do whatever you can to keep that from happening.’’
Injuries have forced the Riders into some roster moves. Slotback Naaman Roosevelt, the team’s leading receiver in yards (929) and receptions (64), is out after sustaining a hit to the head against the Calgary Stampeders on Sunday. Roosevelt, who may return to the active roster on Oct. 7 when the Riders play the Toronto Argonauts, is to be replaced by Antwane Grant.
Centre Dan Clark’s stint on the injured list has been extended. He is dealing with an elbow injury. Receiver Devon Bailey (shoulder) was also placed on the six-game injured list, which has grown to 19 players.
Meanwhile, Riders wide receiver Duron Carter was fined an undisclosed amount Thursday for violating the CFL’s social media policy. Carter was critical of the officials who worked Sunday’s game and the manner in which they dealt with the hit on Roosevelt.