CFL Pass

Vanstone: Dickenson's quote created Cannon fodder for discussion

Craig Dickenson dropped a bombshell earlier this week, without an accentuation of the “bomb” part.

His first reverberative quote as the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ head coach was uttered at training camp on Monday, after he was asked about a long completion from Zach Collaros to K.D. Cannon.

“That’s nice, but our emphasis down there (near the Roughriders’ goal line) is we just want first downs,” Dickenson responded. “That’s great, but this huckin’ and chuckin’ is not going to be our thing this year.

“We’re going to move the ball downfield and gain yards in a methodical way. If we have a shot, we’re going to take it. I don’t believe in stepping back and throwing bombs all day. We got one, but we were lucky.”

Dickenson’s assessment of the offence rankled or alarmed some fans, which is understandable.

The Roughriders, after all, are coming off one of their worst offensive seasons in the post-leather-helmet era.

In 2018, they were dead last in the CFL in offensive touchdowns (25) and aerial majors (11) while adhering to the conservative schemes of offensive co-ordinator Stephen McAdoo.

With that in mind, any statement that even hints at more of the same is guaranteed to incite some angst.

The quote created such a stir, in fact, that the matter was revisited when Dickenson met with reporters on Wednesday.

“What I mean by that is we want to have a method behind what we do,” Dickenson said during his final media availability before Thursday’s pre-season game against the visiting Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

“That was in reference to a situation where we were practising (being) backed up, where we’re on our own goal line, five-yard line. The whole idea there is to get two first downs. We threw, I think, three straight go routes down the sideline — and hit one of them.”

That being the bomb to Cannon.

“The whole point of it was getting five, seven yards and being productive on first down and getting first downs so you don’t have to take a safety,” Dickenson continued. “That’s where that came from.

“I felt like our offence was just chuckin’ and I said we’re not going to do that. We’re going to run crossing routes and take what the defence gives us.”

Last season, the Roughriders also took what the defence gave them.


So, what will the offence look like in 2019?

“I envision a physical offence,” Dickenson said Wednesday. “That’s what we want to be — physical. We want to be able to run the ball, and then we want to be able to throw play-action off of that.”

That is why the Roughriders made it a priority to sign free-agent William Powell, who exceeded 1,000 rushing yards with the Ottawa Redblacks in each of the past two seasons.

Powell, who rushed for 1,362 yards in 16 games last season, gives Saskatchewan its first elite running back since Kory Sheets.

The Roughriders’ offensive line is another area of strength.

The weaknesses?

Saskatchewan lacks an elite quarterback — unless Zach Collaros can somehow reprise his 2015 form.

“Over the last three or four years, Zach Collaros hasn’t been a good quarterback,” TSN’s Milt Stegall opined during the halftime show on Friday, when the Calgary Stampeders posted a 37-1 exhibition victory over the visiting Roughriders.

Complicating matters, the receiving corps is unremarkable.

McAdoo is, by nature, a cautious play-caller.

Given the composition of the offence, it is unrealistic to think that the Roughriders will suddenly evoke memories of the Kent Austin air show.

Even with the clarification and context provided by Dickenson on Wednesday, it is reasonable to wonder how much huckin’ and chuckin’ there is likely to be.

But, regardless of how everything unfolds, the Roughriders must progress beyond gruntin’ and puntin’.