Focus, familiarity credited for Riders defensive turnaround

By Arielle Zerr/CJME News Staff
August 31, 2017 - 5:42pm

It’s been an impressive turnaround for the Roughrider secondary and it’s happened just in time.

Perhaps the greatest example of how out of sorts the Roughriders defensive backs were came the last time the team squared off against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers when Weston Dressler burned them twice for touchdowns.

That was two months ago, and over the last several weeks the defense has had an incredible transformation.

Heading into week seven, the Riders’ were losing the turnover battle at minus 3, had just two interceptions and scored just seven points off turnovers.

After two successful games, one against B.C. and the other last week against Edmonton, things are completely different.

Head coach Chris Jones said he couldn’t take any credit for it.

“They’re spending time in the film room, they’re spending the time in their meeting room, they’re spending time in their walk-throughs and their formation adjustment periods and they’re making the plays and getting aligned properly so we don’t give up those big plays,” Jones said.

The hard work is paying off and adding veteran Jovon Johnson may have been a bit of a catalyst for that.

Since joining the team just after training camp, Johnson has been a big contributor. He’s tallied 18 defensive tackles, one forced fumble, one interception and a league high eight knockdowns.

Off the field, he’s an impact too. He prides himself in the leadership role he took when he arrived.

“I guess that was my role here and be that vocal leader and be that guy in the locker room to help those guys along and those guys have come along tremendously and they’re doing great things now.”

Tremendous, indeed. Heading into this week’s match up against the Blue Bombers, the Riders are now winning the turnover battle at plus 6, they’ve had 8 fumble recoveries, 6 interceptions and two turnovers on downs leading to 56 points – a 49 point swing in two games.

Almost everyone on the secondary has gotten in on the action. Ed Gainey, of course, had his record breaking four interceptions against B.C., and Johnson and Kacy Rodgers each picked up interceptions last week against Edmonton.

Johnson credits hard work for a lot of the success they’ve had, but so has familiarity with each other.

“When you have so many young guys on the field at one time it does play a major factor,” he explained. “When you get those guys to settle down and believe in themselves …. they start to make plays and then they start believing they can do anything they put their minds to.”

Rob Bagg is here to stay

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