The Saskatchewan Roughriders are being forced into a major shift along the offensive line, and throughout the lineup, due to a single injury.
Centre Dan Clark is out long-term due to what’s believed to be an arm injury, impacting roster management for Head Coach Chris Jones.
The injury has moved all-star guard Brendon LaBatte to centre and all-star tackle Derek Dennis to guard, while Bruce Campbell takes over the pivotal left tackle position in his first game in almost two years.
They’ll take their new formation in Sunday’s rematch against the B.C. Lions at new Mosaic Stadium.
It’s not the first time LaBatte has been shuffled around.
His departure from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers was rumoured to be over a possible change to centre from his natural left guard spot.
This time he’s taking the move in stride, knowing he’s the best option in the middle for now.
“It takes a little bit of getting used to and a bit of an adjustment,” he said.
“I was able to go in during the game and get through without anything too major catastrophic going on so I guess that’s a bit of a building block.”
As for Dennis, he’s more than comfortable with the move to guard.
“I played three games last year at guard. I played guard during my college career and played guard in the NFL too,” last year’s CFL most outstanding offensive lineman said.
“It’s not really too much of a difference.”
Dennis knows what needs to be done after experiencing a similar situation with Calgary last season. They were still able to keep Bo Levi Mitchell clean through O-line injuries, leading to a Grey Cup appearance.
So what’s the key for the Riders?
“Communication and knowing what to do,” Dennis said.
“I think the biggest thing we did last year in Calgary is everybody knew how to play with each other just because we always rotated in practice, similar to how we do it here.”
Campbell is the happiest of the three.
He’s finally getting back on the field, after ending his year-long retirement two months ago to return to the Roughriders.
“I’m definitely excited,” he said.
“But I just have to go with the flow and making sure I’m just doing what I have to do and work on my technique and make sure I’m ready to go.”
With all the changes, the Riders will have to adjust their offensive line’s strategy to allow the offense to be successful.
The offensive line has given up sacks in the first drive in each of the last three games.
The injury to Clark, a national starter, is also having a ripple effect on the national-import ratio.
Campbell is an import, so starting three import offensive lineman means the Riders need to find another position to slot in a Canadian.
Rob Bagg and Nic Demski’s battle over the wide receiver spot can now end because both players are likely to see time on the field together.
Running back Kienan LaFrance could also get some reps at his natural position, after playing the last two games on special teams while recovering from a training camp injury.
The three Canadians give Jones options he didn’t have last year when similar injuries popped up.
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