Roughriders host Eskimos in final preseason game

The Saskatchewan Roughriders host the Edmonton Eskimos tonight at 7 p.m. CST at Mosaic Stadium.

Anthony Allen, Jermaine Thomas, and Keith Toston all fighting to be starting running back

One week after playing an 'away' game in Regina, the Saskatchewan Roughriders are ready to return to their own bench for the final preseason game.

The Riders host the Edmonton Eskimos tonight at 7 p.m. CST at Mosaic Stadium.

There are still several players trying to replace some big name departures, including Kory Sheets, Weston Dressler, and Geroy Simon.

Saskatchewan head coach Corey Chamblin said his players will have plenty of opportunities to prove themselves.

“I’d say for the most part, probably about 90 per cent of the guys, probably about 95 per cent of the veterans, they’re going to play at least until the half,” Chamblin said. “When the guys who are behind those guys come in, I still want to see how well they are winning the game because they may have to play for us at some point."

While there are number of positions up for grabs, most fans will be watching the quest to replace last year's Grey Cup MVP running back. Three players - Anthony Allen, Jermaine Thomas, and Keith Toston - will be competing for the starting job tonight.

Quarterback Darian Durant at Saskatchewan Roughriders training camp in Saskatoon. (Peter Mills/CBC)

“At the end of the day, I think that we have something in the stable," Chamblin said. "One or two of those guys will step up and take their position. I thought they all did a good job of blocking and running. They have special talents and different talents from the last running backs we had, as before then when Wes Cates was here.”

When asked if he has a “Plan B” if the running back candidates don’t solidify themselves as a starter in the CFL, Chamblin said, “We’re going to throw a lot.” 

Chamblin said all three running backs will get a chance to play behind the starting offensive line.

Draft picks ready to make impact

One player hoping to make an impact tonight is receiver Alex Pierzchalski. The University of Toronto product, who was drafted 18th overall in this year's CFL Draft, is already his biggest critic.

“I look at myself on film and I’m playing tentatively," Pierzchalski said. "I ask myself, ‘Why am I playing tentatively?’ But the simple answer is I’m thinking too much. It’s about playing with confidence and it’s about not thinking what to do, but just doing it and reacting to your defenders.”

Running back Keith Toston (42) is one of the players hoping to replace Kory Sheets at Saskatchewan Roughriders training camp in Saskatoon. (Peter Mills/CBC)

Chamblin said he has the same expectations for all his players, regardless of when they were drafted.

“(Pierzchalski) is one of those guys that, you know, he can vie for one of those back up roles and not to just be in it, but hopefully if there’s an injury or something, move into a starting role,” Chamblin said.

Durant, Sunseri lead the offence

Fans can expect to see a lot of Darian Durant and Tino Sunseri against the Eskimos.

“Darian (Durant) and Tino (Sunseri) will get a good portion of the reps," Chamblin said. "But we plan on getting all of them reps.”

Chamblin said he wants to see all of his player work out the kinks and get into shape for the upcoming season.

“I’ve told the guys the other day, first of all you’re here to play football and take care of your families," Chamblin said. "Whatever it is that you’re doing, the first thing is you’re trying to make this team. The second thing you’re trying to do is, if we do release you, and we have an injury you’re trying to do well enough that we bring you back. And third, you’re trying to show for other teams in this league.”

While fans are hoping to see great individual performances tonight, Chamblin had a message for the team after practice on Thursday.

“If you’re just playing this game for yourself then you won’t be one of those guys that will be remembered for helping the team blossom to the next level."