Roughriders rest offensive hopes with Greene

Saskatchewan Roughriders general manager Roy Shivers boldly proclaimed last year, "We will make the playoffs. That's a fact."

They didn't.

The Roughriders finished a disappointing 6-12, four points shy of a playoff berth in the CFL West Division.

Even so, Shivers did not shy away from a similar prediction this season.

"I would be remiss if I didn't say we were going to make the playoffs," Shivers said. "We expect to make the playoffs, plain and simple.

"We're not going to accept anything less."

The Roughriders were hurt by a lack of offensive production last season, finishing last in points scored, touchdowns and TD passes.

Shivers responded by acquiring quarterback Nealon Greene from the Edmonton Eskimos over the offseason.

"We were looking for a quarterback that would take us to the next level," he said. "We didn't have that last year.

"We played a journeyman quarterback and two rookie quarterbacks. We're happy and we should make the playoffs."

Marvin Graves, the journeyman, and Kevin Smith, one of the rookies, are gone.

Glenn is battling fellow returnee Jonathan Beasley and Hofstra's Rocky Butler to be backup QB.

Greene, 26, is four-year CFL veteran who completed 94 of 178 passes for 1,241 yards in 2001.

He scrambled 45 times for an additional 280 yards.

Greene is being asked to resurrect an anemic aerial attack that averaged a league-low 193 yards per game last season.

And he must do so minus star receiver Curtis Marsh, who was not invited back.

Training camp opened with thirteen pass-catchers, including veterans Derick Armstong and Rocky Henry.

Canadians Dylan Ching, Jason French and Patrick Thibault are candidates as are rookies Dwight Carter out of Hawaii, Brian Roberson from Fresno State and Carl Thomas Jr., a conference all-star at Central Arkansas.

Returnees Rock Preston and Corey Holmes have the inside track at running back, though Preston must improve his measley 3.7 yard rushing average.

Pushing the incumbents are Corey Crume, an Eastern Kentucky grad who tried out for Arizona Cardinals, Sedrick Shaw, a third-round draft pick of the New England Patriots in 1997 who played sparingly for the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, as well as Kendrick Shanklinin Antonio Whitney.

Chris Szarka is slated to start at fullback with Simon Baffoe backing him up.

The offensive line boasts centre Jeremy O'Day, guard Andrew Greene and tackle Gene Makowsky.

Andrew Moore, who started three games last year, is favoured for left guard while one of Shawn Gifford, Donald Heaven, Rob Lazeo will man left tackle.

Rush end Shont'e Peoples, who recorded 12 sacks last season, anchors a defence strengthened by the arrival of Ray Jacobs, who had nine sacks for the Calgary Stampeders in 2001.

Nate Davis is so determined to retain the right tackle position that he dropped 25 pounds during the offseason.

With Demetrious Maxie and Scott Schultz departed for the Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers, respectively, either veterans Sheldon Napastuk or Colin Scrivener or prospect Gonzalo Segovia will line up as the other tackle.

The Riders are much weaker at linebacker with George White heading to the Green Bay Packers, Randy Skrochenski joining the Toronto Argonauts, Troy Asbell scooped by the Ottawa Renegades in the expansion draft and the release of Brooks Findlay.

But Jackie Mitchell is back after being released by the Philadelphia Eagles. He had 87 tackles, four interceptions and three sacks last season.

Trevis Smith seems destined to occupy the middle.

Armand Boglin and Ted Neptune, two backups from last year, newcomer Darnell Robinson from Oregon State and Andre Brown, who suffered a torn patella tendon in his rookie campaign, are being considered for weak-side linebacker.

Saskatchewan retained four of five starters in its secondary, which allowed a league-low 225 yards per game last season.

Third-year veterans LaDouphyous McCalla and Omarr Morgan are pencilled in as the starting corners supported by Eddie Davis and Omar Evans at defensive back.

Jason Mallett replaces Shawn Gallant, who went to Ottawa in the expansion draft, at safety.

Paul McCallum handles the kicking chores.