Tristan Jackson hopes to boost Saskatchewan Roughriders special teams
The Saskatchewan Roughriders are still looking for a kick returner. The one problem for the team is the search is going into its fourth season. Not since Jason Armstead in 2007 have the Roughriders been able to celebrate a touchdown return. In that time, there have been 36 touchdowns scored by punt, kick and missed field goal returns in the Canadian Football League.
Four of those touchdowns have come from Tristan Jackson, who was acquired from the Eskimos in the off-season. He's hoping to change the trend, "I'm here hoping to be a great impact and get them over that hump. They've been to the last two Grey Cups and lost so I want to be that spark to get them back there and win."
Jackson enters camp as the favourite to return kicks for the Saskatchewan Roughriders but the competition is fierce. The Roughriders have between six to eight players at any one time handling return duties. Dominic Bolden, Patrick Brown, Weston Dressler, Brandon West, Hugh Charles, John Eubanks and Efrem Hill have all joined Jackson looking to win a spot as the Roughriders return man.
"(The job) is pretty wide open," describes Special Teams Coach Craig Dickenson, "Competition is going to be the theme (of this training camp) and we hope to find the best players through competition so we'll give everybody a fair shot at it and we'll go with the guy who has competed the best."
While the success of the return game, or lack thereof, in Saskatchewan has always been graded on the returners stats at the end of the day, there are 11 other players on the field that are also vital for the team to be able to 'flip the field' in the return game.
"(The blockers) are the most important players in the return, if you have no blockers, you have no return." Jackson told News Talk Radio after the third day of camp.
On day four, the Roughriders are going to spend the second half of their day working on special teams. The team will do the same on Sunday. Those two workouts will be vital for the team to evaluate what players can fill out their roster because of, not only their positional play, but their special team abilities as well.
"One of the things that we talked about as a staff was that we didn't want to leave our evaluations, as far as special teams went, to the two exhibition games," explained Head Coach Greg Marshall, "You could go into a game and all of a sudden there are only three or four punts and you're trying to make a decision on guys and they've only gotten a couple of snaps, so we've structured practice to put some competitive special teams situations in so we can do some evaluating in training camp."
Already the 2011 Saskatchewan Roughriders have established a new way to handle the third phase of the game but the proof will have to come when they step on the field for the first time in pre-season when they take on the Edmonton Eskimos on June 17th at Mosaic Stadium.