Fri Jun 17 04:18pm EDT
The CFL's pre-season schedule can be quite fascinating for what it tells us about teams' depth charts and the glimpses it showcases of up-and-coming stars, but the games themselves have little to no resemblance to actual regular-season contests. A case in point is Friday night's clash, which will see the Edmonton Eskimos heading to Regina to take on the Saskatchewan Roughriders (9 p.m. Eastern, TSN). The teams involved present an interesting matchup, with the Eskimos looking to improve from last year's dismal showing that saw them miss the playoffs and the Riders trying to maintain the form that got them to the Grey Cup game. However, tonight's contest isn't too likely to tell us much about how the teams will look come the start of the regular season, and there's nowhere that's more evident than in the news of who's playing quarterback tonight.
Those looking for a showdown between Esks' gunslinger Ricky Ray and the Riders' mobile Darian Durant will be disappointed, as both aren't anticipated to take a single snap. Instead, 37-year-old former Roughrider Kerry Joseph (who only joined Edmonton last October after being out of football all year, got cut and then signed with the Eskimos again in June) will be starting for the green-and-gold, with former Boise State Bronco Ryan Dinwiddie (perhaps the most unlikely quarterback to start a Grey Cup in the last few decades) suiting up under centre for the green-and-white. Dinwiddie's going to split time with another former NCAA star, Chris Leak, who won a national championship with the University of Florida Gators but hasn't exactly looked championship-calibre in the CFL so far.
Behind Joseph (pictured above with Toronto in 2009), the Eskimos are also expected to give at least some playing time to import backups Matt Nichols (Eastern Washington) and Eric Ward (Richmond), as well as Canadian Marc Mueller. If he plays, this could be a very special moment for Mueller; he's the grandson of Ron Lancaster, who had a legendary playing career in Saskatchewan (and Ottawa) and also served as a coach in both Saskatchewan and Edmonton (as well as Hamilton). Plus, Mueller played his university football for the Regina Rams, so he should have lots of supporters in the stadium despite wearing green and gold. There's also the ever-present Canadian quarterback debate, which will make whatever Mueller does or doesn't do noteworthy. His play is well worth following, even if it isn't all that likely to impact the Eskimos' on-field fortunes this year given his current spot on the depth chart.
Does this mean the pre-season games aren't worth watching? Of course not! For one thing, many of the prominent players at positions other than quarterback will see at least some snaps, so it's not like these games have no relation whatsoever to the regular season. Furthermore, the pre-season allows fans to get a look at new up-and-coming talents trying to crack the regular roster, and these games provide plenty of interesting information on depth charts, who's likely to stick around and who isn't. There's lots of useful information you can pick up from watching these games, and there will still undoubtedly be plenty of exciting plays and highlights tonight, as there have been in the two pre-season games so far. After a long winter without it, too, almost any football is a welcome break. It's just worth keeping in mind that the CFL's pre-season is more along the lines of hors d'oeuvres than entrées; interesting and tasty, but not always filling and not necessarily indicative of what's to come next.