Thursday, October 15, 2009

CFL Q & A: Utilizing Jason Clermont

Why hasn’t Jason Clermont been more involved in the Saskatchewan Roughriders offence?

It was a fairytale scenario in the off-season for Jason Clermont, the Saskatchewan Roughriders and their fans.

Clermont, coming off an injury filled year in British Columbia, had been released by head coach Wally Buono. The Riders didn’t wait long for before contacting Clermont, and eventually a deal was done. For many Rider fans, it was a deal they had been waiting for ever since Clermont entered the Canadian Football League.

With around 6,000 career yards and 37 touchdowns compiled his career, Clermont was expected to help bolster an offence that was already pretty talented, and provide some veteran leadership to the young players on the roster.

While the later point may be true, Clermont’s offensive production has been lacklustre. Many have dubbed Clermont’s time with the Roughriders a disappointment.

With only 215 yards a good ways through the season, it is hard to argue with this claim.

So why has Clermont been under utilized in Roughriders offence?

Depth at Receiver: When Clermont arrived in Saskatchewan, it was well known that the Riders already had a bevy of receivers. The Riders were solid at the slot-back position, with Andy Fantuz and sophomore sensation Weston Dressler. The Riders were also committed to developing young slot-back Chris Getlzaf and wide receiver Robb Bagg. With so many talented receivers on the roster, it was unrealistic to think Clermont would fit into the starting rotation.

But what has been surprising is the fact that Clermont has not been thrown to in the six receiver set. Clermont has been on the field a lot at times, but the Riders have not called his number.

Clermont is a similar receiver to the Montreal Alouettes Ben Cahoon. They both excel at catching short quick passes and earning yak yards. They are both and physical and can take hits. Yet Cahoon has 880 yards receiving and Clermont­­­­­­­­­­­ only has 215 yards.

Perhaps now, with Dressler falling to injuries, Clermont’s role will improve with the Roughriders. The depth the Riders have at receiver makes it easier to understand why Clermont has been underutilized.

Saskatchewan’s Offence: Clermont has not been used in the offence as effectively as he was when he was in BC. In BC, the quarterbacks always threw a lot of short passes to Clermont, usually over the middle. Though these routes were often known as ‘suicide routes’, they were effective in picking up a lot of yardage. Clermont rarely dropped those passes and he always seemed to pick up more yardage after the catch.

In Saskatchewan, the Riders don’t use Clermont in these similar roles. I’m not sure if they are afraid to use him in these ‘suicide routes’, but they haven’t been throwing him the ball a lot at all.

This could have a lot to do with Saskatchewan’s type of offence. The Riders aren’t necessarily a pure passing team. Their passing stats aren’t glamorous. The Riders also like to spread the ball around to numerous receivers.

Besides Weston Dressler, who has a lot of receiving yards, each other Roughrider receiver is pretty equal in their yardage.

So, while Clermont may have been a go-to receiver in BC, he does not necessarily need to be one in Saskatchewan.

Clermont’s Role: Many fans feel that Clermont’s time with the Riders has been a disappointment, they may not understand how big of a role Clermont actually plays with the team.
Clermont’s stats may not be glamorous, but his veteran influence has been invaluable. Clermont has basically served as a players coach. The young receivers such as Robb Bagg, Andy Fantuz and Weston Dressler have all flourished under Clermont’s tutelage.

It hasn’t just been receivers. Clermont has stayed after practices and worked with players like Graham Harrell, helping them improve their game.

With his football smarts and leadership, it is not hard to visualize Clermont being a coach in the future.

The Verdict: The depth of the Roughriders receivers, plus the type of offence the team runs, has been a main reason that Clermont has been underutilized. With players like Weston Dressler, Robb Bagg and Andy Fantuz, Jason Clermont has often been overlooked in the offence. Perhaps it was unrealistic of fans to believe that Clermont would play as well as he had in the past. After all, Clermont is getting older. If Clermont had signed with the Roughriders a couple of years ago, he might be having a bigger impact with the Riders now. Still, disappointment or not, Clermont’s valuable leadership cannot be overlooked.

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