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Roughriders not listening to critics ahead of Thanksgiving match against Esks

REGINA — Kenny Shaw isn't listening to outside criticism of the Saskatchewan Roughriders offence.

REGINA — Kenny Shaw isn't listening to outside criticism of the Saskatchewan Roughriders offence.

The wide receiver made his Riders debut last week in a 34-29 win over the Montreal Alouettes — where Saskatchewan's offence put up 512 yards, a vast improvement from the 323 average yards in games before that.

Shaw said players are focused on the present ahead of Monday's game against the Edmonton Eskimos.

"That's just outside noise," said Shaw. "Stats can be so misunderstood. It's like a game where you lose despite playing your best game (statistically) so I try and not look at the stats. When the clock hits zero, I just want to see that we're ahead."

The Riders, who are in second place in the West Division with a 9-5 record, rank eighth in the league in passing yards and passing touchdowns.

The addition of quarterback Zach Collaros, signed as a free agent in the off-season, along with an influx of new receivers to replace Bakari Grant, Chad Owens and Duron Carter, has resulted in an inconsistent passing attack.

Edmonton leads the CFL in passing yards with 4,427 while the Calgary Stampeders lead the league in passing touchdowns with 30. The Riders are eighth in both categories with 3,136 passing yards and 11 passing touchdowns and have yet to score a receiving touchdown from a wide receiver this season.

Collaros had a strong game against the Alouettes, going 29 of 41 for 394 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Riders head coach Chris Jones said the offence needs to be better, but so does the entire team.

"Our offence certainly has had its struggles, as have our other two phrases, as was evident last week on a couple of plays where we gave up some big plays," said Jones. "We're a football team, we don't sit there and point fingers and do that type of thing. Everybody has got to continue to work, everybody has got to continue to improve and that's all we're really worried about."

The 26-year-old Shaw caught five passes for 75 yards in his debut. It was his first regular season game since tearing three ligaments in his knee against the B.C. Lions on Aug. 25, 2017 while playing for the Ottawa Redblacks. Shaw began his CFL career with Toronto in 2015 and had a breakout season in 2016 with 1,004 receiving yards on 77 catches.

He signed with Ottawa before the 2017 season and ran into injury problems to his foot and knee.

"Catching that first ball, once I got in the groove early, it was like, 'OK, I feel like I'm back.' But after a while, the only thing that shocked me a little bit was the amount of yards I ended up with," said Shaw.

Despite their offensive woes, the Riders are second in rushing yards with 1,576, trailing only Winnipeg's 1,788. The Bombers top the league with 19 rushing touchdowns with the Riders in sixth place with 11.

Tre Mason and Marcus Thigpen have combined to move the Riders on the ground. Mason has 688 yards on 128 carries while Thigpen has 402 yards on 47 carries.

A win over the Eskimos would help to increase the Riders' gap over Edmonton and Winnipeg in the West. The Bombers improved to 8-7 with a win over Ottawa on Friday night.

"It's one game at a time thing," said Shaw. "The CFL is a funny game, you never know what can happen and what you need to make a playoff run. We're just taking it one game at a time and this week it's Edmonton."



Monday, Mosaic Stadium

UP AND DOWN: Since losing to Edmonton at the start of August, the Roughriders are 6-1. Edmonton is 2-5 over its past seven games.

PIVOTAL GAME: If the Riders win, they'll create separation between themselves and the bottom three teams in the West Division. If not, it will be very bunched up heading into a Saskatchewan at Winnipeg game next weekend.

READY TO GO: Eskimos star receiver Duke Williams practised Friday and is expected to play after injuring his shoulder last week.

STREAK BUSTED: Edmonton quarterback Mike Reilly saw his streak of passing or rushing for a touchdown come to an end at 42 games last week.

Jeff DeDekker, The Canadian Press