REGINA — Naaman Roosevelt expected to be a vital cog in the Saskatchewan Roughriders' offence again in 2018.
The receiver was named the Riders' Most Outstanding Player in 2016 after gaining 1,095 yard on 76 catches in just 11 games. The 30-year-old followed up with 1,035 yards on 75 catches in 14 games in 2017 and was named to the West Division all-star team.
But 2018 has been a different story as Roosevelt, like the rest of the Riders offence, has struggled. Heading into Saturday's game in Toronto against the Argonauts, Roosevelt is averaging 3.6 catches and 39 yards receiving per game this season, compared to averages of 5.4 catches and 74 yards in 2017.
Roosevelt says there isn't a simple explanation for his struggles this season.
"Truthfully, I don't even know," Roosevelt said after Tuesday's practice. "I just go out there, try to work hard and whatever play is called, I'm working as hard as I possibly can. Sometimes you see the safety is over the top when the quarterback is looking my way so then Zach (Collaros) has to go some other ways sometimes.
"For me, if the ball is coming my way I'm going to try and make sure I'm going to go get it no matter what. Whether it's one guy or two guys next to me, I'm going to try and make the big play for this team."
Offensive co-ordinator Stephen McAdoo has come under some fire from Roughrider fans for not featuring the all-star receiver enough in his system, but Roosevelt said he doesn't feel that he's been forgotten in the offensive scheme.
"I don't think so. I think it's just that we've got a lot of young guys that are doing good things. We've got guys that can make plays. The coaches are calling the plays and we're out there running them and whatever happens just happens. For me, it's important to be a professional and play hard every play."
Roosevelt said that he hears the outside noise about his lack of production from the Riders' rabid fanbase.
"You definitely do. We feel it ourselves as an offence," he said. "We definitely know we've got a talented offence and the ability to make plays and score touchdowns but for some reason it's just not happening. For us, it's important for us to go out there and keep playing and keep working, staying after practice, talking to each other, communicating and trying to get stuff down. Eventually, we'll break through."
Saskatchewan's 30-25 loss to the Ottawa Redblacks on Sept. 15 was indicative of how Roosevelt's season is going. He caught three passes for 47 yards and one touchdown, but was only targeted four times out of 27 pass attempts.
Roosevelt continues to focus on the aspects of the game that he can control.
"I have to understand what I have to do as a player," said Roosevelt. "If it's a run play, then I'm going to go block and if it's a pass play, I'm running routes to the best of my ability . . . The main goal is winning the Grey Cup and I'm going to work as hard as I can to get this team to a Grey Cup."
Jeff DeDekker, The Canadian Press