REGINA – John Chiles is making the most of his chances to score with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Chiles is the club’s fifth-leading receiver with seven catches for 68 yards this season. But two have been for touchdowns, tops for the Riders (0-2) heading into their home game Saturday night versus the B.C. Lions (2-1).
And the 27-year-old Dallas native, in his first season with Saskatchewan, feels he’s gaining the trust of starter Darian Durant.
“You work hard to earn the quarterback’s trust,” Chiles said this week. “It feels good for some of the stuff to start paying off.
“Just him being able to know you’re going to be where you’re supposed to be and you’re going to make the plays when he does give you the chance.”
After suffering season-ending injuries the last two years, Durant, 33, has returned with a bang. The 10-year veteran, in the final season of his CFL contract, has completed 58-of-86 passes for 627 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions.
But Chiles didn’t come to Saskatchewan to hook up with Durant.
It was to reunite with head coach/GM/vice-president of football operations Chris Jones, who was Toronto’s defensive co-ordinator when Chiles was a receiver with the Argonauts.
“He reached out,” Chiles said of Jones. “I trust what he’s doing.”
Chiles also has an intimate understanding of the challenges Durant faces directing Saskatchewan’s offence. After all, Chiles played quarterback his first two seasons at Texas (2007-08) before switching to receiver.
“The quarterback is the general on the field … you kind of have to know what everybody is doing,” Chiles said. “As receiver you kind of have to know what one, maybe two guys, are doing.
“I think that (having played quarterback) definitely helps our relationship. Some of the lingo is just quarterback lingo and I understand it, I’ve been in those rooms and I understand why they’re saying the things they’re saying because I’ve been at that end of it.”
The six-foot-two, 215-pound Chiles said the biggest adjustments he faced playing receiver were physical.
“Quarterbacks don’t usually do as much running as receivers,” he said. “Mentally it was a little easier for me switching to receiver having less responsibility and just having to focus on myself instead of the offensive line, running backs and everybody.”
Chiles’ experience as a quarterback has also taught him to understand an offence and the importance of patience. In Saskatchewan’s season-opening 30-17 loss to Toronto, Naaman Roosevelt was the team’s receiving leader with nine catches for 113 yards while Ricky Collins had six receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown in the Riders’ 39-36 overtime loss to Edmonton.
“I’ve been in this offence before so I’ve seen it being spread out,” he said. “Everybody’s just starting to trust it and they’re seeing the results.
“Everybody is getting their touches so I’m excited to see (it) moving forward.”
Like Saskatchewan, B.C. is looking to move forward from a hard-luck loss, a 25-14 home defeat to Toronto. Sophomore quarterback Jonathon Jennings returns under centre after being pulled in favour of veteran Travis Lulay against the Argos.
“We’re coming in there with a mindset that we have to go in and try to dominate,” Jennings said. “I’m still a young guy and there’s going to be growing pains.
“But we’re going to continue to grind through it and just move on.”
Wally Buono, the Lions head coach/GM/VP of football operations, said a big challenge playing in Regina is dealing with the Riders’ rabid fans.
“Football is football,” Buono said. “The thing about going to Saskatchewan is more the environment, more the fans.
“Who coaches the team is no different than any other place you go. You always have to be prepared but you always have to be expecting something you’ve never seen.”
Former Rider Anthony Allen, who ran for 107 yards versus Toronto, will again start in B.C.’s backfield.