Alex's CFL Tuesday Takes - Feb 20, 2018
Published: Tuesday, Feb 20th 2018, 10:02am
by Alex Dormuth (@RealAlexD)
What a wild last week in the CFL. Free agency opened and the 2018 season really felt like it got underway. Everyone talks about who won and lost free agency and the reality is, we don't know until games are played. That said, the Riders and Blue Blue Bombers are on a collision course to meet in the West Final and my early, WAY TOO EARLY standings look like this:
1. Winnipeg - This is the year someone knocks Calgary off their throne in the regular season.
2. Saskatchewan - Overall, the team keeps getting better and will compete all year for the 1 seed.
3. Calgary - Not that they really got any worse, everyone else got better.
4. Edmonton (Crossover) - Lost quite a few pieces on defense, but Reilly keeps winning them games
5. BC - Just too many better teams in the West. They'll bounce back, but not enough to make the playoffs
1. Toronto - Still the best team in the East.
2. Hamilton - Finished strong in 2017, poised to make a run in 2018.
3. Ottawa - Still just an average team. The playoff appearance run ends this year.
4. Montreal - Kavis. Need I say more?
Focusing on the Riders in the past week, it's hard to be upset at the moves they have made, other than one. The Henoc Muamba release. I get it, from a business/salary standpoint I really do. BUT, I do have my concerns about it and where it leaves the team. But judging on the past few years, I've learned to trust Chris Jones and what his plan is, even if we don't quite totally get the sense as to what it is.
Every other move made by the Riders is a very solid move. Including the release of Derek Dennis. I like the guy, but the more I see things, the more I truly believe he is a good player who was a product of a very good system in Calgary. Not that signing him in 2017 was a bad thing, that was a great move, but Dennis didn't have that strong of a line beside him in Saskatchewan last year to allow him to shine. He was exposed at tackle at times, but did much better at guard, but you can't pay top dollars to an import guard unless he is a game changer and unfortunately, we didn't get that in 2017. He'll bounce back for sure in Calgary, but like I said, product of their system.
OL Travis Bond is a great addition (much like Dennis was last year), but where do they play him? Do they move him to left tackle and go Bond-Labatte-Clark-Dyakowski-Coleman? Do they keep him at his all-star guard spot and go Campbell (still a free agent)-Bond-Clark-Labatte-Coleman and move on from Peter Dyakowski? I hate the idea of going 3 Americans on the O-Line, but that's likely where we are headed.
Sam Hurl - solid depth move, hopefully not the full time starting middle linebacker, but can rotate in with Cameron Judge and they should be good.
Jake Harty - As broken to you by us here at Piffles Podcast, he provides instant depth to our Canadian receivers. After Rob Bagg, there is verry little game experience there and Harty fills that spot. The competition between Harty, Devon Bailey, Joshua Stanford and Mitchell Picton will be quite the battle in Training Camp in May to see who makes the active roster. Thanks for turning down Montreal and Calgary for us Jake! Especially Calgary... they were SO sure they'd persuade you to go home. The grass is greener on this side of the border anyway.
Jerome Messam - A bit of a roller coaster of emotions here on this signing. At first, whoa, really?? Then, GREAT! Then, wait a minute, we are already loaded at running back, why the need? Then, oh, clearly he changes the ratio, especially with the Muamba release. Now? Well, this 2018 is all in to win this year. Messam won't be here for long, but a combination of him and Trent Richardson in the late stages of the season is just scary if the Riders are protecting a lead.
Zack Evans - Welcome home Zack! Goodness, this defensive line is absolutely stacked! Charleston Hughes (fresh off a restructured contract that has him in Saskatchewan through the 2019 season, Evans, Nick James and Willie Jefferson? Yikes! I said many times last year that we lost a bunch of games in the trenches. Not anymore. Keeping with my 2018 predictions, the Riders will lead the CFL in QB Sacks. I'm beyond excited to see this line run wild over the CFL.
I hate the "wish you the best" that we as fans give to players who join another team in the same division. No. Sorry (not sorry), but I don't wish you the best. I wish your new team sucks unless it directly benefits MY team. I do not wish Ese Mrabure the best in Calgary. In fact, I wish that his team goes 0-18. Same goes for Otha Foster in BC. Hope your team loses every game unless it can help the Riders. A.C. Leonard in Ottawa, now there's a guy who I hope goes 16-2. Lose both your games against the Riders, but beat every other West team every time. (Note: in no way do I want to see Ottawa go 16-2. 8-10 is okay as long as 2 of those losses are against Saskatchewan and all 8 wins are against the other 4 West teams)
While I'm interested in the CFL releasing names of neg list players for each teams on Tuesday afternoon, I'm not a fan. I like having the neg list protected from the public. The names on there change so often and we will see people fall in love with players that won't ever come up to the CFL, won't make it in the CFL and could get dumped/traded from the list anyway. This just adds more pressure onto these players and it isn't needed. I DO like having some names to watch in Bowl games in December, so releasing 10 names then like the league is planning makes sense, but I'm not a fan. I'm in the minority here and having the league in the news more often, especially in down times of the offseason is a great thing. It will gain more exposure to the game and ultimately, I want that.
Can we stop saying #IsItJuneYet?? The preseason kicks off in May now. Please use #ItsGonnaBeMay and apply an appropriate Justin Timberlake/N*SYNC gif/picture.
Can't help but feel like I'll be left disappointed in the Halifax Town Hall Tour that Commissioner Randy Ambrosie will be doing on Friday night. Speculation is that they will announce a new franchise to Halifax that night, but I can't imagine that being the case, at least not yet. Yes, they plan on having an ownership group there, but I don't think they announce a franchise. I hope I'm wrong, as this league will be much stronger with a 10th team in the Atlantic provinces, I just don't think it happens this Friday.
Anyone else absolutely annoyed with fans of other teams saying the Riders apparently don't have a salary cap? COME. ON. A) The salary management system isn't a hard cap. It SHOULD be, but it's not. So what the heck, spend up to a penny less than the amount it takes to lose a draft pick. If you have the money, why not use it. B) You DO realize that the salary cap doesn't actually count until the end of the year, right? You DO realize that cuts and trades WILL be made, right? C) The Riders paid basically nothing last season to their Quarterbacks and still have a bunch of projected starters making league minimum, leaving money available for vets.
We are a month away from Mark's CFL Week in Winnipeg. Happy to say that Piffles Podcast will be there all week to bring you player interviews, news and notes from around the league and hopefully make it seem like you are there, even if you can't be. Later this week, the league will announce some of the details and names of players who will be there. What a great initiative by the league and I'm happy it wasn't a one year thing. You may not like former Commissioner Jeffery Orridge, but he nailed this one. Kudos to the league for this event. It was a ton of fun last year in Regina and hopefully it takes off in Winnipeg!
Oh yeah, as mentioned above, Winnipeg and Saskatchewan are poised to meet in the West Final this year... The Riders win that and get to the Grey Cup against Hamilton.