Across the CFL – A Week One Preview
Published: Wednesday, Jun 12th 2019, 3:06pm
By: Sheldon Jones (@Sheldon_Jones83)
After 6 long months CFL fans are rejoicing at the fact that regular season football is back! If you are a fan of any team other than the defending Grey Cup Champion Calgary Stampeders, (or Montreal Alouettes – more on that later) the start of the regular season brings renewed hope that your team’s management and coaching staff have made the necessary changes and upgrades to become a contender.
The CFL kicks off the 2019 regular season on Thursday in Hamilton when the Saskatchewan Roughriders visit the Tiger-Cats. But in this preview we are going to look at the 3 other games of week 1.
The first Friday Night Football game of the year has the now CFL owned, Montreal Alouettes traveling west to take on the Edmonton Eskimos for the first game of the Trevor Harris era in the city of champions. The Alouettes, who if they were labeled anything other than a dumpster fire, would be a disservice to any actual dumpsters on fire are starting the season less than one week after making a head coaching change. Mike Sherman is out after having a “slow adjustment to the CFL game” and on an interim basis, last year’s offensive coordinator Khari Jones is in. The Als had a terrible year last year with only Toronto having a worse win / loss record. Gone is the circus that came with having Johny Manziel as your starting QB, Antonio Pipkin is looking to help turn around the fortune of the once illustrious Eastern Conference franchise. With a new # 1 receiver target in DeVier Posey the Als look to improve their offence that was ranked 7th last year.
The Edmonton Eskimos surprisingly on paper look better than last year even after loosing arguably the best player in the CFL to BC in Mike Reilly. With GM Brock Sutherland’s former Ottawa connections he replaced Reilly with Trevor Harris and also nabbed Greg Ellingson and Sir Vincent Rogers (who subsequently has been injured and will be out for the season). They also added receiver DaVaris Daniels from Calgary to help offset the loss of Duke Williams (NFL) and Derell Walker (Argos). The Esks also got better on defence they added 2 all-star LB from Hamilton in Larry Dean and Don Unamba as well as Javon Santos-Knox (Winnipeg). The Eskimos possibly have been the most improved team on paper, but as we have seen in the past that doesn’t always materialize. Question marks still arise when talking about HC Jason Mass’ decision making and temper on the sidelines.
Saturday sees Ottawa fly west to visit the defending Champs Calgary Stampeders in a Grey Cup rematch. One could argue that other than Ottawa the Stamps were hit hardest during free agency losing the aforementioned Daniels to Edmonton, CFL all-star Alex Singleton (NFL), all-star Mica Johnson (Riders) and Ja’Gared Davis (Hamilton). They did re sign their starting QB Bo Levi Mitchell after he tested free agency getting substantial offers from the Toronto Argonauts and Saskatchewan Roughriders. This seems to be the year that maybe Calgary will fall down in the standings but they always seem to find players to replace the ones they lose.
On the other side of the field, the new look Ottawa REDBLACKS are looking to overcome the overall decimation of their offence during free agency. Gone is starting QB Trevor Harris (Edmonton), all-star receiver Greg Ellingson (Edmonton), starting receiver Deonte Spencer (NFL), CFL all-star Offensive lineman Sir Vincent Rogers (Edmonton) and all-star running back William Powell (Saskatchewan) and finally offensive coordinator Jamie Elizondo (XFL). Dominique Davis takes over the QB duties and more of the workload will shift to CFL all-star Brad Sinopoli. The REDBLACKS also signed former Rider receiver Caleb Holley. On defense they didn’t do much better losing all-star defensive end AC Leonard. This REDBLACKS team has more questions than answers to start the year.
Game two of the Saturday night double header has Winnipeg heading to BC Place to play the Lions. the Blue Bombers would have to be considered the most consistent team from last year and arguably are a front runner in the CFL’s western division. Their offence is mainly the same with QB Matt Nichols and RB Andrew Harris, but they did lose two starting OL in Sukh Chungh (BC) and Mattias Goossen (Retired to become a police officer). They have added former NFLer Lucky Whitehead who torched the Riders for a 86 yard touchdown in the final preseason game and seems to be a threat to score from anywhere. On defence they still have the reigning Most Outstanding Defensive Player Adam Bighill, but have added all-star DE Willie Jefferson (Riders). They did also lose safety Tyler Loffler (Montreal), LB Javon Santos-Knox (EDM) and DB / returner Kevin Fogg (Tor).
BC looks to begin the Ed Hervey and DeVone Claybrooks regime on a winning note. They agressivly attacked free agency signing THE marquee FA in Mike Reilly. Reilly comes home after beginning his CFL career in Vancouver (he also spends his offseason in nearby Seattle, WA). They also signed receiver Duron Carter (Tor), OL Sukh Chungh (WPG), RB John White (EDM) and receiver Lemar Durant (CAL). On defence they signed DB Aaron Grimes (EDM), DB Chris Edwards (EDM) and LB Maleki Harris (CAL). Signing all of those players made some of their own starters expendable as they chose to not re sign receiver Manny Arceneaux and LB Solomon Ellimimium (Both signed by the Riders).
This first week of football is very hard to predict. Most teams are dealing with a lot of changes both in personal and schemes that will need to worked out. I for one am just happy that football is back and we can start to see which teams will rise to the challenge and which will fall short of expectations. It’s going to be a wild year and it’s time to get on and enjoy the ride!!
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