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Around the League with Todd K

Published: Tuesday, Sep 5th 2017, 3:09pm

by Todd K (@Krepadoodle)

Well, to start things off I figured I would peek around the league at the first half of the season.

East division

Ottawa

Despite the slow start this team is finally settling into its own.  Ottawa is like some weird mirror image of Edmonton this year.  Instead of winning games super close they’ve been losing games super close, and as the middle third has rolled in they’ve right-sized against the east whereas Edmonton has capsized against the west.  At this point I’m expecting another eastern final between the Eskimos and RedBlacks to determine which of the two is the best team in the east.  Ottawa is starting to assert itself as the top team in the east, but still needs to keep its eye on the Argos in the rear-view mirror.

Toronto

I must admit, I think I expect too much of this team.  Ray is back and healthy and he has one of the best receivers ever to throw to in S.J. Green.  But I seem to feel like they are underachieving and I have to stop and remind myself that this team just overhauled its management and coaching staff.  If anyone is going to pull this team forward it will be Mark Trestman, but even he’s going to need a bit of time to make it happen.  It’s pretty rare for a new staff to come in and find immediate success.  That only really happens when the core team is already solid, which is not typically the case when an overhaul happens.  So, patience Argo fans.  Your team is headed in the right direction and the east is wide open at this point.  Someone there is going to win the eastern lotto and get a 1-game free pass shot at making the Grey Cup.  It could just be you.  Keep those fingers crossed.

Montreal

When is the last time that Jacques Chapdelaine had a strong offense?  Seriously.  No, I haven’t gone back through years and crunched numbers, it’s not like I’m getting paid to do this.  I have a day job and a big opinionated mouth about football.  That’s all.  But for Jacques he always seems to be either middle of the road or on the poorer side of offenses.  Maybe I need to give this team the same benefit of the doubt that I’m giving Toronto on the rebuild side, but it seems to me that if Jacques really wants to take this head coaching gig seriously he needs to delegate that hat off to someone who can own it.  And someone he can fire for doing it poorly.  I still believe in Durant.  I think he’s actually played quite well.  He seems to be seeing the field fine and delivering balls with accuracy.  His receivers haven’t always made plays for him, but maybe if this team had kept S.J. Green around they’d have some better numbers in the points column.  I just think their offensive playbook needs an overhaul.

Hamilton

If anybody could use a distraction, it’s the Ticats.  As such, here’s a singing frog:

West division

Calgary

This team is reminding me of the 2015 Eskimos under Chris Jones.  They’re not putting up gaudy numbers offensively every week, but the defense is strong week in and week out and winning them games.  Bo is doing exactly what Bo needs to do and delivering the ball quickly and accurately.  Calgary’s ability to get the ball out of his hands fast makes him very hard to pressure.  That’s something that the 2015 Esks squad did well too and helped immensely grinding out close games.  QBs like Harris, Glenn and Mitchell are having a lot of success moving the ball quickly and keeping the offense on the field.  Clearly this is the most well-rounded team in the league and will be interesting to see who can really keep up with them on the gridiron.

Winnipeg

Rejoice Bombers fans, your team is finally rounding out nicely.  Your QB in Nichols is finally getting the consistent playing time he’s needed to elevate his game and he’s making the best of it.  Having a sound and versatile running game is keeping this team a challenge to defend against.  The defense needs some improvement as it’s given up a lot of points so far which is going to keep this team in a dog fight against western teams.  However, other than a brief lapse against the riders that set them behind 3 TDs in the LDC game they did play solid overall and I expect the banjo bowl to be a much closer game.  This is a team that’s headed in the right direction and ready to trade blows with the top teams in the league.

Edmonton

This team needs a reset.  Somewhere after going 7-0 the bottom fell out for this group.  Most games this year they’ve found themselves playing from behind, but keeping it close enough that the mighty will power of Mike Reilly could force them to bridge the gap and pull ahead just in the nick of time.  The Benevides defense did a good job of bend-don’t-break early on only giving up an average of 24 points per game through the first third and really was the instrumental to the team’s success.  During the offseason, they made ratio changes to go fully international on the d-line and Benevides said at one point the team would live and die by that d-line.  Well, for the most part that’s pretty accurate.  The past 3 losses that line has struggled to really pressure the opposing QBs and points against have ballooned to 42/game.  Now that’s not 100% on the defense.  Take away points off turnovers and special teams gaffs and the last few games would have been competitive.  Reilly has struggled being way behind and needs to work through that.  He’s trying to force big plays when most of his success has been in grinding out first downs.  I’m actually not sure if this is a Reilly problem or rookie O/C Walch’s problem.  But until this team cleans up turnovers and penalties expect a dog fight for the crossover spot.

Saskatchewan

Wear it loud and proud rider fans, your team is finally legit again.  Kevin Glenn is moving the ball quickly and accurately and the receiving core is doing a great job of making plays.  It was quite interesting to see much criticism of the 3-man pressure Jones was employing in the first third of the year only to see a few more teams adopt that in the last number of weeks.  Ever since the league adopted the no-touchy-after-five-yards rule defenses have been scrambling a bit to figure out how best to slow offenses down.  Two big philosophies have come about this year, one is heavy investment in the d-line to collapse the pocket and bring pressure to the QB and the other is to drop 8 or 9 and take everything away.  Both seem to be having some success, but dropping most of your D into coverage seems to be giving some QBs lots of fits and causing plenty of turnovers.  As a guy who actually quite likes a good defense this will be interesting to watch through the remainder of the year.

BC

Jonathan Jennings.  A twitter pal had proposed last year that J.J. was one of the elite QBs in the league.  I had suggested back that you need more than one season to get elite.  Well, right now this Lions team is floundering off a young QB who’s lost his confidence.  Before the injury, he was playing well, afterward not so much.  During his time on the sidelines he had said he was learning a lot watching Lulay play.  I’m beginning to wonder if maybe that had the opposite effect on him.  I’m starting to think that instead of following his own natural QB instincts that got him to where he is he’s overthinking things and trying to be more like the veteran.  What Jennings needs to realize is he won that job playing like himself, not like somebody else.  Personally, I think he needs to reset that ‘rookie overconfidence’ that every player comes into the league with and he’ll find himself back to his previous form and making plays that only J.J. could or would make.

Around the league

About 2 or 3 weeks ago, I wondered to myself where did all the blowout games go?  Remember the days when we used to have those games where backup quarterbacks would come in to navigate clean up time and help them develop for the future?  Where did that go?  Then suddenly the blowout games came roaring back.  I can only presume that the football gods heard me and said ‘here you go’.  And I take full culpability and officially apologize for it.  Sure, it’s fun to watch your own team blow up an opponent, but as someone who’s watched every single game this year so far (well, except the Tor/Ham LDC… the tail end of that one is still on the PVR) blowouts are boring.  Please give us back the tight knit games from the first third that breathed the CFL’s “no lead is safe” motto.  They’re exciting, a little crazy and can make any match up a delight to watch.

 

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