Category Archives: CFL

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Life Post-Jeremiah Masoli for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have begun their journey without CFL all-star Jeremiah Masoli and the team has shown promise. Clearly, Dane Evans has a lot to prove but he is starting to settle in with the offence and offensive coordinator Tommy Condell. It takes time for players and coordinators to develop a relationship, but Evans and Condell are on their way.

Masoli and Condell developed a successful relationship, but after Masoli ‘s knee injury, Evans was projected into the spotlight. The Tiger-Cats have shown production through all phases. But, will they manage to continue their success as the CFL season continues?
Passing Game
Since losing Masoli to injury the Tiger-Cats have gone 1-1. Both games were competitive and gave the league a chance to see new starting quarterback Dane Evans. The B.C. Lions game allowed Evans to show what he is capable of.

Playing in front of an energetic fan base, he put up some reasonable numbers and threw for 260 yards and two touchdowns. Brandon Banks returned from injury and played another sensational game. Banks is currently leading the league in receiving yards and second in receiving touchdowns.

Banks is not the only playmaker amongst the wide receiving core. Bralon Addison has accumulated 412 yards receiving and Jaelon Acklin is a solid possession receiver. Luke Tasker has struggled as of late, but do not be surprised if he plays a bigger role deeper into the season and in the playoffs.
Running Game
Losing Maleek Irons for six games hurts the Cats. Cameron Marshall, Irons’ replacement, debuted against B.C. last week and had seven carries for 40 yards.

The offensive line held the Lions to zero sacks. Unfortunately, Darius Ciraco was placed on the one-game injured list and didn’t play against B.C. Ti-Cats fans hope to see him back within the next couple games as he is a vital component of the offensive line.

Hamilton needs consistency in their ground game in order to relieve the pressure off Dane Evans. As the season runs deeper, the Tiger-Cats offence could become much more dangerous as they already are. It will also be intriguing to see how Evans game develops.
Defence
Defensively, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats lineup with a high caliber defence, highlighted by their defensive line.

Ja’Gared Davis was a massive addition to there d-line this year. He is currently tied for second in the CFL in sacks with six and has recorded 37 tackles, which is eighth-most among the league. The seven above him are either linebackers or defensive backs. Leading Hamilton in tackles is middle linebacker Justin Tuggle with 40.
Secondary
The secondary has young players such as Frankie Williams and Tunde Adeleke. Delvin Breaux is a member the Tiger-Cats want back in there secondary as he was put on the one-game injured list and did not play last week against B.C. Overall, the Tiger-Cats have a highly skilled defence on paper, but last week’s outing showed weaknesses and this Saturday’s game against Ottawa will be important to gain some lost confidence.
Special Teams
Jeff Reinebold continues to show why he is in the conversation as the best special teams coordinator in the CFL. The Tiger-Cats special team units are never overlooked by there opponent.

Leding the league in punt return yards and fourth in kickoff return yards, Frankie Williams is becoming a respected returner in the CFL. It also doesn’t hurt when you can put Brandon Banks — who leads the league in field goal missed return yards with 235 — in the end zone when the opposing team is attempting a field goal.

But what makes all this work is the coaching of Jeff Reinebold. He puts together schemes and plays that virtually make these speedy returners untouchable. Great blocking and exceptional return play make for a dangerous return game.
Final Thoughts
If the offence can stay consistent, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats will be in this year’s Grey Cup. Their defence has some of the top players in each positional group and their special teams groups are explosive.

Losing your starting quarterback and running back to season-ending injuries is often diminishing to any football team. But head coach Orlondo Steinauer has managed to create an environment that brings players together and ultimately leads to continuity among all. The Tiger-Cats play this Saturday in the Nation’s capital.

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Montreal Alouettes Have Another Shot at a West Division Foe

With 2:41 left in the third quarter, the Montreal Alouettes were down just 17-10 to the West Division Saskatchewan Roughriders. Then, nobody can quite wrap their heads around what happened next. Hostile weather consisting of lightning and heavy rain would sweep over McGill causing a delay that would inevitably end the match.

Yes, with still an entire quarter and then some to play, the Roughriders were awarded a victory and the Alouettes a loss for their efforts. Even Saskatchewan fans didn’t feel entirely great about how they acquired a W for the win column, well some did.

Montreal, on the other hand, is left to quickly regroup. They now head west to take on a perennial contender in the Calgary Stampeders. The Alouettes are 1-2 against western opponents in 2019 and with the narrative growing once again on how much stronger the West is than the East, the Als find themselves needing to make a statement game just one week removed from being robbed the chance to do so at home.
Offence
Perhaps Montreal’s biggest catalyst for their early string of contention has been quarterback, Vernon Adams Jr. Unfortunately, since their last game against Ottawa, Adams has been out with a concussion. They have sorely missed plays like this one:

Vernon Adams Jr. (@bigplay_va) spots @QuanBray WIDE OPEN for a 75-yard TOUCHDOWN give the @MTLAlouettes a 15-12 lead!#CFLGameDay pic.twitter.com/hIiK5ozTj9
— CFL on TSN (@CFLonTSN) July 13, 2019

Adams has a humble five touchdowns to three interceptions on the season. However, his five rushing touchdowns as a quarterback is second among quarterbacks and tied for third in the league overall with just William Powell and Cody Fajardo in front of him. The Alouettes will need Adams to have a monster performance with it being reported that William Stanback will miss Saturday’s contest.
DeVier Posey In, B.J. Cunningham Out
An unfortunate wrist injury sustained by B.J. Cunningham will likely sideline him for the remainder of the 2019 season. While still not ideal for Montreal, the impact of this injury is softened by the return of former Grey Cup MVP, DeVier Posey. He has appeared in just three games before going down with an injury. Still, it’s Posey’s past work that should have Montreal fans the most excited. His 2017 campaign saw him put up 744 yards and seven touchdowns in 12 games played.
Protection Up Front
Before any of this can become reality, the Montreal Alouettes need to figure out their protection upfront.

Another scoop and score for the @sskroughriders defence! 😮#CFLGameday pic.twitter.com/kZuDPJs4jx
— CFL on TSN (@CFLonTSN) August 10, 2019

Through seven games this season, they’ve allowed 17 sacks which lands them sixth in the league. This offensive line hasn’t been horrible this season.
Defence
The prospects of the Stampeders having Bo Levi Mitchell back may not bode well for the Alouettes. Calgary’s offence has maintained pace under the control of Nick Arbuckle, however, let us not forget what Mitchell is capable of.

George Johnson’s article on stampeders.com beautifully outlines the impact of Bo Levi Mitchell. In Johnson’s article, Mitchell is compared to sugar in Kool-Aid, LeBron on the Lakers and a healthy Boobie Miles on Friday Night Lights. High praise and well deserved at that from many of his teammates.
Exceeding expectations
During the Montreal Alouettes three-game winning streak, they allowed 436 yards to the Tiger-Cats, 365 to the Redblacks and 320 to the Eskimos. They went as far as to keep the Eskimos offence from scoring. Their home loss to Ottawa consisted of allowing just one touchdown offensively and 241 yards.

Furthermore, Montreal’s defence did a tremendous job keeping Cody Fajardo and the Saskatchewan offence in check. However, Calgary presents a different challenge and they’ll need more from their front seven to have a chance on Saturday. With only seven sacks, the Alouettes are tied for dead-last in the league for sacks, though they were able to get to Fajardo twice last week.

Rookie defensive coordinator, Bob Slowik has worked hard to get up to speed with the Canadian game. If they are able to keep a potentially “rusty” Mitchell in check and perhaps break out some more special teams magic, this game may swing wide-open.
Why This Game is so Important
The common thought process in any league is that inter-divisional games trump outer-division games in terms of importance. This is mostly true across the board in terms of tie-breakers. However, in Montreal or Ottawa’s case, it’s almost pre-determined that they will be facing a Western Division team come playoffs with the crossover. With how tight the West Division is, anyone from Winnipeg, Saskatchewan, Calgary or Edmonton are potential opponents. If there was any time to begin to gain traction and confidence against the “almighty” West Divison, it would be now.

Saturday’s forecast calls for cloudy with sunny breaks. It’s just the reigning Grey Cup MVP and the champions standing in the way of the Montreal Alouettes and a confidence-building victory. If they pull it off, it’ll be their first win against the Stampeders at McMahon Stadium since Week 1 of the 2009 season.

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The 2019 Bombers vs The 2011 ‘Swaggerville’ Bombers

In 2011, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers had a chance to write a legendary chapter in their team’s history. The franchise was one win away from ending a twenty year title drought.

They were led by the fun to watch ‘Swaggerville’ defence, who led them to a 7-1 record in the first half of the season. That nickname got a large amount of attention. The Mayor, Odell Willis, and CEO (and former Mayor) Jovon Johnson guided the Bombers to a first place finish and held Hamilton to three points in the East Final.

But it wasn’t meant to be. Winnipeg lost to the B.C. Lions in the Grey Cup (and lost both games to the Riders. Almost just as bad) which was followed by four straight playoff misses. Fast forward to 2019, and the Bombers are starting to get some of that Swaggerville look back. Does this year’s squad have any similarities to that 2011 team? It may be a little too early, but let’s take a look:
Quarterbacks
2019: Matt Nichols.
2011: Buck Pierce.
Two quarterbacks with an injury past, but two quarterbacks that are also tough as nails. Both would stand in the pocket and take a shot if it meant completing the big pass.

Buck was great when he was healthy, and he’s proving his knowledge of the game as a coach right now. The guys seemed to really like playing him. He was always kind of on the fringe of those top three or four quarterbacks in the league, a lot like Matt Nichols.
Running backs 
2019: Andrew Harris.
2011: Fred Reid and Chris Garrett.
Not a lot of similarities with the backs on this team. Harris carries the load on this team, while in 2011 the team went with a one-two punch due to injuries.
Receivers 
2019: Darvin Adams, Nic Demski, Chris Matthews, Lucky Whitehead, Drew Wolitarsky.
2011: Terrence Edwards, Greg Carr, Corey Watson, Clarence Denmark, Kito Poblah.
If Whitehead keeps playing as he did in Week 2, he could have a very similar season to Clarence Denmark’s season in 2011. Watson was a young Canadian receiver making strides that year; Demski isn’t quite as young as him… but close enough.

Both teams possess a solid, reliable number one receivers (Adams now and Edwards previously) and both teams had a sneaky X-factor (Wolitarsky now and Carr previously). Not a lot of super close similarities, but definitely a few.
Offensive line
2019: Stanley Bryant Jr., Geoff Gray, Michael Couture, Cody Speller, Jermarcus Hardrick.
2011: Andre Douglas, Brendon LaBatte, Obby Khan, Steve Morley, Glenn January.
Other than at centre (2011 had a veteran centre in Obby Kahn), The offesnive lines are pretty similar. Both have a first round, high-profile Canadian guard (Gray now andLaBatte previously). Both have veteran tackles, and both are very athletic groups.
Defensive Line
2019: Willie Jefferson, Jackson Jeffcoat, Craig Roh, Jake Thomas, Drake Nevis.
2011: Odell Willis, Doug Brown, Jason Vega, Bryant Turner, Kenny Mainor.
Willis and Jefferson are both the kind of defensive ends that can wreck a game. At the time, Willis was considered one of the CFL’s best young rushers. His start to that 2011 season was ridiculous.

Jefferson has a little bit of a different body type but has the same impact as Odell. Thomas and Roh aren’t quite on the same level as Doug Brown, but Vega and Jeffcoat are both young, promising Internationals.

The 2011 defensive line was the heart of that Swaggerville team. The secondary started their nickname a few years before, but the defensive line was the dominant unit that made it popular. The 2019 version definitely has the potential to do the same
Linebackers
2019: Adam Bighill, Kyrie Wilson, Anthony Gaitor, Jesse Briggs.
2011: Joe Lobendahn, Marcellus Bowman, Clint Kent, Henoc Muamba, Pierre-Luc Labbe.
Not many similarities here, so let’s just move on
Secondary
2019: Winston Rose, Marcus Sayles, Brandon Alexander, Chandler Fenner, Jeff Hecht.
2011: Jovon Johnson, Jonathan Hefney, Alex Suber, Bandon Stewart, Ian Logan.
Johnson started Swaggerville before 2011. He was the creator, and he led that very talented group. Number two was a vacuum out there, having eight interceptions on the year being as shut down as it gets that season.

This 2019 team doesn’t have a true star corner like him. They both have a veteran Canadian safety, but that might be it. It’s too early to tell though. Maybe Sayles turns into a Hefney type of player.

Again, the Bombers are only 3-0 and it’s probably silly to look ahead already. But Winnipeg hasn’t started a season as the clear cut number one in the west in since that 2011 season. Bomber fans love to dream is this is finally their season. That dream hasn’t been this strong in a long time.

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CFL Week 4 Power Rankings

With Week 4 officially in the books, it’s time to update my CFL power rankings. Week 4 brought its own uniqueness to the CFL season with a little bit of everything. From a controversial rouge for the win to a dominating victory for the defending champs, the week was once again filled with intrigue.

This week will see quite a bit of movement in the power rankings from last week. So without further ado, here are the CFL Week 4 power rankings;
CFL Power Rankings After Week 3
1) Winnipeg Blue Bombers (3-0)
     Last Week Ranking: 1
Is anyone going to beat the Bombers? This team has looked unbeatable in the early stages of the season. With a convincing 29-14 victory over the previously undefeated Ottawa Redblacks, the Bombers are getting it done in all phases of the game.
2) Edmonton Eskimos (2-1)
     Last Week Ranking: 3
Typically, I don’t like moving a team up or down on their bye week. However, thanks to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats underwhelming performance in Montreal last week, this move had to happen. This isn’t to say the Eskimos don’t deserve the number two spot, because they most certainly do based on their play so far this season.
3) Hamilton Tiger-Cats (3-1)
    Last Week Ranking: 2
After crushing the Montreal Alouettes 41-10 in Week 3, there was no way the Tiger-Cats would lose to the Alouettes in Week 4 right? Right? Wrong. While the Alouettes played their best game of the season, the Tiger-Cats certainly played their worst. Not only did thy fall 39-26 in the game, but even worse, they also fell one spot in these power rankings.
4) Calgary Stampeders (2-1)
     Last Week Ranking: 6
With a massive off-season overhaul and multiple key injuries, the Stampeders have no business being a good team. Yet here we are. Again. A blowout win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Regina’s Mosaic Stadium vaults the Stamps a couple of spots on this list.
5) Ottawa Redblacks (2-1)
     Last Week Ranking: 4
The Ottawa Redblacks are much better than most people thought they would be at this point of the season. A tough 29-14 loss last week against the Blue Bombers knocks the Redblacks down one spot in this weeks power rankings. However, the Redblacks still appear to be a team to be reckoned with in 2019.
6) Montreal Alouettes (1-2)
    Last Week Ranking: 8
As mentioned, the Alouettes played their best game of this young season in last week’s victory. The Als have had their share of difficulties this year but have actually looked pretty good in two of their three games this season. Could they push Ottawa for second in the CFL East? They just might.
7) Saskatchewan Roughriders (1-3)
     Last Week Ranking: 5
The Saskatchewan Roughriders take a two-spot tumble in this week’s rankings thanks to a 37-10 thrashing at the hands of the Calgary Stampeders. The Roughriders head into their bye week with a lot of questions that need to be answered. Inconsistency has been the theme so far this season, can the Riders rebound and fix their issues? They desperately need to, or this season could be lost quite quickly.
8) BC Lions (1-3)
     Last Week Ranking: 7
I know, I know. The Lions dropped a spot on this week’s rankings despite winning their first game of the season. The Lions defeated the Argonauts 18-17 in a “thriller” at BMO Field in Toronto. Despite their first victory of the season, the Lions still have much work to do. However, with a veteran group and an excellent coaching staff, one could see this Lions team turning their season around soon.
9) Toronto Argonauts (0-3)
     Last Week Ranking: 9
The Argonauts are firmly planted in last place in the CFL and on this list. The good news is the Argos weren’t blown out again this week but this team just looks disconnected. With the Winnipeg Blue Bombers up next on the schedule, it would be a safe bet to see this team at the bottom of the list next week as well.
The Last Word
As promised, there was a lot of movement this week on the power rankings. However, based on the results of the games in Week 4, the movements seem justified.

CFL Week 5 has many intriguing match-ups on the docket and we could see a lot of movement once again in the standings. Not to mention on this list as well.

As always, would love to hear your thoughts on these rankings and feel free to tell me yours. Enjoy Week 5.

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Week 4 CFL Fantasy Picks: Draftkings and TSN

We saw a nice bounce-back for the CFL Fantasy Picks column in Week 3. Let’s see if we can keep the momentum going as we head into Week 4! Let’s get into it. 
QUARTERBACK 
C.J. Fajardo 
Draftkings = $8.700/$50,000
TSN = $7,793/$40,000
Somehow C.J. Fajardo is not priced up with the elite quarterbacks by now. After back to back outings of 34+ fantasy points, he is still under $9,000 on Draftkings and under $8,000 on TSN. Fajardo has been setting the world on fire ever since he took over for the injured Zach Collaros in Week 1.

So far this season he has a touchdown to interception ratio of 4:0, a quarterback rating of 122.8 and has a rushing touchdown in each of the Roughriders’ three games. Fajardo looks like a slam dunk play this week as Saskatchewan welcomes the Stampeders onto their home turf.  
RUNNINGBACK 
John White IV 
Draftkings = $6,300/$50,000
TSN = $5,800/$40,000 
This may seem like point chasing after White IV’s breakout last week, but it appears he has tightened his grip on the running back duties for the Lions. John White IV stuffed the stat sheet in week three against the Stampeders, rushing 14 times for 64 yards and a touchdown, and added 9 catches for 87 yards and a touchdown.

We really hadn’t seen much of White IV in previous weeks as BC had been having to play catchup forcing them to abandon the run game. Even though they lost to the Stampeders, BC controlled much of the game which led to a large dose of White IV. When they visit Toronto this week, I expect a similar workload for White IV as the Argonauts look to be one of the weaker teams in the league this season. As I mentioned earlier, White IV’s workload has steadily increased with each week of play. 
Mossis Madu Jr. 
Draftkings = $5,300/$50,000
TSN = $6,600/$40,000 
If you look even further down the running back list this week, you will see Redblacks’ ball carrier Mossis Madu Jr. Madu has been doing the heavy lifting for Ottawa and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. His price may be too cheap for the volume he receives. He does have a tough matchup against Winnipeg, but he doesn’t have to do much to pay off his salary this week. 
WIDE RECEIVER 
Brandon Banks 
Draftkings = $10,000/$50,000
TSN = $14,000/$40,000
As long as the Tiger-Cats’ receiving core is banged up, it is hard to fade Brandon Banks. This may seem like a “well, duh” play as far as CFL fantasy picks go but the price tag may have some people scared to trust Banks this week. Although Luke Tasker is on track to be back this week, Bralon Addison will be watching from the sideline.

This leaves a target hole in the Tiger-Cats’ passing attack leaving a few extra looks to go Banks’ way. He has not been held under 20 fantasy points yet this season and has gone for 30+ in each of the last two games. Expect more of the same as Banks and the Tiger-Cats get to go up against a weak Montreal team for the second straight week. 
TOURNAMENT NOTE
With the chalky Banks recommendation above, I’ll add a quick tournament thought. The Toronto Argonauts will be without starting quarterback James Franklin for a little while, leaving McLeod Bethel-Thompson at the helm. With that in mind, I expect all of the Argonauts receivers to carry minuscule ownership this week.

The Argonauts will presumably find themselves behind during the game which should lead to some increased volume for their pass catchers. If I was going for upside I would lean Derel Walker, and if I was looking to play it safe, Llevi Noel looks to have solidified a solid role at a super cheap price. 
DEFENCE
Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Draftkings = $5,400/$50,000
TSN = $4,471/$40,000
The Tiger-Cats look to be the play on defence this week as they will have another soft matchup against the Alouettes. They have posted double-digit fantasy points in each of their three games. They have racked up sacks, interceptions and defensive touchdowns while holding each of their opponents to under 20 total points so far this season. 

That’s going to do it for this week’s positional breakdown. Let’s keep the ball rolling as we kick-off our CFL Fantasy Picks for Week 4!

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CFL Week 3 Power Rankings

It is time once again for the CFL power rankings, Week 3 edition. Let’s take this opportunity to reflect on the past week and take a look at how each team stacks up moving forward.

Week 3 of the CFL season did not disappoint. From a premier match-up to an improbable comeback, to summer storms, this week had everything. As is per usual in the CFL, the entertainment was off the charts. But how does each team rank heading into Week 4? Glad you asked, let’s take a look.
CFL Power Rankings After Week 3
1) Winnipeg Blue Bombers (3-0)
     Last Week Ranking: 1

In what was labelled as the premier match-up in Week 3, the Blue Bombers were able to hold off Sean Whyte and the Eskimos. Although the Bombers didn’t play their best game of the season, it was enough to knock off the second place Eskimos. Therefore, the Bombers remain number one on this list.
2) Hamilton Tiger-Cats (3-0)
  Last Week Ranking: 3

In the last two weeks, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats have outscored their opponents 105-24. Yes, they have played arguably the CFL’s two worst teams, but impressive scores nonetheless. The Tiger-Cats look to be in mid-season form already and deserve to be second on this list.
3) Edmonton Eskimos (2-1)
Last Week Ranking: 2

After starting the season at 2-0, the Eskimos seemed to have met their match in Week 3. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers held Trevor Harris and the Eskimos to exactly zero offensive touchdowns. Harris had thrown for six touchdowns in two games prior to this one, but couldn’t find the end zone in this contest. The Eskimos found themselves on the wrong end of a 28-21 decision and have dropped one spot in this week’s rankings.
4) Ottawa Redblacks (2-0)
Last Week Ranking: 4

The Redblacks hang in at the number four spot thanks to their Week 3 bye.
5) Saskatchewan Roughriders (1-2)
Last Week Ranking: 7

The Saskatchewan Roughriders have moved up two spots in this week’s rankings. This ranking is largely based on the play of back-up quarterback Cody Fajardo as well as the rebound game for the Riders defence. The Riders amassed over 500 yards total offence against the Argonauts, while the defence held them to just seven points in a 32-7 victory.
6) Calgary Stampeders (1-1)
Last Week Ranking: 5

The Stampeders are a difficult team to get a read on. Yes, they are 1-1 but have not looked great in either of their games. A late fourth-quarter victory in Week 3 while impressive, left a lot more questions than answers. Many key injuries combined with what seems to be some holes in the line-up, it is difficult to know what Calgary truly is. We should learn a lot from them in Week 4 when they play their first road game of the year in Regina.
7) BC Lions  (0-3)
Last Week Ranking: 7

The BC Lions gave up a substantial late fourth-quarter lead to the Calgary Stampeders in Week 3. The Lions played fairly well for most of the game and should have walked out of Calgary with a win. But they didn’t, and now have an 0-3 record to start the season. The Lions need to find consistency in their play in order to turn their season around.
8) Montreal Alouettes (0-2)
Last Week Ranking: 8

The Montreal Alouettes franchise seems to be in disarray both on and of the field. A strong effort in week one had cause for optimism in Montreal, but a 41-10 loss after their bye week left a lot to be desired. The Alouettes need to find their way, and quickly.
9) Toronto Argonauts (0-2)
Last Week Ranking: 9

The ranking here might be a little high considering what we have seen from the Argos so far in 2019. Outscored in their two games by a combined total of 96-21, the Argonauts look absolutely terrible in all aspects of their game.
The Last Word
While we are only three weeks into the season, some of the story-lines playing out will be interesting to follow. How long will the Bombers hold the number one spot? Are the Tiger-Cats for real? Will the Roughriders continue to ride their hot quarterback?

There are a lot of questions left to be answered in the early going. Looking forward to it all playing out.

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Beware of the “Trap Game” for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Toronto Argonauts

Many Saskatchewan Roughriders fans are optimistic despite their 0-2 start. After a toe-to-toe battle with the upstart Ottawa Redblacks, the Riders offence was clicking on cylinders, the problem was, they were trailing the entire game. Fajardo gave fans a reason to believe after posting impressive numbers of 27/34 completion, 360 yards, two touchdowns to zero interceptions.

Cody Fajardo connects with Shaq Evans in the end zone to cut into the Redblacks’ lead before halftime! #CFLKickoff pic.twitter.com/Huctyfbci3
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) June 21, 2019

It’s the most balanced the Riders offence had looked in years. Marcus Thigpen and William Powell combined for 20 carries for 102 yards and two touchdowns. Fajardo added one of his own as well. Whether it was because the team was trailing at key points during the game or if that was the gameplan going in, it’s the best this Saskatchewan offence has looked in a while. However, as good as Fajardo was, Dominque Davis and the Redblacks offence was even better. Rider fans witnessed one of the more poor performances from this defence in a number of seasons.

Here are some key things to keep an eye on for Canada Day’s tilt between the Argonauts and Roughriders.
Toronto Argonauts Offence
The Argos, on the other hand, is coming off an embarrassing loss in their home opener to their vaunted rival Hamilton Tiger-Cats. A 64-14 spanking was not how Corey Chamblin and company imagined their season kicking-off. It’s hard to point to one particular section of the team that a fan could pin the loss on, the Argos were severely outmatched in all three phases of the game.

James Franklin was 16/26, 211 yards and an interception. By no means horrible but obviously not enough to keep up with a potent Hamilton offence. On the other hand, the Argonauts failed to get any traction in the run game. James Wilder Jr. had just 12 yards on six carries and Chris Rainey never had a carry or reception. For all the hype surrounding the depth at that position this off-season, there simply weren’t enough looks to those two players last game.

If Franklin is going to get comfortable in this offence, Jacques Chapdelaine will have to lean on playmakers such as Wilder, Rainey, SJ Green, Derel Walker and Armanti Edwards.
Saskatchewan Roughriders Secondary
All eyes will be on Nick Marshall and how he responds after being picked on by Dominique Rhymes in Ottawa a little over a week ago. The Riders have no shortage of big names in their secondary from Ed Gainey to Loucheiz Purifoy and Mike Edem. It’ll take a collective effort to ensure Franklin doesn’t have a bounce-back game. As previously mentioned, the Argos boast their own weapons on the offensive side of the ball, it’s a matter of execution on their end.

Derrick Moncrief and Cameron Judge will also be vital in ensuring the Argos don’t get too creative with their stable of running backs. If the front four can generate a pass rush like last week and produce four sacks again, perhaps this won’t have to be the nailbiter that many fear it may be.
Special Teams
Both the Argos and Riders struggled to contain their opponents return game in Week 2. Brandon Banks made Toronto pay for a missed field goal at the start of the fourth quarter while Ryan Lankford of Ottawa had four punt returns for 100 yards and five kick returns for 95 yards, with 42 and 36-yard returns included in each of those respectively.

Brandon Banks returns one to the house and shows why he’s one of the most electric players in the league 😱 @Ticats#CFLGameDay pic.twitter.com/3fQiARX6A2
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) June 22, 2019
While Brett Lauther has been nearly automatic for the Saskatchewan Roughriders since taking over, it’ll be key for the Riders to keep contain on kickoffs and punts. The Riders can ill-afford to give a desperate Argos team any momentum in this phase of the game. Field position will play a big factor in how Saskatchewan’s defence responds.
Matchup to Keep an Eye On
Micah Johnson versus first-overall pick Shane Richards
Richards will face one of the most difficult tests of his career, in just his second game. Johnson has yet to hit the stat sheet with sacks but he’s been key in opening up the lanes for Charleston Hughes and A.C. Leonard who had a combined three sacks last week. It remains to be seen if Toronto will keep an extra running back to help protect Franklin however, look for the Riders to generate significant pressure if Richards can’t hold his own against Johnson.
Happy Canada Day Weekend
From everyone here at Last Word on Canadian Football, enjoy your time with friends, family and football! Make sure you’re following us on Twitter and Facebook for all our latest articles, analysis pieces and predictions!

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Saskatchewan Roughriders Quarterback Dilemma

One week in and the Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback dilemma is well underway. Which, if you’ve been following for the last decade is par for the course. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. After testing the waters on Bo Levi Mitchell and Mike Reilly, the Riders turned back to Collaros and made him the starter.

This was a smart decision for a few reasons, after battling it out with Brandon Bridge last season, Collaros now didn’t have to look over his shoulder and could assume the role as QB1 with confidence. Secondly, with coaching turnover and a degree of roster turnover, Collaros’ leadership was desperately needed. Now, after being placed on the six-game injured list, the Riders find themselves at a crossroads. Do they sign a veteran quarterback like Kevin Glenn? Or do they see what they have in Cody Fajardo, Isaac Harker and now Bryan Bennett? Who will be the next Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback?
Option One: Bring in a Veteran
Why it’s a good idea
As mentioned plenty of times leading up to the 2019 season, the West Division is loaded. To stay competitive, the Roughriders will need to be efficient on offence and not rely on the defence to carry the weight as they did in a 12-win campaign in 2018. Luring Glenn out of retirement provides that option. In 2017, Glenn was able to put up more than respectable numbers with 25 touchdowns to 14 interceptions and 4,038 yards. That season also saw three Roughriders receivers go for over 1,000 yards.

Craig Dickenson would ideally like to start his first head coaching gig on the right foot, by being a competitive football team in a tough division and potentially vying for a home playoff date, one year before hosting the Grey Cup. By signing Glenn, the Riders would likely be in the thick of the race well past labour day. However, long-term it doesn’t set them up for success.
Why it’s a bad idea
It’s quite simply too short term thinking. By bringing in a veteran “stop-gap” quarterback (we’ll stop picking on Glenn though Saskatchewan reached out to him), the Riders are merely pushing the problem into the next season. Let’s assume a veteran quarterback swoops in and saves the day for the Riders, hauling them to a crossover spot in the gauntlet West Division. Is one playoff appearance enough to compensate a complete lack of contingency plan going into the 2020 season? Many would be wise enough to say, no.
Option Two: Roll with Fajardo and Harker
Why it’s a good idea
By sticking with Cody Fajardo (27), Isaac Harker (23) and Bryan Bennett (27), the Riders can properly evaluate what they have now and for the future. Fajardo hasn’t had much of an opportunity to display his talents in his three years in the CFL. With Toronto and BC, Fajardo was used primarily as a short-yardage specialist. That didn’t stop him from rushing for 437 yards and 13 touchdowns over his first three seasons. By sticking with Fajardo, he can fully display his mobility in the offence (Fajardo ran a 4.63 at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine).

Harker, on the other hand, enters the league as an even bigger question mark. The 6’0 Indiana product attended Colorado School of Mines College in 2018 having prior went to Indiana State from 2014-2017. With Colorado, he threw for 39 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 3,858 yards and 67% completion.

Here’s a look at the TD pass to Bob Pugh from Isaac Harker. It’s the second 60+ yard TD for Pugh this season. #MarchOn pic.twitter.com/5hoMZ7C9M9
— Sycamore Football (@IndStFB) October 21, 2017

It’s not often we see quarterbacks come straight from US programs and have immediate success but it appears as though he has earned his spot, beating out former Saskatchewan Roughrider quarterback David Watford for the third string spot in training camp.
Why it’s a bad idea
For all the upside, these two players could end up being Brett Smith 2.0 (no disrespect to Brett). Smith showed flashes in his 2015 campaign, throwing for 15 touchdowns to nine interceptions. Many thought he was a lock for the backup spot in 2016. However, a poor showing in pre-season led to his release. The difference in Smith receiving those meaningful snaps in 2015 was that the Riders were 0-5, the season was already looking like a write-off. Glenn and Darian Durant were both injured as well. The Riders were able to afford to see what they had in Smith as there wasn’t much to lose.

2019 is different, the Riders are 0-1 with 17 games to play in the regular season. There are players on the defensive side of the ball who are either in their primes (Micah Johnson, Ed Gainey, Loucheiz Purifoy & Zach Evans) or the twilight of their careers (Charleston Hughes, Solomon Elimimian). Is it in Saskatchewan’s best interest to start one of two inexperienced quarterbacks with these players on the roster? The Riders aren’t exactly a rebuilding team as they boast the oldest average age in the CFL.

The Riders have the CFL’s oldest roster heading into 2019 at 28.2 years per player – the CFL average is 27.3 years of age.
— Rider Radio 620 CKRM (@CKRMRiders) June 13, 2019

Flip a coin
It appears as this article was being written, the Roughriders have elected to go with the two-quarterback system for Thursday’s game in Ottawa. This same formula drew the ire of Rider Nation last season when Chris Jones deployed both Bridge and Watford throughout a series of games with little success. Depending on how this version of events goes, the Riders will have a decision on their hands. To try and save their season with a proven veteran or roll the dice with the young guns.

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Each CFL West Division Team’s Biggest Obstacle

We are oh-so-close to the kick-off of the 2019 regular season. Prediction articles are well underway, overreactions to pre-season games have Twitter flooded with hot takes from every fanbase but the general mood is that of excitement. The entire league received a facelift (not just the New Era uniforms) as many players found new homes during free agency in February.

The West Division appears to be an even more difficult gauntlet than it was in years past if that was even possible. With the addition of Trevor Harris to the Edmonton Eskimos, one could make the argument that the three best quarterbacks reside in the West (depending on how you feel about Jeremiah Masoli). Below are each West Division team’s biggest obstacle from finishing first in the CFL West Division
BC Lions
Expectations
Call it an obscure answer if you must but this Lions team is entering the season with likely the highest of expectations. More than the defending Grey Cup Champion Calgary Stampeders, that’s saying something. Hiring the most sought after head coach in DeVone Claybrooks and signing the most sought after quarterback in Mike Reilly would’ve been enough to raise expectations on the west coast. However, it didn’t stop there.

Duron Carter, John White, Chris Edwards, Aaron Grymes, Lemar Durant, Sukh Chungh all made their way to British Columbia. At the same time, the Lions were able to retain Bryan Burnham, TJ Lee and Hunter Steward. What does this all mean? The Lions have a long way to fall if this doesn’t translate to immediate success. Could one make reference to the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles “dream team”? They could, but I’m not sure if someone would want to take it that far.

Nevertheless, hosting a home playoff game should be the lowest the bar goes, with a new coach, culture and quarterback time will tell how quickly this team is able to pull it together and make a run for their first Grey Cup since 2011.
Saskatchewan Roughriders
Quarterback/Offence
For the sake of not rehashing the same storyline that has dominated Saskatchewan over the past season, we’ll put it out there that the offence needs to be better. That starts with the quarterback, Zach Collaros. After striking out on Bo Levi Mitchell, Trevor Harris and Mike Reilly, the Riders brought back the veteran pivot and invested the remaining cap they had into the interior defence with Micah Johnson and Solomon Elimimian.

Make no mistake, despite the loss of Chris Jones, the defence on paper could be just as dominant as last season. But what will it mean if the offence struggles to put up points again? And that is precisely why you’re seeing a majority of predictions having the Riders finish last in the West. Saskatchewan did invest into its offence as well, bringing in star running back, William Powell. As well as offensive lineman Dakoda Shepley and going heavy on receivers early in the 2019 Draft.

For the Riders to prove their detractors wrong, it will start with Zach Collaros staying healthy, then producing. Nine touchdowns and a negative TD:INT ratio won’t get them 12 wins this year, not with Trevor Harris, Bo Levi Mitchell and Mike Reilly in the division.
Calgary Stampeders
Chemistry
While it’s often in professional sports that the championship team is raided of its talent. The Stampeders endured loses at the coaching and player level this past off-season. Calgary’s first and likely greatest loss was their defensive coordinator of the past three seasons, DeVone Claybrooks. However, the hits didn’t stop there with the defensive losses. Linebackers Alex Singleton and Jameer Thurman moved on to the NFL and Ja’Gared Davis signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Ciante Evans made a run at the AAF but quickly signed back in the CFL with the Montreal Alouettes,

Of course, the biggest loss may have been to the division rival Saskatchewan Roughriders. Micah Johnson, arguably the best defensive player in the CFL moved one province over to team up with another former Stampeder Charleston Hughes. On the offensive side of the ball, losses at receiver were the biggest talking point with Marken Michel, Chris Matthews, DaVaris Daniels and Lemar Durant all no longer with the squad.

The saving grace in all of this is that the Stampeders were able to retain prized quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell on a four-year deal. That and the Stampeders ability to produce homegrown talent may be enough to stay competitive in the CFL’s West Division.

🔊 “Talent is definitely one of the first words,”
Bo Levi Mitchell on what comes to mind when he thinks of the 🇨🇦 receiving group! pic.twitter.com/gWW4tYpj3W

— Calgary Stampeders (@calstampeders) June 9, 2019

Edmonton Eskimos
Coaching
No matter how high you are on Trevor Harris, the Edmonton Eskimos got worse at quarterback in 2019. As hard as that is to say, with their last quarterback being Mike Reilly, that’s just the fact of the matter. However, that’s not the biggest roadblock for a successful 2019 season in the CFL West Division for Edmonton. It’s coaching. As some may remember Jason Maas found himself on the hot seat towards the end of 2018 after a disappointing 9-9 campaign ended without a playoff appearance.

Fellow Last Word on Canadian Football writer, Jeff Burns broke down the Eskimos discipline issues mid-season last year. The results were quite telling. From 2016 up-to-the halfway mark of the season in 2018, Edmonton has led the league in average penalties per game. If the Eskimos are going to overcome their downgrade at quarterback and injury at left tackle, they’ll have to play much more disciplined football to stay in the race.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Quarterback Play
This isn’t so much a shot at Matt Nichols as it is an observation. Nichols is a fine quarterback who has proven he can make big plays when called upon and typically limits his mistakes. However, the Bombers can ill-afford for Nichols to have a stretch of games as bad as last season that saw Winnipeg lose four straight. In those games, Nichols threw for just four touchdowns to eight interceptions and averaged just 220 passing yards per game with a 58.85% completion rate.

While Chris Streveler provides some insurance, one has to assume that Winnipeg would likely want to avoid any quarterback controversy in 2019, especially with the CFL West Division as stacked as it is. If Nichols can stay consistent as he has throughout the majority of his career, the Bombers have a great shot at securing first place in the CFL West Division.
The Last Word
I’m sure this will go over like a lead balloon but the 2019 off-season has set up what could be the most competitive West Division we’ve ever seen. Whether that means the first and second place teams finishing with 13-5 records or a three-way tie for first at 11-7. Either way, it’s almost unpredictable. Every team listed has the potential to finish first but not every team will clear these obstacles and that means there will be West Division teams falling well short of their pre-season expectations.

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Saskatchewan Roughriders Training Camp Battles

After a very long off-season that consisted of everything from a wild free agency period, a tutorial in provincial labour laws thanks to the CBA negotiations and everything in between, football season is almost here. Saskatchewan Roughriders training camp battles will be the consuming the headlines in the weeks to come, below is a primer of who will be competing at what positions before week one. Under the watch of new head coach Craig Dickenson, there will be plenty of positions up for grabs.
Back-up Quarterback
Last season around this time, it was a battle for the starting quarterback position that was dominating headlines. Zach Collaros and Brandon Bridge duked it out for the starting spot. Collaros ended up winning out but Bridge saw plenty of time in Collaros’ absence, including the West Semi-Final.

That brings us to 2019, after striking out on Bo Levi Mitchell, Mike Reilly and Trevor Harris, the Riders brought back veteran pivot, Collaros. But it didn’t stop there, Saskatchewan brought aboard journeyman quarterback Cody Fajardo to compete with David Watford. Many fans will remember Watford getting his reps during Chris Jones’ infamous quarterback carousel in Collaros’ absence.

Fajardo brings with him three years of CFL experience but just 414 yards passing to show for it. His rushing stats are what stand out, however, with 437 yards and 13 touchdowns to show for his work.
Wide Receiver
The receiver position has overgone an overhaul over the last number of seasons. Back in 2017, Duron Carter, Bakari Grant and Naaman Roosevelt led the way. All three eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards that season. The up and coming Caleb Holley also put up 600 yards of his own. Now, two years later, just Roosevelt remains.

In the CFL’s off-season depth chart series, second-year player Shaq Evans appears to have the boundary receiver position held-down. However, opposite of him there’s a battle of Nationals at the field receiver position between Cory Watson and Mitch Picton. Watson was added this past free agency to provide a veteran presence on what is otherwise a young receiving corps.

Watson appeared in 18 games last season for the BC Lions, hauling in 38 catches for 408 yards and three touchdowns. Picton, on the other hand, has been biding his time on the Riders practice roster over the last two seasons. With Collaros firmly supplanted as the team’s starting pivot, both receivers should have equal opportunity to build rapport and prove their worth over camp and pre-season.
Offensive Line
The Riders have an interesting mix of young and old on the offensive line, which may come as a benefit. Left tackle is presumed to be anchored by Takoby Cofield, though Terran Vaughn started the first seven games of the 2018 season. At left guard, Brendon LaBatte will enter as the starter. However, it certainly helps that the Riders signed Dakoda Shepley who can step in if needed. Injuries hit the Riders offensive line in waves last season. Dan Clark will hold down the center position.

The most intriguing battle in the trenches may come at right guard. 33-year-old Philip Blake and former 11th overall pick in 2017 Dariusz Bladek appear to be vying for the starting spot. Both are nationals. At right tackle, Thaddeus Coleman will likely hold his spot as he did in 2018.
Cornerback
Again, citing the CFL’s off-season depth chart, it appears Crezdon Butler will be moving outside after spending a few seasons at defensive halfback. The emergence of Nick Marshall last season at least ensures one of the two cornerback spots are solidified. However, Murray McCormick of the Regina Leader-Post reported May 20th that slotback Kyran Moore was going up against Butler in various drills. Assuming Ed Gainey and Loucheiz Purifoy hold onto their spots, Butler with his experience would be a good fit opposite of Marshall.
Middle Linebacker
Finally, at middle linebacker, an interesting battle is taking place. Let’s pretend for a second that Solomon Elimimian is pencilled in at the weak-side linebacker spot and Derrick Moncrieff is on the strong side. That leaves Cameron Judge and Sam Hurl to compete for the middle linebacker position. Hurl has the experience of having been in the league since 2012 and has also been a major contributor on special teams. Judge, on the other hand, is a former second-overall selection from the 2017 draft. He burst on to the scene last season with 41 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. Both Hurl and Judge are nationals. This may be the most interesting battle at Saskatchewan Roughriders training camp.
The Last Word
Needless to say, there are plenty of more battles that are going to take place at the Saskatchewan Roughriders training camp. Players mentioned above may be surprise cuts or perhaps traded. Others may emerge as dark horses that many did not see coming, such as Marshall last season. No matter how you look at it, competition brings out the best in others and the Riders have plenty to offer in 2019’s training camp. Rider fans will hope it all translates to on-field play come kick-off June 13th against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

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