CFL Redraft 2007

Very cool article I read on another CFL blog. Redrafting some of the league’s big stars from years past

Canadian Football Blog

Time for our weekly CFL Redraft, this week we rewind to 2007. Remember we only take players actually drafted, so forget about looking for supplemental draft picks, territorial exemptions and undrafted free agents.

CFL Draft 2007

Pick #1: Hamilton Tiger Cats

Original Pick: Chris Bauman, WR, Regina

New Selection: Chris Van Zeyl, DL, McMaster (originally #18)

Originally drafted as a D-lineman, Van Zyl struggled for two years before gaining a CFL roster spot and then slowly became one of the league’s best Canadian tackles. He was a CFL All-Star in 2013 and twice a divisional All-Star at an American dominated position. His resume speaks for itself.

Pick #2: Edmonton Eskimos

Original Pick: Warren Kean, K, Concordia

New Selection: Chris Getzlaf, SB, Regina (originally #33)

Chris Getzlaf is the least famous of his parents two sons, but he is still a very good receiver. Chris has twice totalled over a thousand…

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Top 10 Remaining Free Agents

With the CFL’s Free Agency madness calming down, I decided to take a look at some of the remaining players on the market who could still have value to the league’s 9 teams.

*Please note these players are not ranked in any particular order 

Jonathan Hefney (’15 Stats – 46 Tackles 4 Interceptions)

I remember when Hefney was released at the end of 2012 from Winnipeg and had a disappointing 2013 in Calgary. I thought at the time that was it for the enigmatic DB when he did not emerge in 2014. He proved me and many others wrong with a strong comeback 2015 season with the REDBLACKS. Hefney snagged 4 picks and made 40+ tackles, a promising stat line that shows he still has some game left. While his age (31) may still be a concern, Hefney should have value to teams needing a veteran secondary player.

Chad Simpson (’15 Stats – 290 Rushing Yards 1 Touchdown)

Chad Simpson burst onto the scene with over a 1000 yards in only 14 games back in 2013. The following years saw inconsistency and injury bump Simpson around they league for a little bit but he still showed power when he filled in for the Eskimos last year. I don’t see him getting a starting position but he can hold down the running back position if a starter goes down. Simpson would be a solid depth signing that can keep an incumbent starter from resting on his laurels.

Brandyn Thompson (’15 Stats – 42 Tackles 3 Interceptions)

The biggest shock on this list: Thompson is 26 and had a productive 2015 season. With the REDBLACKS loaded secondary I see why Thompson was allowed to test the market but it strikes me at he should have had a suitor by now. My initial thought is that Thompson is looking south for a contract, but if nothing emerges he should be someone teams lineup for.

Jason Vega (’15 Stats – 11 Tackles 2 Sacks)

At only age 28, Vega has averaged 4.75 sacks a season over his career and had enough talent to get an NFL shot back in 2013. Last year was down year with only 2 QB take downs but its surprising he has yet to sign. With all the money most teams have spent, Vega may have to wait to get an offer. I can see him signing once injuries start to pile up on a team’s D-Line.

Tyron Brackenridge (’15 Stats – 58 Tackles 2 Interceptions 1 Sack)

The following three players are all Saskatchewan Roughriders and were all on my Best Free Agents by team post in January. The fact that all are still unsigned is unsettling as I still feel they all have a lot to give, though signing players from a 3-15 team could be seen as counterproductive. Brackenridge was touted around the league as one of the hardest hitters and a was fan favorite in SSK. With his skill set as a capable linebacker and safety, I can see T-Brack getting a shot with a team closer to training camp.

Xavier Fulton (15′ Stats – 18 Regular Season Games Played)

*Because CFL.ca does not have games played as a stat on Fulton’s page this info comes from cflstats.ca

Throughout this offseason all I have heard is that Fulton is an incredibly tough player, frequently playing through very painful injuries rather than abandon his team. Unfortunately this likely lowered his playing ability and may be why he has not been signed yet. However, I still remember his breakout 2013 season where he was one of the best tackles in the CFL. If he can be had on a one year “prove it” deal, he may be a low risk-high reward candidate.

Alex Hall (’15 Stats – 43 Tackles 7 Sacks)

Hall is a curious case: his last three CFL years have had him post 9-16-7 sacks (he missed 2014 in the NFL). While he has hit the dreaded football age of 30, I think Hall has showed he has plenty left in the tank. Posting 7 sacks in a year when teams were making a mockery of the Riders is still a feat. He may still be pushing for an NFL shot or have too high a price tag for teams looking for younger, cheaper options but I can’t imagine that if Hall wants to play no one will give him a shot.

Rennie Curran (’15 Stats – 5 tackles 5 Special Teams Tackles)

Go back to Curran’s 2013 season where he looked capable of replacing JC Sherritt in the middle of Edmonton’s defense (70 Tackles 2 Interceptions) and you can see how disruptive a player he can be. Curran got his shot down south a while later but made little impact when he returned and signed with BC. It may be that being held behind Solomon Elimimian and Adam Bighill prevented Curran from reemerging but it should be worth a team’s while to find out.

Karl McCartney (’15 Stats – 11 Special Teams Tackles)

I want to preference this section by stating how frustrating the CFL’s new stats page is, especially the lack of any box score being available for previous games. This makes researching special teams tackles much harder than it should be. That being said, it was not hard to find information on McCartney’s special teams prowess from other sources. Registering 23 Special Teams Tackles in 2014, McCartney only had 11 last year but is still just age 28 and an experienced veteran. I’m not sure if it was health or price that sent McCartney packing but he should have value to a number of teams whose return coverage suffered last year.

Joel Figueroa (’15 Stats – 6 Regular Season Starts 2 Playoff Stats)

*Because CFL.ca does not have games played as a stat on Figueroa’s page this info comes from cflstats.ca

As I have mentioned in this space previously I am not an O-Line expert though I try and learn more every year. I do, however, listen to experts and they say Figueroa has NFL level talent at the tackle position. The catch is that he can’t stay healthy with only 6 games started last year (as well as 2 in the post season). I’m unsure of whether he is holding out for an NFL shot or teams are spooked by his price tag when an injury could knock him out for an extended period of time. Either way, if he can get a shot on a team, he stands a good chance to taking a starting role.

 

 

Top CFL Free Agents – East Division

*Happy New Year! Welcome to my first post of 2016. As an editors note I started this post in early December but life typically got in the way. As such several of my original picks have been signed. I’ll make a note of which of my picks have now been taken off the Free Agent Market.*

Welcome to the East Division overview of the CFL Free Agent class of 2016. Below are the top 3 Free Agents for each team in the CFL East Division as well as 2 potential bargain pickups that could provide great value to a team who picks them up.

Toronto Argonauts

Trevor Harris: (4354 Yds-33 Tds-19 INT)

Harris was a revelation at QB for the Argonauts who looked certain to fall to the East Division basement when All-Star Ricky Ray was lost to a shoulder injury. Harris started the season red hot and forced people to take notice of his playmaking skills. Able to make all the throws a CFL QB needs to Harris was also able utilize his underrated athleticism to pick up first downs when things broke down. I felt that Harris showed he could be the prototypical CFL quarterback that all teams are looking for. I believe the Argos made a big mistake not playing Harris in the East semis and I think they are making a mistake resigning Ray and not establishing Harris as the future. Time will tell if I’m crazy but Harris is starter material and the Argos may lose him to a QB needy team.

Tristan Okpalaugo: (27 Tkl-11 Sck-3 FF) 

Okpalaugo took the league by storm last year with a staggering 12 sacks as a rookie. While he started this year at a slower paced (much to the chagrin of my fantasy team) he caught fire down the stretch and finished with 11 sacks in year 2. Okpalaugo can play multiple positions along the line and will cause havoc when he gets going. As a bonus he is a hard hitter and tends to force  fumbles when he gets home. Still a very young player with nowhere to go but up Okpalaugo will draw likely interest down south and from nearly all 9 CFL teams should he not resign with the Argos.

Chad Owens: (55 Cth- 570 Yds-2 TD)

Owens was the heart of the Argos offense for several years and it was unfortunate to see him struggle with injury throughout the season. Even when healthy his numbers dipped as he never seemed to fit what the Argos were doing with their overhauled receiving corps. That said, Owens is a leader and can provide a veteran presence on a team in need of receiver help. He showed he can still ball out when he is healthy and will still be a danger in the return game.  I would think he would like to stay in TO but it may depend on the Argos willingness to pay him like a top tier receiver or whether he will still be a feature player after three very raw players (Gurley, Hazelton, Elliot) posted better numbers in 2015.

BargainsThomas Miles and Gregory Jones. This pair of linebackers held up well in the absence of Cory Greenwood (who missed time with injury). Jones was a tackling machine and played the run well while Miles is a National that a team could develop into a solid starter at Middle Linebacker in  year or two. Both will find homes quickly if they hit the market. (*MILES HAS NOW BEEN SIGNED TO AN EXTENSION WITH TOR*)

Montreal Alouettes

John Bowman: (46 Tkl-19 Sck-2 FF)

The reigning CFL sack champion put the league (and his own team) on notice that he can still play, and play better than anyone. To have that kind if impact at  age 34  and with the mileage he has is truly remarkable. Bowman wears down O-Linemen with relentless effort and seems to wait for the perfect moment to put a clownsuit on his blocker and make a game changing play. The logical part of my brain doubta he can repeat this feat in 2016 (please don’t hurt me John) but the Als would be foolish to think Bowman couldn’t be a top tier defender for at least another year. If he hits the market Bowman might not get top dollar due to his age, but he will be terrorising QBs in 2016, count on it.

Winston Venable: (104 Tkl-5 Sck-3 FF)

A versatile piece on defense for the Als, Venable racked up tackles and made an impact in the blitz game as well. I didn’t get to watch Venable as much as I would have liked but the few times I did he seemed to always be around the ball or rallying to a tackle, teams appreciate that kind of hustle and effort. Venable could fit on any team as a starter or high level depth and should have no shortage of suitors on the open market.

Josh Bourke: (stats for an O-Line?)

I will preface this by saying that while I feel myself to be above average in terms of analyzing football players I have very little experience with properly watching Offensive Line play. That said Bourke does see to get plenty of praise from teammates and other analysts for his effort and protection. A National to boot, Bourke is a solid piece on the O-Line and will likely be retained by the Als. If he reaches the open market expect a bidding war for the behemoth protector.

Bargains- Fred Stamps and Nik Lewis. Once considered the two best receivers in the CFL both players landed in Montreal after being dumped by their previous teams. Lewis remains a clutch player on 2nd down and can pick up yards with savy moves and brute force. Stamps showed some speed and playmaking ability on deep strikes and may shine again with a strong armed QB who takes shoots downfield. Teams may shy away from both due to age and injury concerns but I see a lot of value in these two former greats.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Emmanuel Davis: (61 Tkl-5 INT-1 Sck)

Davis had flown under my radar (apparently not hard to do) until one morning when I performed my weekly review of the CFL Stats page and saw his name with 3 INTs next to it. I started watching Davis more closely and saw a cover corner that makes tackles rather than shying away from them and makes plays on the ball (12 passes defended). He has already garnered NFL interest and, should he stay, will be a coveted asset in a pass heavy league. I can only imagine that Austin wants him to stay in the Hammer.

Ted Laurent: (26 Tkl-3 Sck-1 FF)

Laurent didn’t have the explosive stats from a year ago (9 Scks in 2014) but the stats don’t tell the whole story of how disruptive he can be on the field. A beast of a man who can swallow running backs whole or out-muscle his way to the quarterback Laurent can be a centerpiece on any defensive line. A National designation makes him even more valuable and his ability to turn it up when its all on the line (4 Scks in 2 playoff games this year) is something you cant teach. Laurent stands to make good money this offseason no matter where he goes.

Justin Medlock: (42 of 47 FGs-89.4%)

Readers of my blog will know I have a special place in my heart for kickers and Medlock is high on my list. With the extra point no longer being automatic and points coming at a premium with defenses now adjusting to the new “no-contact” rules on receivers (and seemingly every QB getting injured), kicker value has risen. In my humble opinion Medlock has replaced McCallum as the best best kicker in the league and yet I don’t see him getting a big deal on the open market. Teams are all looking for a young, cheap kickers and the fact that Medlock is not a National will further complicate negotiations. That said I believe Medlock would provide a clutch kicker and a decent punter to any team that picks him up.

Bargains – Justin Hickman and Andy Fantuz. Hickman regained his form the season after he returned from the NFL with 8 Scks. Although he may be a little old for some teams Hickman can provide a solid veteran presence and is still a defensive threat that may come more cheaply than Laurent. Fantuz struggled with injuries and isn’t likely the ideal #1 receiver anymore but his playoff action showed he can still make clutch catches and act as an excellent safety valve for his QB, add that to his National status and he can be a great pickup.

Ottawa REDBLACKS

Chris Williams: (88 Cth-1214 Yds-5 Tds)

I remember when Chris Williams made his debut in the CFL back in 2011, I jokingly told my friend Mark that this guy will be big and he should pick him for his fantasy team rather than Dave Stala (whom I secretly coveted for my team). While Stala had a solid season Williams blew up the league as the hottest star in town, and 5 years later he still is. A threat to score anytime he touches the ball Williams will command one of the largest paychecks for a receiver should he hit the market. (*WILLIAMS HAS SIGNED AN EXTENSION WITH OTT*)

Justin Capicciotti: (47 Tkl-12 Sck-1 FF)

GM Marcel Desjardins deserves huge kudos for seeing the star that Capicciotti would become when he took him on from the Eskimos. With 23 Sacks  in the last 2 seasons (with only 2 in the previous 2 years) the National pass rusher is only 26 and has many more productive seasons ahead. With his value at an all time high Capicciotti may wish to test Free Agency to gauge how much he can get. If he stays with Ottawa they will have secured a big building block to get back to the Grey Cup in 2016.

Zak Evans: (17 Tkl-7 Sck-1 INT)

Evans came on strong in his 4th season as the young National blew past his previous career high in sacks with 7. Stepping out of Keith Shologan’s shadow as the most promising Canadian DL acquired in the Expansion draft (though Shologan is no slouch either) Evans is just entering his prime and will have his share of suitors on the open market. It will be interesting to see what Evans can do if he is signed and made a feature player rather than a rotational one. (*EVANS SIGNED AN EXTENSION WITH OTT*)

Bargains – Damaso Munoz and Keith Shologan. Munoz was a highly productive linebacker for the REDBLACKS and added a pass rush element in addition to run defense, only the recent glut of solid linebackers appearing across the league kept him from being listed higher on my list. As mentioned above Shologan was also an impact player with the REDBLACKS and only his age kept him beneath Evans, he will find work even if he is not resigned.

 

 

Top CFL Free Agents – West Division

*Editors note: for some reason I forgot the year and did not include the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in my preview. They are now added below.

Now that the Grey Cup has slowly faded from our minds and the long dark of the CFL offseason has begun I figured it was time for me to work on some more material. The CFL Free Agent list was released a little while ago (you can find it here http://www.cfl.ca/2015/12/07/fa16/) and it got me thinking who the top Free Agents for each team were. So for this week I am going to pick the top 3 Free Agents for each team in the West as well as 2 Bonus players who could be real bargains for prospective teams.

BC LIONS

  • Emmanuel Arceneaux (76 Rec-1151 Yds -9 Tds): The Lions top receiver had the best season of his career and showed some explosive chemistry with Jonathan Jennings down the stretch. Arceneaux is a tall and speedy receiver who wins contested catches and excels at making big plays when his team needs them the most. I don’t see him leaving the Lions but if he did he would have at least 6 teams calling for his services.
  • Andrew Harris (1039 Yds-4.7 Avg-7 Tds): Despite seeing a dip in carries and having several games of very low production Harris finished 2015 in style and fell just short of the rushing title. A true dual threat (Harris has averaged 53 catches a season over his career) Harris is one of the most dangerous play makers in the CFL and can be simply unstoppable when he gets rolling. With Jon Cornish retiring and Jerome Messam turning 30 Harris should be seen as the top National running back and should command top dollar this offseason.
  • Travis Lulay (1953 Yds-12 Tds-10 Int): Its been quite a fall from grace for Lulay, going from Most Outstanding player in 2011 to likely being replaced by a younger and more promising QB going into next year. Lulay showed flashes through his few healthy starts this year and I believe he can still be a quality starter if he lands int he right spot. That said, I can see Lulay taking the path of Kevin Glenn over the next few years as a journeyman backup (ie good enough to start and win, never seen as the long term answer).

Bargains -Rennie Curran and Cord Parks: Curran looked like the successor to JC Sherritt in Edmonton before he left for the NFL. He is a solid tackler but can be had in coverage, best part is that he is just 27. Parks finished second in INTs with 6 in 2013 but has had his production plummet since then. I still think he can be a possible starter on a lot of rosters.

Edmonton Eskimos

  • Adarius Bowman (93 Rec-1304 Yds-7 Tds): The best receiver in the CFL over the past two years Bowman is the complete package. Tall, powerful, and able to make any (difficult) catch Bowman’s only flaw is his inexcusable tendency to drop the easiest catches. That said when Bowman gets rolling he is uncoverable and being pared with Derel Walker made the Eskimos passing attack deadly. Bowman wont last long on the open market, that is if the Eskimos even let him get close to testing it.
  • JC Sherritt (71 Tkl-3 Sck-2 Int): A tackling terror, Sherritt is the backbone of a Grey Cup winning defense and has shown himself to be one of the best Linebackers in the CFL. Sherritt excels at stopping the run and making plays behind the line of scrimmage but has also become very good in coverage as well. Any team that picks him up, if he leaves, is instantly upgraded on defense.
  • Aaron Grymes (43 Tkl-4 Int-1 Sck): Grymes has always struck me as a Linebacker trapped in a Defensive Backs body with the physical way he tackles and how willing he is to help in run support. Grymes has steadily improved in coverage since his entry to the CFL three years ago and can run with just about any receiver out there. A versatile threat and just 24 Grymes is a rising star about to get paid.

Bargains – Don Oramasionwu and Otha Foster: Donny O is a rock in the middle and a National to boot. Capable of swallowing up running backs and putting heat up the middle on QBs Ormasionwu needs to stay healthy for whatever team picks him up. Foster makes my list of “solid” players. He doesn’t blow you away on the stat sheet but he gives you solid production at Linebacker and Defensive Back and every team wants more of those guys.

Calgary Stampeders

  • Eric Rogers (87 Rec-1448 Yds-10 Tds): I was intrigued when I saw Rogers at the tail end of 2014 when he lit up the last two games season, but I had no idea just how good he was going to be. Leading the CFL in receiving and receiving touchdowns (tied with Todd Gurley for that honor) and making catch after catch no matter who covered him Rogers WAS the Stamps Offense. Given that this is only his second year Rogers has a legit shot to smash all kinds of records, but his talent also means we will likely lose him to the NFL. However, If Rogers doesn’t latch on with a team down south he will start an all out bidding war when he return.
  • Junior Turner (32 Tkl-3 Sck -4 PD): A valuable run stuffer Turner also made his mark as a pass defender with 4 swatted passes this year. Capable of beating blocks and providing pressure up the middle Turner is also a National and will be a high priority for Calgary to resign, especially with Corey Mace likely going into coaching.
  • Freddie Bishop III (44 Tkl-11 Sck-1 FF): Another candidate to lose to the NFL Bishop was a force off the edge for Calgary. There were several games this year where Bishop was seemingly in the backfield before the snap to take down the QB or Running Back, that kind of disruption is priceless. At 25 Bishop has a legit shot to make a mark down south but will have a place on any team should he return.

Bargains – Anthony Parker and Jerome Messam: Parker came on strong down the stretch for the Stamps with his best statistical season. A high Canadian draft pick who just seems to be hitting his stride Parker could easily take off in the right system. Messam might seem like a strange pick for the bargain category (he came in third in rushing with 1006 Yds) but the bruising National is turning 30 and has taken a lot of hits over his career. I don’t see teams rushing to sign him to big money deals when so many young backs are popping up around the league.

Saskatchewan Roughriders

  • Ryan Smith (59 rec-991 Yds-7 Tds): Small in stature but not in spirit Smith was one of the few bright spots for the Riders this year. Coming in just 9 yards shy of a thousand despite missing multiple games in his second season Smith was a dangerous deep threat and showed he was never afraid of taking hits over the middle. While his fearless style of play lends itself to injury Smith will be south after as a top tier receiving option on several teams
  • Tyron Brackenridge (58 Tkl-2 Sck-1 Int): A down year for T-Brack as he seemed frustrated in Brian Quicks defensive scheme. Still the DB/LB hybrid is an earth shattering hitter who can time up his blitzes better than any DB I have seen. In the right system and with the right surrounding pieces Brackenridge will make plays (and noise) for whoever pick him up.
  • Alex Hall (43 Tkl-7 Sck-2 FF): Hall came in with much fanfare as the replacement to Rickey Foley across from Jon Chick in what should have been a dominant Rider Defensive line. While that didn’t work out like the Riders wanted Hall held up his end and would have had much higher numbers if Saskatchewan could have kept games closer. Hall may leave Riderville and if he does will get several offers for his services.

Bargains –Rob Bagg and Xavier Fulton: One of the easiest people to cheer for in the league Bagg (in my opinion) shines best in a complementary role and can  seem to struggle against top corners. Still, as a National receiver who can turn in some very good performances Bagg will find a home if the Riders let him walk. I cant figure out Fulton who was arguably the Riders best O-Lineman three years ago and has seemed to lose steam ever since . At the very least he is still quality depth material and you need that in the CFL.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers

  • Matt Nicholas (3245 Yds-18 Tds-17 Int): This was certainly the year that Matt Nicholas got a shot to prove himself (With two teams!) and for the most part he did well. I cant fault his stats for declining too much in Winnipeg because of how fast he went over and started but Drew Willy is still the superior option there. I’m not sure Nicholas gets another starting gig but he can certainly make a number of training camps interesting and provide a quality backup.
  • Nick Moore (76 rec-899 Yds-4 Tds): Injuries have hampered Moore throughout his time in the Peg but when healthy he has shown elite talent. This year saw him put on a nice string of games despite inconsistent QB play for much of the year. Going forward it will be interesting to see if he stays on or tries his hand at FA, he will certainly have options.
  • Demond Washington (67 Tkl-3 Int-1 Sck): Washington has developed into another of what I call “solid” football players (explained above). He makes several wow plays every year and is important to his defense for his good tackling and return ability. Going forward I can see a team taking him for an increased role in returns and depth in the Secondary.

Bargains– Lirim Hajrullahu and Cameron Marshall: Last year I was drawing comparisons to Paul McCallum when it came to Hajrullahu and his kicking ability, this year he looked like completely different. I’m not sure what messed with his game but if he can fix it then he will be a great kicker for whoever takes a flier on him. I liked Marshall when he played this year, he showed good hands catching the ball and had some good cuts. I’m not sure if he takes a lead role somewhere but he certainly could find a home as a role player or backup.

Eskimos and REDBLACKS – Grey Cup

The Grey Cup has come and gone and we are now left with the empty void that is the CFL offseason. At least we were treated to a great game between the CFL’s finest and a half decent halftime show (if you watched on TV). The game ended the way I predicted but certainly not how I predicted, but often that’s half the fun of watching any sport because nothing is guaranteed. Sports theology aside, here is the breakdown of the 103rd Grey Cup.

Edmonton vs. Ottawa

This game was fantastic In that it showed the true colors of so many key players…

  • Adarius Bowman made a horrible drop on a key play and then proceeded to dominate the rest of his matchups like the top shelf receiver he is.
  • Patrick Watkins put an exclamation point on his reputation as a lockdown corner with an interception and several pass knock downs (and very nearly a second pick).
  • The REDBLACKS defense shut down the run game but were unable to control a mobile QB for the second straight week.
  • Mike Reilly took far too many hits and several questionable shots with the football but put the team on his back when the game was on the line and came out on top.
  • Henry Burris…well. Burris played a game that encapsulated his entire career. He started hot, made a huge mistake, went through a bad funk, and then almost came back for a win. Love him or hate him  Burris can play with the best of em, but he also has a knack for giving it all back when his concentration is broken.

The biggest surprise of the evening was how well the Eskimos covered the REDBLACKS receivers throughout the evening. Early on Burris tried to pick on Aaron Grymes and for the most part it worked, then Watkins snagged his interception. After that pick the entire Edmonton secondary clamped down and made the REDBLACKS lean on William Powel.

I have to throw a note in about the kickers, wow was I off base (much like Sean Whyte). Whyte came very close to costing the Eskimos the entire game with his pair of misses while Chris Milo cemented his odd year elite status with several clutch kicks, never bet against odd year Milo.

In the end the game did come down to defense and the Quarterback play, as most (NFL and CFL) games do. The game was never out of reach for either side thanks to the solid play from both teams along the defensive front. When it finally came to the crunch Reilly pulled out every trick he had and got his team across the goal line. I’m not sure how long Reilly can play his run-n-gun style in the CFL, before he literally gets knocked out for good, but he has proven that he can certainly be the franchise QB Edmonton wanted when they handed the reins to him back in 2013.

Extra Point

  • I’m not sure I would agree with it, but I can see Reilly getting the #1 overall spot in TSN’s top 50 CFL players next year after the above mentioned game winning drive (#BoldPrediction).

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Playoff Picks – The 103rd Grey Cup

Here it is, the Grey Cup. All the hype and buildup has led to the biggest game of the year for two lucky (and deserving) teams, this year those teams are the Edmonton Eskimos and the Ottawa REDBLACKS. The past few days I have been comparing the talent between the two GC contestants, here is the summary of how they broke down…

Kicker Edmonton
Kick Returner Even
Cover Team Ottawa
Safety Edmonton
Defensive Secondary Edmonton
Linebackers Edmonton
Defensive Line Edmonton
Running Back Ottawa
Offensive Line Ottawa
Receiver Ottawa
Quarterback Even

That 5 for Edmonton, 4 for Ottawa, and 2 draws. While it promises to be a great (and hopefully close) game I have to go with Edmonton to win it all. Now lets kick back and watch it unfold!

 

 

 

Grey Cup Matchup #3 (Offense)

The home stretch is in sight! With the Grey Cup less than 24 hours away lets break down the most exciting matchup of any football game, OFFENSE!

Running Back (and Fullback)

Ottawa: William Powel and Patrick Lavoie

Edmonton: Akeem Shavers and Calvin McCarthy

Its a little shocking that neither team in the Grey Cup has a dominant running back or dedicated running game, but in the CFL you win by passing. Ottawa has had a number of their backs go down due to injury  this season but have found a way to make things work with the shifty Powel. With decent speed and power Powel has also helped Burris on passing downs with his ability to catch passes out of the backfield. There is not much depth behind Powel, however, so the REDBLACKS could be in trouble if he goes down. Lavoie is a solid blocker who can be a sneaky good pass catcher near the goal line.

Edmonton has had trouble running the ball the past few years…with a running back anyway. Whether by design or injury issues Mike Reilly has been either the leading or second leading rusher the last three years in Edmonton. With yet another injury taking down Shakir Bell the newcomer, Akeem Shavers, will step in and try to make an impact. Shavers didn’t show much as a pass catcher in his lone start but made several good runs as the game went on. McCarthy is a multipurpose back who can block, run, catch, and play Special Teams, I actually have far more confidence in him than Shavers. In the end I’m not expecting much from this position other than blocking for Reilly.

Advantage: Ottawa

Offensive Line (LT-LG-C-RG-RT)

Ottawa: SirVincent Rogers,  J’Micheal Dean, Jon Gott, Nolan MacMillan, and  Colin Kelly

Edmonton: Tony Washington, Chris Greaves, Justin Sorensen, Matthew O’Donnell, and D’Anthony Batiste.

I know a bit more about Offensive Line play than the average fan, but that’s not saying much. Still, when looking at the REDBLACK’s lineup I am impressed how quickly they became a better unit after being near the bottom in 2014. Veteran acquisition Rogers has helped establish the left side while Dean and Gott (both former Stampeders) provide a solid interior presence. MacMillan (the first  ever draft pick by the REDBLACKS) and Kelly form a young right side that has developed quickly to keep Burris upright.

The Eskimos has a line that has performed far better than expected this season. Greaves, Sorensen, and Batiste have been serviceable but not top tier options in the past. This season has seen the Esks O-Line gel and excel with Washington and O’Donnell doing bang-up jobs as well. “Greater than the sum of its parts” is an expression that I feel sums up this years Edmonton line which has been helped by Reilly’s ability to escape pressure.

Advantage: Ottawa

Receivers (Slot and Wide)

Ottawa: Chris Williams, Ernest Jackson, Brad Sinopoli, Greg Ellingson, and Maurice Price.

Edmonton: Adarius Bowman, Derel Walker, Kenny Stafford, Nate Coehoorn, and Cory Watson.

Here be fireworks! Both teams possess an embarrassment of riches at the received position and will make life incredibly hard for the opposing defenses, no matter how good they are. Ottawa is almost uncoverable when it comes to the position, every player starting has over a 1000 yards (save Maurice Price who had several very nice years in Calgary). Every week it seems to be a different player who steals the show and that has to be driving Chris Jones mad as he tries to scheme a way to slow this offense down. Williams and Ellingson provide the speed, Jackson and Sinopoli terrorize the middle, and if you ignore Price he will be in your endzone before you blink. For my part I think it will be Sinopoli who makes several big plays this week, but your guess is as good as mine.

Bowman and Walker are, in my opinion, better receivers than anyone on the REDBLACKS. Bowman would be on the level of Milt Stegall or Geroy Simon if he didn’t have drop prone hands at the worst times. That said, Bowman is miles ahead of anyone else in the matchup when his head is in it.  Walker amazed everyone with how fast he became a top receiver in the CFL, if he doesn’t disappear to the NFL I could see him becoming unstoppable. Stafford disappears for several games at a time and then reappears to score touchdowns galore (9 TDs this year). That’s where the firepower ends for the Eskimos though. I like Coehoorn and think he is a tough, underrated competitor and Watson has loads of talent but the back end of this receiving core doesn’t hold a candle to the REDBLACKS.

Advantage: Ottawa

Quarterback

Ottawa: Henry Burris

Edmonton: Mike Reilly

Arguably the most important matchup of the whole Grey Cup, Burris and Reilly are at opposite ends of their careers but both are a big reason their team got this far. Burris has had an incredible career (3rd all time passing) despite losing two years to the NFL and switching teams 5 times. He can rub people the wrong way at times but is Hall of Fame bound whether he wins tomorrow or not. At the seasons start I didn’t think Burris could make use of all the new toys the REDBLACKS picked up in the off season, boy was I wrong. At the tender age of 40 Burris was easily the best QB in the league. My one problem with Old Man Hank is that he tends to have cold streaks in the middle of games (like last week in the East Final) where he misses throws or forces them in bad situations. This season he has often recovered before his team suffered a loss but in the Grey Cup is a one and done game, any throws off the mark could be very costly.

Reilly missed a big chunk of the season with an injury before coming back to lead his team on an incredible winning streak right to the Cup. A complete football warrior, Reilly takes punishment that would incapacitate many other players and yet still delivers in the clutch. Whenever I watch Reilly play, I just have a feeling he will make something happen at any moment – and he often does. With a half decent O-Line and two superstar targets in Bowman and Walker, I have a hard time seeing Reilly crumble in the spotlight. That said, Reilly has a bad habit of forcing throws or try too hard to make plays when he feels his team is falling behind. If Ottawa can take an early lead it may lead to Reilly throwing the game, literally.

Advantage: Even

Grey Cup Matchup #2 (Defense)

The Grey Cup is tomorrow! With that said I have a lot to cover to finish the matchup between the Ottawa REDBLACKS  and the Edmonton Eskimos. Let’s continue to Defense!

Defensive Line

Ottawa: Shawn Lemon, Justin Capicciotti, Keith Shologan, Moton Hopkins, Zack Evans

Edmonton: Odell Willis, Eddie Steele, Almondo Sewell, Willie Jefferson, Marcus Howard

The meat of the matchup, both teams have scary defensive lines capable of stuffing the running and making life miserable for the opposing quarterback.

Ottawa’s DL is unique in that a lot of pressure comes up the middle rather than from the edges. Evans and Shologan have been maniacs in the center with seven sacks a piece and plenty of stops for no gain. Hopkins doesn’t put up huge numbers but is a veteran presence that helps everyone get on their correct assignment. Capicciotti has been a revelation at rush end with double digit sacks in back to back years, though he seems to have slowed down a bit as of late. Lemon has shown he wasn’t a one hit wonder in Calgary, coming back from the NFL to be an impact player.

Edmonton’s unit didn’t post as high a sack total as Ottawa’s but they were close, though more of it came from the edge rush than the middle of the line. Odell Willis has had a down year (by his standards) with 9 sacks while Sewell and Steele have been solid interior run stuffers. Jefferson has steadily improved over his two seasons and will be counted on to provide consistent pressure opposite Willis.

While Ottawa ranked higher defensively and posted more sacks than Edmonton I favour the Esks in this matchup. Edmonton beats down their opponent with a variety of player substitutions and blitzes, especially along the DL. Ottawa is good but allowed the inexperienced Jeremiah Masoli to put up big numbers on them. Mike Reilly is a much bigger threat than Masoli.

Advantage: Edmonton

Linebacker

Ottawa: David Hinds, Damaso Munoz, Antoine Pruneau

Edmonton:Dexter McCoil, JC Sherrit, Otha Foster

Injuries early in the year forced Ottawa to cycle through various players at the Linebacker position. Pruneau, one of the REDBLACKS promising defensive backs from 2014, moved down to LB while Hinds was promoted midyear when Malik Jackson went down. The most impressive of the bunch is Damaso Munoz who was a solid starter in Edmonton for several years before being let go. Munoz is strong against the run and will likely be asked to contain Akem Shavers and Reilly (when he starts to roll out of the pocket). The big question is if this group of LBs can cover the quick passes from Reilly to Bowman and Walker, an Eskimo staple.

In contrast to the REDBLACKS, the Eskimos have had an an excellent trio at Linebacker for most of the season. JC Sherritt is a former Defensive player of the year and once broke the tackle record for most in a season. While this year Sherritt’s tackles were down he continued to make plays and had a career high three forced fumbles. Dexter McCoil finished off last year by winning the Rookie of the Year and has kept playing at a high level (though, like Sherritt, his numbers are down a bit). Foster doesn’t come with any of the awards hardware of his counterparts but has shown himself to be an above average starter. Watch for this group to make life hard for Henry Burris and William Powel.

Advantage: Edmonton

Defensive Secondary (Halfbacks and Corners)

Ottawa: Abdul Kanneh, Brandon Sermons, Brandyn Thompson, Jovon Johnson

Edmonton: Aaron Grymes, Patrick Watkins, John Ojo, Marcell Young

The REDBLACKS secondary can be described aptly in two words, Ball Hawks. When it comes to interceptions Kanneh has 6, Johnson has 5, and Thompson has 3. Sermons, filling in for the injured Jerrell Gavins (who had 4 picks), doesn’t have a whole lot of statistical bragging rights  but has impressed enough to remain a starter for the GC. Johnson is enjoying a career renaissance in Ottawa after several years in Winnipeg and provides the veteran leadership to a very young group. Kanneh is the top cover-man and will likely see Adarius Bowman much of the evening. It will be interesting to see how Thompson and Sermons hold up against the underrated Kenny Stafford and Nate Coehoorn.

Edmonton, no slouch in the Ball Hawking department either, will counter with elite cover-man Patrick Watkins and the hard hitting Aaron Grymes. Both can cover top receivers and make plays on the ball (both have 3+ interceptions). John Ojo, in addition to having an awesome name, has gained a reputation for big plays with 5 picks and can hold his own on the outside. Marcell Young is the only weak point I see in this secondary, having bounced around a couple years as a backup/starter between Edmonton and Hamilton. This matchup is tough to call, but I have to take experience over young talent when it comes to the big game.

Advantage: Edmonton

Safety

Ottawa: Jermaine Robinson

Edmonton: Cauchy Muamba

Easily the weakest point in the REDBLACKS defense, no one seemed to be able to hold on to the position with over 5 different players being named the starter in addition to Robinson. With only 2 tackles to his name this season despite starting two games prior this is should be a major area of concern if Ottawa’s DB’s struggle in coverage.

Not all that much better than Ottawa, Edmonton rolls out Cauchy Muamba. Muamba has had several years experience at the position with several teams and can make plays from time to time, though he hardly qualifies as top of the line. With so many deep threats from Ottawa Muamba will have to bring his absolute best to remain a starter into next year. That said, its still no question who has the edge here.

Advantage: Edmonton

2015 Grey Cup Matchup #1 (Special Teams)

As the 2015 Grey Cup looms closer I wanted to take a closer look at the rosters of both Edmonton and Ottawa to decide who has the edge going into the biggest game of the year. This is a feature I will likely be doing for one game a week going forward as I switch to NFL after the GC. Today will be Special Teams and tomorrow will be Offense and Defense. Let’s begin!

Kicker

Ottawa: Chris Milo

Edmonton: Sean Whtye

Neither kicker began the year on their current roster due to performance issues with their previous team, now they will be called upon to make the most pressure packed kicks of the year (Irony!).

Milo has had a rollercoaster career field goal average, an 84.6% 2011 followed by a 64.7% 2012 and then a 88.5% 2013 followed by a 71.4% 2014. As this is an odd year he is therefore doing incredibly well in Ottawa with 91.2% average. Milo has elite kicker ability and a tendency to get wildly erratic, a dangerous mix for his position.

Coming into this year Whyte was on my list of the top three kickers in the CFL behind only Rene Paredes and Justin Medlock. I don’t follow the Montreal Alouettes newsreel as closely as other teams but I still can’t imagine why the Als let Whyte walk. An accurate and consistent kicker, Whyte has never diped below 80% since becoming a starter and finished this year over 92%. While I don’t believe he has the range of Milo, I trust him more with a game winning kick

Advantage: Edmonton

Kick Returner

Ottawa: Chris Williams

Edmonton: Kendial Lawrence

A very close matchup as both players are dangerous on returns and as starting offensive pieces.

Lawrence had an incredible rookie year, contributing in returns, receiving, and rushing but this year has seen his touches reduced due to the presence of other stars (Bowman, Walker, Stafford, Bell). This is not to say he has not been effective, Lawrence finished second in the league in total return yards had has a punt return TD.

Williams seems to have lost none of his supreme talent after his journey south to the NFL. Prior to his depature Williams was an unstoppable return man in the Brandon Banks mold (small frame, big speed).  Williams has primarily been a focus on the REDBLACKS offense and as such he has shared much of his special teams duties with Jamil Smith. Still I expect the REDBLACKS to give the ball as often as they can to Williams, including on returns.

Advantage: Even

Cover Team

Ottawa: Antoine Puneau, Nigel Romick, James Green

Edmonton: Deon Lacy, Mike Miller, Blair Smith

Most people won’t know any of the names I listed above, but that hasn’t stopped them from being key cogs in keeping their teams from surrendering long returns. Considering the importance of field position these two groups will likely have big roles in the Grey Cup.

I don’t know enough about the intricacies of cover team work to get into much detail so I’ll single out one thing for each side. For Edmonton Deon Lacy is a beast. I don’t use that term lightly, Lacy lead the league in Special Teams tackles last year and was one tackle short of leading this year. He got into the starting defensive rotation this year and walked away with six sacks and two forced fumbles. Lacy is a playmaker and always seems to be around the ball. In a big game like the GC I can see him making a mark on Special Teams or otherwise.

For Ottawa no single name jumps off the page, but it doesn’t have to. Ottawa has been lights out in coverage this year thanks to contributions from a variety of sources. They completely shut down Brnadon Banks (who as I mentioned is just as deadly as Chris Williams) in the Eatern Final and can consistently make teams face long fields. That kind of team effort outshines individual performances, even Lacy’s.

Advantage: Ottawa

Stampeders and Eskimos – Western Final

The Stampeders put up a fight and attempted a late comeback but were outmatched against the Eskimos in Sundays Western Final. This game proved that being healthy is often the best advantage a team can have, especially in winner-take-all playoff games. My prediction of an Edmonton vs Ottawa Grey Cup has come true and has me more excited than every for next Sunday. Before that though, here are my takeaways from the 31-45 Edmonton win…

Calgary vs Edmonton

  • As mentioned above it showed early that Calgary was hamstrung by injury on multiple fronts. Bad snaps and several miscues along the mostly raw offensive line made life difficult for Bo Levi Mitchell and Jerome Messam who struggled to gain momentum. Being without Charleston Hughes hampered the Stampeders ability to get pressure on Mike Reilly who picked apart the Calgary secondary. Said secondary was also easy to pick on as it was forced to play inexperienced Adam Berger because of (you guessed it) injuries. Coming off two weeks rest Edmonton only suffered from a poor running game as a result of injury (Shakir Bell), and when you have Mike Reilly as a QB do you really need a running back?
  • Speaking of Edmontons lack of running game, it was easy to see that Reilly was happy to utilize the quick passing game to cover for his inexperienced back Akeem Shavers. Derel Walker and Adarius Bowman feasted on Calgary’s sloppy tackling, both going over 5+ catches and 70+ yards.
  • I am happy to admit that my endless hours of watching football paid off in a big way when I correctly called the Eskimos special teams fake in the first half. When the Eskies lined up to kick all I could think of was, “Chris Jones is gonna go for this, its too close a game to play it safe.” And lo and behold they did indeed run a fake and got it! It’s gutsy calls like that which make Jones a hard coach to predict, and going into the GC that’s a big advantage for the Eskimos.
  • Other quick thoughts: I know that I gave the Calgary OL a hard time but they did seem to improve as the game went on. So why on earth did the Stamps ignore Messam inside the 5 yard line? That’s where you give your bruiser the rock…When Bo Levi gets time he is a deadly passer with a good combination of arm strength and touch. While Bo can play under pressure and on the move it doesn’t seem to be his favored style. The difference in this game was that Reilly is almost better at making things happen when he is moving than when he stands in the pocket. Both QBs were under pressure but Bo couldn’t make consistent big gains until the end when the Eskies backed off with the lead.

Extra Point

It will be interesting to see what happens to the Stampeders organisation going forward. With Hufnagel moving to the front office full time, Dave Dickenson likely becoming HC, and the Roughriders looking to snag assistant GM John Murphy we could see the end of an era in Calgary. However it would be a disservice to Hufnagel to assume everything will fall apart going forward, I trust that he has had a good plan in place for his succession for a while now. Still, you know what they say about the best laid plans…