Thursday, 28 June 2012

CFL season preview

 The 2012 CFL season is right around the corner. Here is how each team will do.

East Division                                      West Division
1) Hamilton Tiger-Cats                      1) BC Lions
2) Montreal Alouettes                        2) Calgary Stampeders
3) Winnipeg Blue Bombers                3) Edmonton Eskimos
4) Toronto Argonauts                        4) Saskatchewan RoughRiders

Eastern Division 
1) Hamilton Tiger-Cats: The Tabbies went for a complete makeover last season. After losing in the Eastern Finals, Head Coach Marcel Bellefeuille was fired. Replacing him is former Stamps Offensive Coordinator George Cortez. The makeover was not done there. QB Kevin Glenn was traded to Calgary for QB Henry Burris and they were able to sign prized receiver Andy Fantuz. With Fantuz in, the receiving corps is further bolstered with Dave Stala, speedster Chris Williams and Bakari Grant. Even the Linebacking corps got stronger. Joining Jamall Johnson, Rey Williams and Markeith Knowlton is former Argo Kevin Eiben. He is a hard hitter who does provide much needed leadership. Unfortunately for the Tabbies, the d-line will miss both Justin Hickman (NFL) and Stevie Baggs (released). The Cats will finally overtake the Als and will close out Ivor Wynne Stadium by hosting the Eastern Finals.

2) Montreal Alouettes: Lots of change on the Als. Gone are cornerstone defensive players like DE Anwar Stewart, DT Eric Wilson, S Etienne Boulay, DB Mark Estelle, LB's Diamond Ferri and Ramon Guzman. Rod Davis comes in at Linebacker and DT Aaron Hunt joins the roster. The offensive saw a significant change as Kerry Watkins retired after two injury plagued season. The core on offensive with Anthony Calvillo,Brandon Whitaker, SJ Green and Jamel Richardson are still there but does AC still have anything left as he will be approaching 40 in August?

3) Winnipeg Blue Bombers: The defending Eastern Champs have a very tough road ahead. Four of their first 18 games will be on the road and they will still be playing at Canad Inns as the new stadium will not be ready for this season. The roster is virtually the same minus a few key components. Gone are DT's Doug Brown (retirement) and Odell Willis (Saskatchewan), RB Fred Reid (released) LB Joe Lobendahn (Calgary) and OLinemen Brenden Labatte (Saskatchewan). Another blow to Winnipeg's chances is that projected starting RB Chris Garrett is done for the year with a ruptured achilles. If the Bombers hope to make it back to the Grey Cup game, QB Buck Pierce will have to avoid injury for an entire year.

4) Toronto Argonauts: After a disappointing season, the Argos made huge changes. First former Als Offensive Coordinator Scott Milanovich is the new Head Coach. Second the Argos traded injury prone QB Steven Jyles to Edmonton for All-Star QB Ricky Ray. They finally upgrade at QB after years of misery. However the defence lost many huge names. LB Kevin Eiben joined the dark side in Hamilton. Both DB's Lin-J Shell and Byron Parker went out west (BC Lions) and LB/S Wilie Pile retired. The Argos will have to heavily rely on both Ray and RB Cory Boyd if they have any chance of making the playoffs.

Western Division
1) BC Lions: The majority of their roster is the same except for a few key names on defence and coaches. Former defensive coordinator Mike Benevides becomes the new head coach as Wally Buono focuses on his GM duties. The defense took a huge hit as both Defensive Linemen Aaron Hunt left to Montreal, All Canadian Brent Johnson retired and hard hitting linebacker Solomon Elimimian went south to the Vikings. As well their secondary took a minor blow as Davis Sanchez also called it a career. Replacing him is 8 year vet Byron Parker who will provide some much needed leadership and ball-hawking abilities. The offense is still in tact with QB Travis Lulay, RB Andrew Harris and SB Geroy Simon at the focal point. The Lions are favored but there hoping not to start 0-5 for a second consecutive season.
2) Calgary Stampeders: Head Coach and GM John Hufnagel decided to go out with the old and in with the new. He released both tail back Joffrey Reynolds and Slotback Ken-Yon Rambo and traded franchise QB Henris Burris to Hamilton. In the trade with the Tabbies, he received QB Kevin Glenn but he will be backing up Drew Tate who had a superb season. Canadian Jon Cornish will be replacing Reynolds as the starting RB for the upcoming year. Apart from the acquisition of Linebacker Joe Lobendahn, the Stamps saw Defensive Linemen Devone Claybrooks retire and DB Geoff Tisdale traded back to Hamilton. Apart from Rambo being released, the Stamps still have Nik Lewis, Romby Bryant, non-imports Arjei Franklin, Johhny Forziani and Anthony Parker. So Tate will have reliable receivers to go too on the passing game.
3) Edmonton Eskimos: GM Eric Tillman made some bold moves by acquiring WR Greg Carr and Cary Koch. Carr's size is a huge advantage due to the fact that he can get the jump balls. However the boldest move Tillman made was trading franchise QB Ricky Ray to Toronto for QB Steven Jyles. This move raises eyebrows because Jyles is a capable QB but similar to Buck Pierce in Winnipeg he is injury prone and needs to stay healthy. Apart from a strong running game with Jerome Messiam, the defense will miss both Linebackers Rod Davis (Alouettes) and Mark Restelli (Free Agent) but they feel that they have the depth to succeed at the position.

4) Saskatchewan RoughRiders: First the good. After a disappointing season the Riders hired Corey Chamblin as the new Head Coach. He brings much experience on the defense as he was the defensive coordinator of Hamilton and a defensive coach in Calgary. They also strengthened the defensive line as they acquired Odell Willis from the hated Bombers. The offensive line also got a boost as Brendon Labatte and Dominic Picard were acquired. Now the bad. While the O-line got the boost, it was at the expense of two main stalwarts. Gene Makowsky and Marc Parenteau. Makowsky retired which leaves a huge gap on the leadership front while Parenteau was released. Linebacker Jerrell Freemen will be sorely missed as he dipped to join the NFL. While the receiving corps still has Chris Getzlaf, Weston Dressler and injury prone Rob Bagg, they will miss both Jason Clermont (retirement) and Andy Fantuz (Hamilton) as they both provided size in the slot. I like the signing of former NFLer Sinorice Moss at Receiver but can he adapt to the Canadian version of football?