Nine thoughts on nine teams across the Canadian Football League as training camps get underway.
Montreal Alouettes: Ever since Anthony Calvillo retired after the 2013 season, Montreal has been trying to find the next franchise quarterback. Kevin Glenn was acquired at the 2015 CFL trade deadline for a fifth round pick. He’s a reliable pivot who can provide steady play at QB, but Glenn turns 37 on June 12. With that in mind, the Alouettes traded a 2017 first-round CFL draft pick to B.C. for neg list and star Oregon QB Vernon Adams. All eyes will be on the 23-year-old to see how he develops and learns the nuances of the CFL game. Luckily with a proven veteran in Glenn on the roster, Montreal won’t have to rush Adams into action.
Ottawa Redblacks: Ottawa’s defensive line will have a vastly different look than who started in the 103rd Grey Cup. Ends Shawn Lemon and Justin Capicciotti are gone to Saskatchewan and tackle Keith Shologan went to Winnipeg. That leaves Moton Hpkins as the only remaining starter from the CFL title game. The Redblacks extended Zack Evans in the off-season and he will likely start at the other interior spot. After that, Ottawa needs players to emerge at the end positions while Aston Whiteside recovers from a knee injury.
Trading red for Double Blue
— Toronto Argonauts (@TorontoArgos) May 28, 2016
Toronto Argonauts: Life without Chad Owens begins – the No. 2 jersey will be worn by a linebacker in 2016. Toronto saw Vidal Hazelton, Tori Gurley, Kevin Elliott and Diontae Spencer emerge last season, which made it easier to let the Flyin’ Hawaiian leave. The Argos are high on that quartet of receivers and possibly most excited about seeing what Spencer can do in his sophomore season. The five-foot-eight, 163-pound playmaker has explosive receiving and return capabilities. Oozing similar potential as a young Owens.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats: Everyone in Steeltown is focused on Zach Collaros’ knee and when the franchise pivot will be ready to return to game action – quarterback is the most important position for any CFL team. That said, Hamilton needs to find a replacement at the hardest spot to play on defence: strong side linebacker. Erik Harris played SAM backer very well and it’s why the New Orleans Saints took notice and inked him to a deal. Finding a capable, consistent starter at that position is likely a top priority for defensive coordinator Orlondo Steinauer.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Many shiny new pieces were brought to the ‘Peg and provided optimism in a football market that’s been starving for a consistent, winning team. A productive training camp and pre-season will be vital for Winnipeg to ensure they’re ready to go out of the gate. That’s because the Bombers play Calgary and Edmonton twice each in the first six weeks. Mike O’Shea needs to ensure his team meshes together for the opening of the season.
Saskatchewan Roughriders: Many people know that Chris Jones and his coaching staff can engineer a turnaround season, look no further than Edmonton going from 4-14 to 12-6 in his first year as the bench boss for the Eskimos. And in order to get a similar kind of improvement in Riderville, the defensive guru needs to vastly improve the league’s worst defence from a year ago, especially against the pass. Finding and developing a new Brandon Browner or Patrick Watkins type of player likely ranks high on Jones’ to-do list.
Calgary Stampeders: Eric Rogers and his 87 catches for a CFL-best 1,448 yards are gone to the San Francisco 49ers. Jeff Fuller’s 47 receptions landed him a contract with Seattle. Both those departures means there will be lots of footballs available to be caught by others in Cowtown. Expect Bo Levi Mitchell to help some more star pass catchers emerge. The foundations for those relationships between a quarterback and his receivers are largely laid during training camp.
Edmonton Eskimos: With Kendial Lawrence gone to Saskatchewan, Edmonton needs to find a capable return man. No. 32 was dynamic and could handle kick, punt and missed field goal returns. He often set up the Eskimos offence in favourable field position. Two names jump out in terms of who could earn return duties: Joe McKnight and Jacoby Ford.
BC Lions: Replacing Andrew Harris’ production could be vital in B.C. with a young, promising quarterback in Jonathon Jennings likely the No. 1 quarterback entering his sophomore season. The Canadian running back excelled in three important areas: running the ball, catching the ball and pass protection. And above all else he kept himself on the field, Harris missed only six games during his tenure as the Lions feature back. Even though B.C. is making the position largely an American spot, replacing Harris will not be easy.