Nine thoughts on nine teams as the unofficial start to the CFL season kicked off.
B.C. Lions: It seems like B.C. is going about their business quietly. Alex Bazzie, who plays with lots of energy and a boisterous attitude, nondescriptly leads the three-down league in sacks with nine. And the Marshall product has been disruptive against the run. After an impressive Ontario sweep, the Lions sit at 7-3 and five of their final eight games are at home.
Edmonton Eskimos: Edmonton was outclassed in all phases against their Alberta rivals on Labour Day. There was one opportunity for Edmonton to get within one score, but Mike Reilly was picked off in the end zone by Jamar Wall as the Eskimos’ quarterback took a hit. Reilly can shoulder a lot of the load, but he needs some help.
Calgary Stampeders: The big horses up front are making a strong case for best offensive line in the CFL. Bo Levi Mitchell has been sacked a league-low 10 times and Calgary possesses the best run game too. Spencer Wilson’s versatility (pictured below) and Derek Dennis’ reliability at left tackle are two key factors in a group with depth.
Saskatchewan Roughriders: Rider fans were hot and bothered after a pass interference call on Justin Cox negated his own interception and cost Saskatchewan a victory.
By the letter of the rule, Cox was making contact with Weston Dressler beyond five yards from the line of scrimmage. According to CFL.ca’s recap video, the play never even happened because it wasn’t included. Green and white followers have a right to be upset, but the emphasis placed on calling pass interference and illegal contact combined with the ability to challenge those calls means that penalties like these are going to decide winners late in games.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers: That large investment ($170,000 range) in Justin Medlock is paying off for the Bombers. Money Medlock hit six field goals in Montreal and then seven more at a hostile Mosaic Stadium on Labour Day weekend, including a winning three-pointer in the dying seconds.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats: Four games back off an ACL injury – that happened less than one year ago – Zach Collaros has proved why Hamilton paid him $1.5 million on a fresh three-year contract. The 28-year-old has 1,510 yards and 14 touchdowns in four games. Extrapolate those numbers over 18 regular season games: 6,795 passing yards and 63 touchdowns. Those are figures that have never been reached by a CFL quarterback.
Toronto Argonauts: Toronto came out strong, but eventually it seemed like playing on short rest caught up with them and took the wind out of their sails as the game wore on. The Argos made impact plays in all three phases to jump out to a 27-7 advantage, but that energy was not sustained with the double blue playing five days after suffering a last-second loss to B.C. The schedule maker is doing no favours for the Argos who return home to play Hamilton at BMO Field on the opening Sunday in the NFL.
Ottawa Redblacks: Ernest Jackson is as tough as they come at receiver. He’s sometimes forgotten by pundits, but the 29-year-old has already set a career high for touchdowns in a single season with six. Jackson’s reached the end zone in five straight games and he scored Ottawa’s lone major in a grind-it-out victory against Montreal.
Montreal Alouettes: Montreal has inserted Rakeem Cato as the starting quarterback after Kevin Glenn threw six interceptions in consecutive losses.
As expected, QB Rakeem Cato's practicing with #AlsMTL starters. Receiver Corbin Louks released. OT Jeff Perrett just addressed offence.
— Herb Zurkowsky (@HerbZurkowsky1) September 5, 2016
Not all of those mistakes can be put on the veteran pivot, as he’s been bothered by lots of defenders – the Alouettes have allowed a CFL-worst 29 sacks. The offensive line needs to improve no matter who is behind centre.