With four games on the preseason schedule Friday, players on the bubble have one last shot to crack their team’s roster.
Dozens of future CFL stars will be battling for their jobs today but with so many new prospects on every roster, it can be difficult for fans to know who they should have their eyes on.
As always, 3DownNation has done the work for you. We’ve published a list of players to watch ahead of every preseason game in 2022, giving fans — whether in-stadium or watching on TV — an easy cheat sheet to enhance their viewing experience.
Even in the preseason the Battle of the QEW has extra bite, as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats will visit the Toronto Argonauts at 7:30 p.m. PST for a special exhibition matchup in Guelph. Here are the names you need to be aware of.
Blake Hayes, P, Illinois
Hamilton drafted the 2019 Big Ten Punter of the Year to push their streaky incumbent Global Joel Whitford but Hayes’ debut was absolutely horrific, with a bad shank dragging his average down to just 27 yards. He was much better than that in college and posted a higher career net average than Whitford. The Ticats desperately need one of their punters to emerge and Friday could be Hayes’s chance at redemption.
Tony Brown, REC, Colorado
An under-the-radar name throughout camp, Brown has drawn the start in the Ticats’ preseason finale and will get a shot to prove he deserves to stick around by catching passes from Dane Evans. A lack of game-breaking speed was the downfall of his NFL career, but Brown is a sound technical receiver who should shine with the waggle.
Lawrence Woods, DB, Truman State
There won’t be many jobs up for grabs in a crowded Ticats secondary, but Lawrence Woods’ could make a case to stick around thanks to his versatility. The small-school speedster led the team with five tackles last week and also had the team’s longest punt return (14 yards) and kickoff return (31 yards). Woods had five career return touchdowns in college and earned just as fearsome a reputation covering kicks, two skills that are more valuable than gold in the CFL.
Tyler Turner, REC, Alberta
Turner would be little more than a footnote on the training camp roster if not for a rash of injuries at Canadian receiver, with projected starter Lemar Durant and backup Tyler Ternowski both on the six-game to start the year. David Ungerer and rookie Kiondre Smith are still around to flesh out that spot, but Turner must now prove he is reliable enough to be an emergency depth option in the interim.
Isiah Cage, OL, Wisconsin-Eau Claire
Fans are already familiar with Cage — he’s started 11 games for the team at left tackle — but the 28-year-old hasn’t played since August of 2019 due to injury. His healthy return will be key to the Argos’ success this season and the preseason will be the first real test of his ability. A strong outing will go a long way towards reassuring Argos fans that the team can keep McCleod Bethel-Thompson upright.
Julian McCleod, DT, Wagner
A former high school running mate of NFL star Nick Bosa, McCleod couldn’t stick with the Argos last year but flashed enough to be brought back. His active hands and quick twitch set him apart, resulting in a sack last week, but Toronto has a crowded defensive tackle group containing several big-name NFL talents. McCleod will need another impressive showing Friday to ensure his second chance isn’t his last.
A.J. Richardson, REC, Boise State
Something of a late bloomer in his college career, Richardson looks ready to truly blossom after spending parts of three seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. The five-foot-11, 200-pound downfield playmaker has reportedly shone in Argos’ camp and he led the team with 42 receiving yards last week. Richardson isn’t a burner by any stretch, but he has some quick twitch to his route running and excels at bringing down contested throws.
Deion Harris, DB, North Dakota
A bigger-bodied cornerback with a ball-hawking pedigree, Harris had nine career interceptions for the Fighting Hawks and took three to the house in his junior year alone. He lacks long speed, but his physicality and instincts when breaking on the ball could serve him well in a CFL secondary.