Insider Talk: hot seats in Saskatchewan, Hamilton’s intensity, McManis’ dominance

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Insider Talk is a bi-weekly feature on 3DownNation that includes anonymous quotes from people around the CFL — players, coaches, personnel people, executives, agents, etc. — regarding the latest news around the league. It’s a combination of insight, analysis, rumours, and friendly gossip.

This week’s Insider Talk is full of discussion regarding the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ costly loss to the Edmonton Elks, Taylor Cornelius’ contract extension, Wynton McManis’ dominant play with the Toronto Argonauts, who will represent the East Division in the Grey Cup, and a top prospect for the 2023 CFL Draft.

Enjoy this week’s quotes and come back in two weeks for another edition of Insider Talk.

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(Saskatchewan Roughriders’ head coach) Craig Dickenson and (general manager) Jeremy O’Day have to be on the hot seat after losing to Edmonton at home. It’s one thing to lose to Winnipeg on a last-second field goal or when your roster has got the flu, but Edmonton? That can’t happen while you’ve still got a chance to host a playoff game, especially at home.

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Montreal will represent the East Division in the Grey Cup. Trevor Harris is as consistent as any quarterback in that division and William Stanback will give them the running game they haven’t really had all season. That makes a big difference come playoff time, especially if the weather’s bad.

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What Hamilton did (to upset Winnipeg by 17 points) was match their intensity. Winnipeg obviously has a lot of talent but the way they win is with knowledge and effort. If you can match their intensity, you can beat them any day of the week. The other thing (Hamilton) did well was slow down (Winnipeg’s) pass rush. If you can give the quarterback time to pick it apart, their secondary is not great.

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(Toronto Argonauts’ Wynton) McManis has been the most complete and consistent linebacker in our league by a pretty good margin this year. He’s shown up in every game, especially the big ones where his team needed it. (Saskatchewan Roughriders’) Larry Dean and (Calgary Stampeders’) Cam Judge have made a lot of plays as well but when you have more highlights in blowout wins it just doesn’t hold the same weight to me.

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(Edmonton Elks’ quarterback) Tayor Cornelius has always had great raw tools, probably the best of any quarterback in this league. He’s deceptively fast, he’s big enough to absorb hits, and his arm’s really strong. Edmonton was smart to lock him up because he’s clearly putting in the work to develop and get better.

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The best way to build a team is to pay the right players. Pay the guys who will show up early and stay late and do what they’re asked without complaining. Lots of guys have talent but stop grinding after they get their first big contract. In this business, you need to figure out who those guys are and avoid building your team around them.

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I’m happy to see (rookie Canadian receiver Kiondre) Smith having so much success to start his career (with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats). He interviewed really well at the combine and has such a positive attitude. He’s the kind of player who’s nice to have in the locker room.

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(2023 CFL Draft-eligible right tackle Theo) Benedet does everything you could want in a pro o-lineman. He’s strong, he moves his feet, he can bend. I think he could even start at tackle in our league, though I suspect he’ll get an NFL shot coming out of school.

John Hodge is a CFL insider and draft analyst who has been covering the league since 2014.