With the news that the CFL will be back on the field to start games come August 5th, football storylines can return to the minds of fans. There are some stories that should be at the front of the minds of fans, and we have compiled one for each team as we head towards the start of camps on July 10th.
B.C. Lions – Nathan Rourke and His Promising Potential
The hype is real for Canadian quarterback, Nathan Rourke. The Lions drafted Rourke in the second round of the 2020 CFL Draft with the hope that he can someday become the next great Canadian QB in the CFL. Previously, it has been thought that some other Canadians could become good quarterbacks, but as it stands right now, Rourke looks like the most obvious answer to the age-old question of who is next.
Rourke has all of the tools needed to be a great quarterback in the CFL, including a good arm and legs that can pick up yardage when needed. He has his best season in the NCAA in his senior year with the Ohio Bobcats in 2019 throwing for 2820 yards on 61% passing with 20 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Rourke was equally impressive with his legs in his senior year, rushing for 867 yards and 13 touchdowns.
With Mike Reilly in the way, it’s entirely unlikely that we will see Rourke win the starting job for the foreseeable future, but there is a solid chance that he could come out of camp as the Lions’ second option. His competition includes Will Arndt, Shea Patterson of Michigan, and D’Angelo Fulford who played NCAA division three with the Mount Union Purple Raiders. Arndt does have some CFL experience with the Ottawa Redblacks in 2019 where he completed 62% of his passes for 940 yards with three touchdowns while throwing six interceptions.
Calgary Stampeders – Who Stakes Their Claim To the Receivers Spots?
The Calgary Stampeders have been an absolute powerhouse for years in the CFL finding a way to restock the cabinets quickly when good talent departs, but they head into training camp with possibly their biggest task yet. After losing three exceptionally talented football players at the receiver spot over the past two offseason, the Stamps are hoping they have the players to replace them.
After losing Reggie Begelton to the NFL’s Green Bay Packers and both Eric Rogers and Juwan Brescacin to the Toronto Argonauts, the Stamps need to look to the next man up. Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell is no stranger to making those around him better, but this is a test unlike any other for him and the offence as a whole.
There are some names that will be familiar to many CFL fans that the Stampeders will rely on this season. Some of those include Kamar Jorden, Markeith Ambles, Josh Huff, and Hergy Mayala. There are some pieces, but at the moment, none of them are looked at as superstars in the CFL.
By the end of camp, we should have a solid idea of who the Stampeders think could be the one or two who take the next step and become stars. One thing is clear about this Calgary team however, they will likely have to rely much more on their defence than before if they want to win the Grey Cup.
Edmonton Elks – Do the Stars Align?
Over the past three off-season’s, the Edmonton Elks have purged some of the best players from other teams and brought them to Edmonton to wear the green and gold. This past offseason was no different despite Derek Dennis deciding t0 back out of his contract and take a step away from football, at least for the time being. But after a disappointing 2019 where things never went Edmonton’s way, do the stars align this time around?
Some of the most notable names that have been picked up over the past couple of years include Jonathan Rose, Trevor Harris, Greg Ellingson, Shawn Lemon, Kevin Brown, Sir Vincent Rodgers, and James Wilder Jr. You might also notice that there were a fair few former members of the Ottawa Redblacks mentioned there, and that isn’t for not. New Head Coach of the franchise will be Jaime Elizondo, former offensive coordinator of the Redblacks.
Elizondo has his detractors, especially with his heavy reliance on the swing pass and what seemed like a desire to go backwards on second and long in his time with the Redblacks, but the team was rather successful with him on the sidelines. Now with him in the head coaching role, it will be interesting to see if he sinks or swims.
The stars, in this case, the star players, need to align for the Elks to have a shot at another Grey Cup, something that would certainly take the sting away from fans still reeling from a name change. The pieces are there, now it’s just a question of bringing it all together.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats – Evans Vs. Masoli
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have easily the biggest storyline in the entire CFL heading into training camp with both Jeremiah Masoli and Dane Evans being capable of leading them on another Grey Cup hunt. There’s an old saying that says “if you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have a quarterback,” but they defiantly didn’t meet these Tiger-Cats.
This competition is going to be interesting for so many reasons, none more important than the consequences for getting it wrong. With a shortened 14-game schedule for the 2021 season, two or three losses at the begging of the season could put you behind the eight-ball to start. This will only be complicated with the absence of pre-season games this season, leaving it entirely up to training camp to decide who wins the job.
If you like drama, this is the battle for you. Every single throw these men make will be documented and Tweeted by every analyst and CFL media member known to man and their performances will be picked apart to find the answer to the offence.
As for who has the upper hand right now, no one knows. Neither have played football in over a year and a half and for Masoli, nearly two full years. With Masoli coming off a major injury, who knows where his health will be. This should be fun.
Montreal Alouettes – Offensive Growth Is Key
The Montreal Alouettes had a stellar 2019 season that not too many would have seen coming and it was mostly thanks to their offence finding the secret sauce for the first time since Anthony Calvillo called it quits. On the defensive side of the football, Montreal always seems to be rather strong and there should be no other expectation for them this season. The success of the Als this season will come down to their offence being even better than in 2019.
Offensively, there are difference makers all over the field for the Alouettes with none more important than Vernon Adams Jr. The 28-year old started his CFL career slowly before finding himself in 2019 becoming one of the CFL’s breakout stars. There are still people who doubt Adams Jr., but not many people have more control over the Alouettes this season than him.
Other than the quarterback spot, the Als are star-studded on the offensive side of the ball. At receiver, names like B.J. Cunningham, Eugene Lewis, Naaman Roosevelt, and Jake Wieneke provide Adams Jr. with big-play ability. They have weapons to throw the ball to all over the field. They don’t stop there, however.
The running back position for the Alouettes isn’t deep, but William Stanback could be considered one of the best in the league when he is on his game. The blueprint is there for Montreal to take the fight to the Tiger-Cats (and to a lesser extent the Argonauts and Redblacks) and contend for the number one spot in the East.
Ottawa Redblacks – Running Back Carousel
After a dismal 2019 season, the Redblacks have made moves to fill the holes on their roster, but one position remains mostly untouched, the running back spot. The team’s primary back role was split between John Crockett and Mosis Madu in 2019, neither of whom will be with the team in 2021.
For the time being, it looks like the Redblacks will turn to Orleans native, Brendan Gillanders who has been with the team since 2016 and was previously with the Toronto Argonauts for two seasons. In his career, Gillanders only has 57 carries for 275 yards. While he is a veteran in a sense, he would come in completely new to a starting running back position in the CFL.
Outside of Gillander, the Redblacks have a couple of other options including Timothy Flanders who Paul LaPolice has said will play receiver mostly, but he could be used as the running back in a pinch if needed. Akeem Hunt was signed by the Redblacks in 2020. Hunt spent some time with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2017 and has 228 career rushing yards in the NFL.
Additionally, the Redblacks have the 5-foot-1 Detrez Newsome and Kenny Young III on the roster. They are still mostly unknown to fans and the CFL, Where the Redblacks want to go with the running back position is one of the few question marks left but it could be vital to a LaPolice-run offence.
Saskatchewan Roughriders – Do Big Losses Hurt?
In the 2021 offseason, the Roughriders lost some big names that have been making an impact in the CFL for years. If you happen to be a fan of the Ottawa Redblacks, you might be asking where you have seen this before. Letting star players leave in free agency isn’t always a recipe for success, but the Riders will be hoping they can buck this trend.
The two main losses are Charleston Hughes and Cameron Judge who have moved on and joined the Toronto Argonauts. There has been plenty of talk about how Hughes has dropped off with age, but he is still a very effective pass rusher, something you seriously need to be successful in the CFL. The Riders took another blow when Chad Geter, someone who would have likely seen much more playing time with Hughes gone stepped away from football and announced his retirement. Another blow was taken when Brendon LaBatte decided not to return to the team.
On a more positive note for the Riders, they have done a decent job to bring in some new names including both Justin and Jordan Herdman-Reed, and Larry Dean. The losses are undoubtedly going to hurt and there will be growing pains for the Riders early in the season, but you have to wonder if that will end up hurting them long-term.
Toronto Argonauts – Do Big Names Get Cut?
The Toronto Argonauts unveiled a new logo in the offseason, announcing that they would be returning to the boat logo full time! That’s clearly the most interesting thing going into camp. Alright, on a serious note, the Argos went big in free agency scooping up everyone and their mother who could even be considered a star at one point or another. Signings came fast and furious, but you have to wonder how much of the salary cap was used and if there could be some cuts before the end of camp that could shake up the team drastically.
Above is the projected depth chart for the Argos both offensively and defensively, and as you can see, it is unbelievable. Stars absolutely all over the field. Offensively, they should have the ability to go a long way and compete with the upper echelon of offences like the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and defensively, they should be able to go toe to toe with anyone especially with that front seven.
It seems completely unrealistic to expect no surprise cuts to be made out of the Argos camp. Something has to give you would assume. Maybe they have to sacrifice some depth to make things work or maybe a couple of big names get cut. Who knows, that’s what makes this so interesting. There is also a possibility that Pinball Clemons is a wizard and made everyone fit under the cap.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers – Backup Quarterback Hunt
In 2019, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers saw Matt Nichols, Chris Streveler, and Zach Collaros take the field for them at one point or another. In the case of an injury, they always had someone to turn to that could win them some football games in 2019, but after Streveler went to the Arizona Cardinals of the NFL and Nichols walked in free agency, the Bombers are now left with little to no depth at the most important position in football.
It is clear that Collaros will be the Bombers starting quarterback when the season kicks off on August 5, but what is not clear is who will back him up or how confident Winnipeg will be if Collaros were to miss time at some point. The favourite for the spot is Sean McGuire who has a whopping three pass attempts in the CFL to his name. Still, McGuire is the Bombers’ most veteran option considering the two other quarterbacks on their roster have no CFL experience at all.
On paper, the Blue Bombers are in trouble if Collaros goes down at any point. Much like when Streveler stepped in as an unknown, Winnipeg needs one of McGuire, Dru Brown, or Dalton Sneed to step up and be capable of winning at least a couple of games when called upon.