Maybe in retrospect it was for the best that Saturday's preseason game wasn't televised. Certainly doesn't sound like we missed much. Durant was rusty but ended up putting together a nice drive at the end of the first half. Other than that the game was pretty much a reminder of 2 things: 1) We are in the middle of a rebuild and we didn't suddenly vault ourselves from awful to Grey Cup favourite. 2) Its preseason, the results don't really matter any more than Grade 4 test scores. So I won't swell too much on the preseason game. I'd rather jump right into to dissecting our cuts and our roster.
I'm not sure what the record for most cuts in a season is but you have to think Chris Jones has to be close to matching or eclipsing that mark. Sunday he added 20 more names to a list of cuts that would put Homer Simpson to shame. There were a few names on the cut list that surprised me. Tyree Hollins was the biggest surprise. I thought he was a really good DB. Quite frankly I raise my eyebrow at the notion that Ed Gainey beat him out but I guess I will defer to Jones on that one (he may know slightly more than me about defense). By all accounts Dillon Grondin was having a good camp. Given our lack of depth at Cdn LB I was surprised to see him go even if he was a developmental project. (***Update: Word is Grondin is injured and likely to be back on the roster once healthy). Aaron Picton was a surprise. Again, sounded like he was having a good camp and our Cdn OL depth is just slightly above non-existent. Lastly Marcus White was a mild surprise. He looked good in the first preseason game and was consistently lining up with the 1s (until Jonathan Williams started practicing).
There were a couple "big" name cuts but to me they were not surprising. One was Clarence Denmark. I have been saying for weeks that he was in tough. He was a 30 year old import who was not playing with the starters. He was not as good as Chiles or Roosevelt and Collins showed enough promise for us to opt for the higher ceiling of a young guy rather than Denmark who is reliable but has peaked. The other big name was of course Brett Smith. But this one everyone saw coming a mile away. He simply refused to do anything but make one read, panic and scramble. Over and over and over. I bet when Jones cut him he said "Given how much you like running, take this plane ticket and run to the airport. I'm not calling you a cab".
In terms of where our roster sits, overall its pretty good. Here's my assesment by position:
QB: We will be fine with Durant. Coleman I think will progress (though lord help us of he gets forced into action early). Despite my fat jokes, I actually think Sims might have potential. The fact that we currently only have 2 QBs on the active roster means that a new #3 is on a plane to Regina as we speak. Rumours are out there that we are trying to work a trade with Edmonton for Jordan Lynch or maybe even Jonathan Franklin (in a deal likely to involve Josiah St John). So stay tuned. More news to come here.
RB: One of the few position that I'm concerned with. Steele and Walter are both adequate rotation/#2 RBs but neither are bona fide starting material. I think we currently have a very mediocre running back situation (minus Kendial Lawrence). I hope the plan is to develop a young guy on the PR to eventually take over later this season.
WR: Roosevelt will be awesome. Chiles will be fine. I like what Collins showed in limited action. I love our Canadian trio of Bagg, Demski and Chambers. No concerns here.
OL: I think our starters will be strong. I really like Andrew Jones as our 6th OL. If we are forced to play anyone beyond him, lord help us. Depth is serious concern.Though at least we have some guys on the PR to develop. Plus King and Vonk on the 6 game will boost depth a bit once they are healthy.
DL: Lots to love here. We have Lemon and Cappy at DE with Newsome to rotate... and don't forget about Eric Norwood. Williams and Irvin will be strong in the middle. Kashama is a nice Canadian to have to rotate in. I'm honestly surprised that Leonard and Reaves (both new coverts to DL) made the team. I'm also surprised that Hazime is down on the PR. But again I'll assume Chris Jones knows a bit more about defense than me.
LB: I really like our linebackers. Greg Jones will be a tackling machine in the middle. Otha Foster is very underrated. We all know what Knox can do. Eguavoen looks like a talented back-up. Korey Jones will be good on special teams. Only concern here is the lack of Canadians. We have enough at other positions and Newman will likely see time at LB so its not a huge concern but a concern nonetheless.
DB: Hands up if you predicted that our starting secondary would include a converted rookie receiver, a guy was in Stampeder training camp and a rookie? I'm slowly starting to warm up to this Francis at safety thing. there will be growing pains but I think he will be good. I love Derrius Brooks. I hate Ed Gainey. He's okay but mark my words he will cost us over the course of this season more than once. I think Cox will be good on the corner (take that as you will). I think adding a vet like Brandon MacDonald is a good move. The fact is, our secondary will struggle early. it will take for them to gel. I think Jones will build a strong unit but it won't be a quick process.
Special Teams: I will eat some crow. Bartel punted really good this year and earned the punting job. I have full faith in Crapigna. I do like how we are keeping Van Gylswyk to groom him as our future kicker.
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