Last week I took a look at the East division, this week we turn our attention to the West.
Adds: DB Otha Foster, OL Joel Figueroa, DL Gabe Knapton
Loses: LB Micah Awe, DL Alex Bazzie, DB Chandler Fenner, DB Ronnie Yell, DB Louchiez Purifoy
Last year the team had 2 main weaknesses: both of their lines were not very good… and in the case of their OL, that is putting it nicely. They started 5 and 2 but tanked the rest of the season. They certainly have the talent to be a better team than their record indicated but in a very tough West division I don’t think they have improved enough to make up any ground. Sure guys like Figueroa and Knapton improve their lines but both remain among the weakest in the division. Add to that the loses of 2 of their starting LBs and 3 of their DBs… with not much to show in terms of replacements. Even if Jennings and the offense return to form (no guarantee) I still see BC as the bottom team in the West heading into the season.
Adds: DB Emmanuel Davis, DL Ese Mrabure, OL Derek Dennis
Loses: DB Tommie Campbell, DB Josh Bell, LB Shaq Richardson, DL Charleston Hughes, RB Jerome Messam
You have to go back to 2012 to find the last time the Stamps lost more than 4 regular season games (and even then they lost just 6). They are consistently the team that all others measure themselves against. Their only weakness appears to be Grey Cup games where they are heavily favoured and have the lead (I’ll stop making those jokes when people stop making 13th man jokes). I still see them as the top dogs going into the season BUT I don’t think they will be nearly as dominant as they have been… primarily due to the D. Last season their defense was simply outstanding but they have lost their safety, one of the top CBs in the league and one of the top cover LBs in the league. I see a season more like 2011 where 11 wins will take first in the West and the top 3 teams will all be very close. I still them contending for first but they will look a lot more human this year than in previous years.
Adds: QB Kevin Glenn, DL Alex Bazzie, DL Jake Ceserna, WR Juron Criner
Loses: WR Adarius Bowman, DL Odell Willis, LB Kenny Laddler, WR Brandon Zylstra, DL Euclid Cummings, QB James Franklin
Many have Edmonton pegged as the top team coming into the season and with good reason. They have the best QB in the league (though we all know he will fall victim to the Kevin Glenn curse at some point) and great depth across all positions. But I’m not in the camp of those saying they will be dominant. Defensively they lost their best player in Kenny Laddler and as it is finished in the bottom half statistically last year (granted injuries played a role). On offense much is made of the depth they have at receiver with the likes of Williams, Mitchell, Hazelton and now Criner so much so that people assume the loss of Bowman and Zylstra won’t affect them. Sorry, I do believe they will still have a very good offense (especially with a full season of CJ Gable) but you can’t convince me that you can just seamlessly replace the WRs who led the league in receiving the past 2 years. There will be a drop off of some kind. I expect them to be battling the for 1st, 2nd or possibly 3rd.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Adds: WR Adarius Bowman, QB Darian Durant, DB Anthony Gaitor, DB Chandler Fenner, WR Nic Demski, DL Craig Roh
Loses: DL Jamaal Westerman, DB TJ Heath, OL Travis Bond
The Bombers had a great season last year. If they had even a remotely serviceable back-up QB they may have done even better. Well they now have that as well as another big offensive weapon in Bowman (something they also lacked last season). They have really shored up their roster well without losing much in the offseason. On paper they should be up there with the Calgary’s and Edmonton’s again. But… history is keeping me skeptical. Every year they seem to do well in free agency and every year they still come up short. Is this year really different? At this point I see them fighting with for 3rd but I truly believe that any team other than the Lions could win this division.
Adds: QB Zach Collaros, DL Zach Evans, DL Charleston Hughes, RB Jerome Messam
Loses: OL Derek Dennis, LB Henoc Muamba, DB Kacy Rogers, WR Nic Demski
The Riders had 4 loses in their first 6 games… followed by only 4 more in the remain 12. Had they started the season like they finished, it may have been a very different outcome. The Riders start 2018 with 2 things they did not have last year: stability in the secondary from day 1 and a much stronger defensive line. I will also argue that they have upgraded the QB position. I get the naysayers regarding Collaros but at worst he has to be equal to Glenn (who did alright in our O last year). They also have 2 key weaknesses they did not have last year: middle LB (lord help us if Hurl is the answer) and Left Tackle (maybe Bond can be the guy but no guarantees). Honestly the season boils down to Collaros. If he returns to 2015 form (or even remotely close) then they are contending for first. If he turns in a more Glenn-like performance then I think contending for 3rd is more likely.
As I said, other than the Lions I think any of the other West teams could win the division if they get hot. It looks to be a very closely contested battle this year.