Monday, March 26, 2018

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Assessing the West

Last week I took a look at the East division, this week we turn our attention to the West.

BC Lions
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.

Calgary Stampeders
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.

Edmonton Eskimos
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.

Saskatchewan Roughriders
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.


Anonymous said...

Pretty much spot on. I see the Alberta teams as 1-2, Riders & Wpg 3-4 & BC 5. Collaros is the wild card. I think he'll be good IF the OL gets its act together. But we have much the same starters w/o a LT right now. And MLB is a huge problem. I can see why Edmonton is so highly rated. Here's a few facts, courtesy of stats. Edmonton was far & away the best offence in the CFL. Walker 3300 yds, 38 games replaces Zylstra who replaced Walker. Production as the #1 target should be up there. Walker's & Bowman's yards can be picked up by Hazelton (top 5 until injured), Williams & Mitchell - healthy scratches after injured players came back. Not one of their 3 very good RB's played more than 6 games. On defence, they ranked 3rd in net offence allowed, 2nd in passing & low in rushing. However, No Sherritt or Greenwood all year, no Jones during the losing streak & not much of Konar. Interesting stat. When Korrey Jones got injured early in Wpg & for the next 6 games on IR, the Esks allowed 137 rushing yds/game. With him healthy in 11 games they allowed 74 rushing yds/game which would have been best in the CFL. They were down to Mulumba, who'd never played MLB for half a dozen games. Now, you wonder why I'm worried about the Rider LB's as a group. Not only Hurl but Moncrief has 6 games experience & Eguavoen not much more. The Eskimos should be a lesson there. Lastly, only 1 of their starting HB's played more than half a season yet they were 2nd vs the pass. The Eskimos are a loaded team even without Ladler. As for Calgary, I think Emmanuel Davis will be a capable replacement for Campbell & Adekele might have pushed Bell out anyway. The big question with Calgary is the running game with both Messam & the underrated Cote gone. Yes, they lost a good LB but that front 7 is still good & I don't think they'll miss Hughes. Davis, Law & Vaughters are very solid. They have a good receiving corps with Daniels, Jorden & Michel & some really good, big Cdns. Winnipeg, I think, made some good moves but I'd be more impressed if Muamba was on board. They lost Westerman, replaced Heath with Fenner but not much else. They are virtually still the same team on defence that for 2 years has given up miles of yardage & they have a couple of good DB's to go with some who just weren't good at all - completely exposed in the Western Final. Plus they have Richie Hall - not a good thing. That defence has to be better or they drop. Bowman helps big time but their game is dump to Harris (128 targets) & throw deep & less successfully than anyone in the league. Nichols completed 1/3 of his deep targets. Only Collaros was worse. The Riders - I'll say it again. Unless that OL gets better & right now we don't have the personnel to say that, we're in trouble. Plus we have to hope Messam has a year in him. Derek Taylor, despite Messam's yardage, says he declined in every category last year - 9th in catching the ball, worst yds/carry of starters. He, like McDaniel, was also one of the players who threw the team under the bus, specifically Mitchell. No surprise Hufnagel dumped him. I have more faith Hughes will be good but a great pressure defence (think Edm last year) doesn't mean we can stop the rush (think Edm last year). Injuries will play a part & I do think the top 4 are close but there is a bit of separation between 1,2 & 3,4.

Anonymous said...

If we get a few more signings like Ojo, that may change my mind on some of comments above. Still, the biggest factor is Collaros.

Rider Prophet said...

Anon 1 - You make some fair points about Edmonton though I would just add that if anyone honestly is counting on Sherritt to last the season they are fooling themselves. Great player but very injury prone. Also Eguavoen is entering his 3rd year with the Riders. He played 14 games (plus both playoff games) last season alone. At this point he's a vet and he's a stud. Like you I have next to zero faith in Messam at this point.

Anon 2 - Ojo is a huge addition. If we can get even decent play at MLB this defense could be something special.

Anonymous said...

Not so sure about Sherritt. He played 35 games in 2015 & 2016 so not thinking he's injury prone. Interestingly enough he was also voted to the CFLPA All-star team as MLB by the players in 2016 & is still only 29. But Korrey Jones also stepped up in his absence, which was a big surprise to me. Esks were 11-0 with him in the lineup. I like their lineup as they have only one player over 30 on defence & bring everyone back except Ladler, who leaves a big hole, but had to do a lot because of the injuries in their LB group. I agree with your comments on Eguavoen. I don't have concerns with him but I sure do with Hurl. Bottom line for me with the Riders is Collaros. If Zach is the Zach of old, I can see the Riders challenging for top 2 spots. Zach can only be Zach if that O-line holds up & that is my biggest concern on offence. If they succeed the running game will take care of itself & the receivers aren't an issue. To be honest, I'm not enamoured with McAdoo. I would like to have seen Jackson stay on, even promoted to OC, instead of going to BC. McAdoo's play calling, in my mind, is pretty vanilla.

Anon #1

Rider Prophet said...

I could write a book on my issues with McAdoo.