Overview - Well here we go again The CFL season is about to start and that means it's preview time. Over the years I've sat down and pounded out my swammi like predictions only to reach week 6 and find most of my well intentioned notions dashed on the rocks. Last year in fact was not only more of the same but as I look back, I was more out to lunch than ever before. But hey smarter folks than I have been made to look a fool with their crystal balls going foggy for a year or more. So with that I'm back at it again with how much success we'll have to see. So enjoy it for what it will be faithful reader, one fanatic football fan trying to put his money where his mouth is in. Read, reply, roast me ,agree with me but don't ever question how much I love this great game.
Here we go
East Division (going 4th to 1st)
4. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers - Last Season's Record 4-14 finished 4th
There is no doubt that GM Joe Mack and Head Coach Paul LaPolice both in their second year are turning things around in The Peg but their rebuild is still relativly in it's infancy. Especially when you hitch all your hopes and aspirations to a hobbled horse you're likely not going to go far. With an oft injured Buck Pierce at the helm the team will spend the season walking on egg shells and playing as such. This was already evidenced in preseason with LaPolices handling of Buck's playing time. Pierce had not played in ten months and only played five games all total after an injury riddled season but still The Winnipeg braintrust felt it was better to play cautious and only afforded him a quarter and a half in two preseason games. Normally I don't question how much coaches let/make their starting qbs play in preseason and I don't particularily disagree in this instance. I just think that this is the first desicion of many that takes a conservative approach to Pierce's duties at pivot and that is of great concern. Football is the most violent sport on the planet and playing or coaching timid is not a plan for success. On an positve they feel they've upgraded their reciever talent bringing in 1st year WR Poblah Kito but Cory Watson and Terrance Edwards still need to prove a few things in my books I see their strength being their run game, they return a very veteran laden offensive line and of course the thunder to the teams lightning bolt logo; Fred Ried. I think defensively they'll compete however Kavis Reed took his schemes to Edmonton which means there's a new defensive sherrif in town Tim Burke so as with any coaching change there will likely be a small adjustment period. Ultimately however Pierce will go down and the combination of Joey Elliot and Alex Brink will not be enough to keep them bombing into the night
Projected Record 5-13 4th in the East
3. The Toronto Argonauts - Last Seasons Record 9-9 finished 3rd
I had the least amount of exposure to The Argonauts but I think they have a few things going for them. They are Foley, Flemmons and Huntley three of The Double Blues defensive line. With Foley and Flemmons leading the front four pressuring QB's relentlessy throughout the Eastern Division and the whole league it should make life much easier on other defensive anchors S Willie Pile, CB Byron Parker, and LB's Kevin Eiben and Jordan Younger . However short of Jim Barker bringing back Micheal Bishop for his 12th or 13th time it was clear that Coach Barker does not have a full boat load of confidence in Cleo Lemon when the Argos acquired Steven Jyles. However with Jyles on the shelf to start the season it leaves The Boatmen very uncertain at the premier spot on the field. However from what I did manage to watch and from what I've read and heard Lemon had better outings in the preseason games than he did in training camp and didn't throw a single interception with his limited playing time. Of all facets of The Argo franchise coaching may actually challenge their defense as the chief strength. There is just so much influence with Coach Barker. It would seem to me the man takes the time to teach not just coach which I think shows on the field. He is clearly the rudder of the franchise at this time and he more than any other coach in the league will have a direct effect of the on field product in game. The Argos are in good hands and will fight hard with The Tabbies for second place in the East but I think they will lose narrowly
Projected Record 9-9 3rd in The East
2. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats - Last Seasons Record 9-9 Finished 2nd in the East
2010 another year touted to challenge The Alouettes in The East another step sideways. In past years I've been real high on Head Coach Marcel Bellefeuille and I think so has the Ti-Cats organization but the shine is off this not so new coach and it's put up or shut up time in Steeltown. GM Bob O'biliovich has done his best to surround the coach with competent players bringing in Kevin Glenn, Arland Bruce, Marcus Thigpen and this years big catch Avon Coburne. Of all the years the league, the fans and the media have pitched a first place finish to The Tiger-Cats this might honestly be the best roster they've rolled out with opening day. But let's be real for a minute, that beat down Hamilton laid on Montreal in their second preseason has more to do with what's going on in Montreal than it has to do with what's going on in Hamilton. Any player, coach, exec or fan of the Ticats that thinks otherwise runs the risk of looking very foolish in 2011. Defensively is where the bulk of changes came during the offseason this year Otis Floyd and Geoff Tisdale have moved along but the key departure on D comes from the sidelines and defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall finally landed a head coaching postion in Saskatchewan. So a fair bit of personnel change and a new D play caller are going to give Hamilton some fits early on in the season. Normally though defences take less time to gel so hopefully The Tabbies D can find their way quickly and finally challenge for the East Div title.
Projected record 10-8 2nd in the East (again)
1. The Montreal Alouettes - Last seasons record 12-6 1st in East and back to back Grey Cup Champions
The Als will win the East again this year, there I said it now let's move onto something we don't already know. There will be a new Grey Cup champion in 2011. Don't get me wrong I like the Als team, in fact I like them a lot S.J. Green may not be Ben Cahoon but he doesn't have to be. S.J. Green all on his own is more than enough, the guy is a stud plain and simple. Adding Prechae Rodriguez on the other side is going to give defenders fits. As well Mo Bowling and Brandon London did make an impact in the preseason but we'll have to wait and see if they can do that against 1st team defences. I do question the departure of RB Avon Coburne. Mostly since I just don't see either Yves Benson or DeAndra Cobb bringing to the table what Coburne did. I know that Benson was Coburnes understudy but I'm guessing this move was facilitaed more as a finanacial deduction than a percieved drop off in performance by Coburne Defensively The Alouettes will boast strengths and hide weaknesses. I think their D-line other than Anwar Stewart is relatively unknown and there's no doubt that Anwar is in the twilight of his career. However at Linebacker they are stacked. Shea Emry has taken over from Stewart as the defences motor and leader and he will be followed very closely by Diamond Ferri. The secondary is a bit of a crap shoot but I don't for a second doubt that GM Jim Popp knows exactly who he has back there and they'll be just fine. As for coaching in only four short years Trestman has easily positioned himself as one of the best football minds in the CFL and perhaps (if he sticks around long enough) has postioned himself to be the heir apparent to Wally Buono as the football guru of The CFL. Trestman has his work cut out for him this year though and I just feel that two years of championship perssonel turnover and a threat of complacency will stall out the teams bid for a triple crown.
Projected record 11-7 1st in the East
So that's the way I see The Eastern Division. Let me know what you think good, bad or ugly?
Yours on the sidelines Darryl