What I Learned CFL Week 2: How Low Can The Bombers Go?

Another week has come and gone in the Canadian Football League with more “Only in the CFL” moments, some great plays and some not-so-great ones too. Here’s my view from week two:

Ottawa REDBLACKS 28 at Montreal Alouettes 13:
(2-0)                                        (0-2)

Very early on in this game another two major injuries one where a player needed to be stretchered off. Is it just me or does this seem like the norm for the CFL over the past couple of seasons? Just speculating but with starters, essentially, only getting a quarter or a half of pre-season football before being expected to put it all on the line in the regular season are they prepared to play? OR are they at risk not getting better acclimatized to “game speed.” Would a possible solution be to have every team play a third pre-season game (I know impossible with 9 teams) but play four games in neutral sites (Victoria, Saskatoon, Grande Prairie, London ON, Quebec City, Moncton, St. John’s, etc.) to build the brand and split the revenue.

To the game itself and Ottawa has not lost a step without Henry Burris at Quarterback. Trevor Harris looks as good if not better guiding the REDBLACKS offence. I wonder if Burris could be on the move before the end of the season. (Hello Winnipeg!)

The Montreal Alouettes seem to be void of identity. There seems to be a lot of individuals on the team. That being said I thought both the offensive and defensive lines performed admirable.

The difference in this game was simply that the REDBLACKS made more plays that the Als.

 

Toronto Argonauts 30 at Saskatchewan Roughriders 17:
(1-1)                                        (0-1)

The experts will agree that any given football game will come down to a handful of plays. This one may have come down to one very early in the first quarter. After an early score by Toronto the Riders moved the ball only to have the drive stopped on a 3rd and short by Toronto. That big play by the Argos was magnified by their ability to march the field and score two plays later.

That being said the Argos looked like a team that had played a game to knock off the off-season rust. Ricky Ray looked much sharper and his offensive line did a nice job protecting him. Defensively the Boatmen really schemed well and seemed to anticipate the Rider offence remarkably well for not having any film on them.

Saskatchewan, meanwhile, did look better as the game went on. Of concern, though, was the defence’s inability to create/cause/force a turnover which plagued the 2013 team. Offensively, the group was a half-a-step out of synch which cost them in the score zone.

 

British Columbia 28 at Hamilton 3:
(2-0)                                (1-1)

The first obvious observation with the B.C. Lions is how they seem to have regained their swagger from seasons past with Wally Buono back on the sidelines. The team appears to be much more confident in their abilities and the task at hand. With that being said I am not entirely sold on Jonathon Jennings as the Lions starter. Yes he is 2-and-oh, but I’m much more impressed with the Lions defense and their ability to stop high caliber offences.

Meanwhile, in Steel Town I know there is a lot of let’s wait until Zach Collaros is back before we pass judgement but something is off. The defence seems to be clicking but the lack of a rushing game and balance in the offence is of concern.

 

Winnipeg 22 at Calgary 36:
(0-2)                     (1-1)

Arguably this one was the best game of the week and you could feel the importance for both teams. Calgary looking to rebound and the Bombers looking to get on track, heck the game was so important to Bombers’ coach Mike O’Shea that he was using smelling salts on the sidelines prior to kick-off for a second straight game.

First and foremost if Calgary can offensively continue to run the ball they are going to be very tough to contend with all season. Last week when they got throw happy in B.C. they became predictable. Continue to mix it up will be key for the Stamps. Bo-Levi hasn’t hit his stride yet but it’s coming. Defensively the Stamps are solid. Not making the big play yet but they are right there.

Winnipeg on the other hand, yikes! A CFL personnel guru once told me that it’s tough to build a team around other teams cast-offs. He was referring to free-agents that other teams let walk away or other team’s cuts. While there are some quality players (and people) on the Bombers roster look at the number of players that they have scouted, drafted and developed. It is not a long list! I understand that the time is now (thanks in part to a 25-year-Grey-Cup drought) but it may be time for a Saskatchewan style re-build in the Peg to hope for long term success. The O-line seemed porus, Drew Willy didn’t seem to be on the same page as his receivers, the running game was non-existent and the defense appeard slow. There is a lot of work to be done in the Manitoba capital and it’s anyone’s guess as to where to start. AND it won’t get any easier with a trip to Hamilton against an embarrassed Ti-Cat team in week 3.

 

Game Ball:

Ottawa receiver/returner Chris Williams was spectacular against Montreal. He had 7 catches for 187 yards and a touchdown. I’ll be honest it was hard to root for him after he bolted from Hamilton while under contract to the Ti-Cats to take a shot at the NFL. That being said he opened up a lot of things for the REDBLACKS offence with his speed and his pattern running.

The Goat:

In perhaps one of the oddest things I have ever seen in the CFL Montreal’s Duron Carter after absorbing a wicked head shot and scoring a touchdown makes contact with Ottawa Head Coach Rick Campbell. To be honest I think the contact may not have totally been all Carter’s fault but he should have never put himself into that situation. The league will very likely come down hard on him, which they should. But of more concern was taking himself out of the game with his receiving corps already shorthanded with the season ending injury to S.J. Green.