Takeaways from the first weeks of the CFL
By Eric Wilkins, Sports Editor
Few professional leagues in the world are quite as unpredictable as the CFL. Teams’ fortunes can change in the blink of an eye due to the dynamic nature of the most exciting brand of American football. Grey Cup finalists can become cellar dwellers in less time than it took Chris Brazzell to bail on a throw over the middle. The first five weeks of the season have managed to live up to the usual random standards.
Anytime an organization loses a sure-fire Hall of Famer like Anthony Calvillo, there are bound to be some struggles, but the immediate tumble down the ladder that the Montreal Alouettes have suffered still comes as some surprise. As of this writing, the Alouettes are sitting at 1-4, are tied for last spot in the league with Hamilton, and are riding a three-game losing skid. Troy Smith, a former Heisman Trophy winner, has been anything but competent at the controls of the league’s worst offence, which is averaging a measly 292 yards per game with only 142.4 of those coming from their pivots. To make matters worse, the defence hasn’t fared much better, allowing a monstrous 382.3 yards per game.
If it’s any consolation to the Alouettes, they’re not the only eastern squad who’re suffering. The combined record of the East Division is 5-16, led by the 2-4 Argos and the only offensive player of note beyond Manitoba, Ricky Ray. Winnipeg by itself has as many wins as all the eastern teams combined. No beast in the East this year.
Hamilton’s gamble in swapping Henry Burris for Zach Collaros has started about as poorly as it could have, as the young quarterback is currently on the six-game injured list after taking a blow from Odell Willis on July 4 (a hit Willis was fined for). The combination of Dan LeFevour and Jeremiah Masoli has done little to inspire confidence in the team. Burris, now a member of the most ridiculously named professional football team, isn’t faring much better for Ottawa and one can’t help but wonder if the Ti-Cats would have done better to stick with the known commodity.
Back out West, the Roughriders have done their best to mirror their Grey Cup opponent as they currently sit at the bottom of the West Division with a 3-2 record. As usual, the headlines centre around quarterbacks and there is no shortage of stories. Bo Levi Mitchell for the Stampeders continues to (as with all Calgary pivots) be massively overrated. When a distinction such as tying Jeff Garcia’s record for most consecutive wins to start a career is brought up over and over again, it’s clear that the commentators have a bit of a love affair going on. To further the point, Garcia was unaware he even held such a record, let alone that somebody had tied the mark. As the experts of the league go on proclaiming Mitchell as the saviour of the world, it should be noted that so far this season, the former backup to Drew Tate has started five games, completed 87 out of 144 passes, and made eight touchdowns and one interception.
A quarterback who is worthy of some recognition though is Winnipeg signal caller Drew Willy. The QB is second in the league in terms of passing yards and is the main reason why the league-leading Blue Bombers find themselves in the position that they’re in. It’s not Swaggerville yet, but the way this league works, it might not be long.