2018 CFL Season Preview

Hey Dudes, here is the 2018 CFL season preview.

CFL WEST:

BC LIONS

Lions GM Ed Hervey has added a few pieces and kept a few familiar faces to attempt to revamp the defense, especially the front seven. The biggest of these transactions was the resigning of LB Soloman Elimimian. Hitting double digits in tackles six times during the season. His 150 tackles is the second-highest total in CFL history slightly behind his 2014 mark of 151. Along with the re-signing of Elimimian, the Lions made a move on the trade wire. The lions would end up acquiring pass-rusher Odell Willis in a three-way trade with Ottawa and Edmonton. Willis has come off a solid season with the Esks, where he had 8 sacks and a single forced fumble. He will surely help the Leo’s west division-worst defense that gave up 501 points.

On offense, the Lions looked to improve at O-line, signing three big men on the first day of CFL free agency. The biggest transaction is the mauler, Joel Figueroa. The big man is a fantastic addition to a Lions offense that struggled scoring on the run. Of course, Wally Buono will return for his last year as head coach, leaving open for the possibility of one last run at the Grey Cup.

Calgary Stampeders

Calgary’s youth movement has stirred up some of the off-season’s biggest headlines, with a number of veterans over 30 leaving the team either via trade, retirement or release. The Stampeders, as a result, will look much different than the team that has lost back to back Grey Cup Championships.

In the past, John Hufnagel has often taken a hands-off approach in the early days of free agency. He has decidedly passed on big stars and gaudy contracts and relying on international scouting instead. That sentiment could change following the departures of Charleston Hughes (trade), Josh Bell (retirement) and Marquay McDaniel (released). Meaning the Stamps have freed up some cap space going into Feb. 13.

On the other hand, Calgary’s organizational depth and ability to mine young talent leaves the team with very few holes to fill. For instance, Ja’Gared Davis, James Vaughters and Cordarro Law form a strong pass-rushing trio even in Hughes’ absence, while Canadian sophomore Tunde Adeleke should be ready to step in and start at safety in Bell’s place. International DB Patrick Levels can also step in and help the secondary with the departure of Shaquille Richardson and possibly Tommie Campbell.

Edmonton Eskimos

The one question on offence comes at left tackle, where Joel Figueroa was one of the better tackles in the CFL last year, protecting Reilly’s blindside while paving the way for the league’s second-ranked rushing attack. While Figueroa’s return is likely a priority for the Eskimos, the 28-year-old out of Miami would be one of the top offensive linemen to hit the market.

Defensively, the Eskimos could answer a lot of questions by extending the contract of Aaron Grymes. Grymes is considered an elite halfback at the field side, and his departure would leave a gaping hole on Mike Benevides’ defence. The Eskimos also stand to lose WILL linebacker and Canadian Adam Konar.

Konar could be replaced by Korey Jones, who recently signed an extension, as the Eskimos reap the reward of breakout Canadian star Kwaku Boateng at defensive end. They also have linebacker Corey Greenwood, who missed all of 2017 with a season-ending injury. The Eskimos’ D-line is getting younger following the departures of Odell Willis (BC), Marcus Howard (released) and Phillip Hunt (also released).

Having JC Sherritt back at middle linebacker brings some continuity for the Esks, while Canadian starters Boateng, Arjen Colquhoun and Neil King benefit the ratio. Expect the Eskimos to fill Kenny Ladler’s old spot at SAM linebacker through competition at training camp, with speculation that Chris Edwards might be the man for the job

Saskatchewan Roughriders

It’s been a busy off-season already for the Riders, but you just know Chris Jones is ready to test out his squad in 2018.

Weeks after bringing back Canadian quarterback Brandon Bridge, Jones made one of the off-season’s biggest splashes by trading for Ticats quarterback Zach Collaros, who’s slated to start for the Riders in 2018. Then, after locking down his top offensive and defensive players in Duron Carter and Willie Jefferson, Jones acquired Charleston Hughes from the rival Stamps (via the Ticats).

Still, the Riders’ work is far from over. The departure of Kacy Rodgers opens up at hole at boundary corner, a significant void on the Riders’ defence opposite the veteran Jovon Johnson. Staying with the defence, the potential departure of pending free agents Eddie Steele and Ese Mrabure could also lead to problems. Both players have a Canadian passport and were a steady inside presence on the Riders’ D-line, generating pressure on the team’s three-man rush.

 

CFL EAST:

Winnipeg Blue Bombers

On offence the Bombers could start Patrick Neufeld at guard, allowing Travis Bond to leave via free agency and the O-line to start three Canadians up front — a positive ratio change for Mike O’Shea’s club. Finally, bringing back Dressler and signing Adarius Bowman gives quarterback Matt Nichols an experienced group of receivers.

The biggest need for the Bombers might be at middle linebacker. And they might be in luck, with some big names becoming available via the open market, including Larry Dean, Bear Woods and Taylor Reed.

While Drake Nevis and 2017 first overall pick Faith Ekakitie are back at defensive tackle, losing pending free agent Jake Thomas could open up a hole in the middle of the D-line.

Perhaps Walters’ biggest moves have come before the start of free agency, with the additions of Bowman and Gaitor, but there could be more to come from the Blue and Gold. Either way, the Bombers are in a good position going into Feb. 13.

Hamilton Tiger Cats

The Ticats found a winning formula over the second half of 2017. Now, after bringing back key cogs like Jeremiah Masoli, Luke Tasker and Brandon Banks, they’re looking to carry forward the momentum of a 6-4 run to end the season.

The last-minute return of Tasker, who set a franchise record for receptions in 2017 in a career season, ensures stability for June Jones’ club. Meanwhile, the team has settled its quarterback situation, with Zach Collaros shipped off to Regina and Vernon Adams Jr. acquired to be a backup.

Masoli is the man in the Hammer now, while the Ticats’ offence looks to be static going into 2018. The question in free agency surrounds the Ticats’ defence, which stands to lose a couple of pieces in Ted Laurent and Larry Dean. This lack of movement means that the Ti-Cats may look to be near the bottom once again.

Toronto Argos

It’s been an eventful off-season for the defending Grey Cup Champions, from a public contract dispute with star running back James Wilder Jr. and an exciting new quarterback duo to a revamped secondary.

With Wilder re-signing in Toronto on Saturday, Argos general manager Jim Popp has had a productive off-season as he puts the finishing touches on the team he led to an unlikely and unforgettable championship in his first season at the helm of the Boatmen. 

For Popp, it’s been a little busier on the defensive side of the ball. The return of star Canadian defensive tackle Cleyon Laing means the Argos’ entire starting defensive line from 2017 is back on the roster. However, questions surround Victor Butler, who, like Wilder, has expressed dismay over his contract.

For Popp and the Argos, the last couple of months have been a double-edged sword. Losing two coordinators would be a setback for a team that’s otherwise done well to build on a good start for Trestman in his first year in Toronto. Still, Argos fans will be happy to put their trust in the coach that’s won three Grey Cups in six seasons in the league, and who’s made the Eastern Final in five out of six.

Ottawa RedBlacks

One of the CFL’s top offences in 2017 will return almost entirely intact this season, already giving Marcel Desjardins and his Ottawa REDBLACKS a leg up on the rest of the competition.

Alex Mateas and Nolan MacMillan have signed extensions up front, as have playmakers Brad Sinopoli, Diontae Spencer and William Powell. Meanwhile, the REDBLACKS wasted no time bringing back Trevor Harris. Signing their quarterback to a contract extension early in the off-season.

On defence it’s a different story. Noel Thorpe was brought in as the team’s defensive coordinator. This likely prompting some change for a unit that ranked sixth in the CFL in yards allowed (384.8 yards per game).

Montreal Alouettes

While Alouette’s general manager Kavis Reed says his team will take a cautious approach to free agency, expect the Als to be among the busier teams when the market opens at noon ET on Tuesday.

The rebuilding club could use some help across the board. The Montreal CFL club looks to rebound from a three-win season, starting with the secondary. After allowing nearly 300 passing yards per game, the Als have lost Jonathon Mincy and could also be without pending free agent Brandon Stewart. Meaning there should be some new faces in 2018.

Don’t be surprised to see this franchise make an improvement on an abysmal 3 win season.

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