Three Downs, CFL Week 1

Welcome to Three Downs, the Last Word on Sports roundup of what’s to come in CFL Week 1. This week, we’ll look at the Game of the Week, the Player to Watch, and as the Countdown to Kickoff topic, the coaching changes in Calgary.

Three Downs, CFL Week 1

Game of the Week: Hamilton at Toronto

The 2016 CFL season kicks into high gear in the same place where the Grey Cup will be handed out this year, BMO Field in Toronto. Normally, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats travelling down the QEW to face the Argonauts is all the storyline fans need. However, this game has so many interwoven storylines, it could give “Game of Thrones” a run for its money.

  • Chad Owens returns to Toronto for the first time in enemy colours. How will he be received and how will be react?
  • Justin Hickman and Bryan Hall also switched sides and joined the Double Blue. How will they do against the Ticats’ Kent Austin-run offence?
  • How will Jeremiah Masoli perform as the starting quarterback for the Ticats, while Zach Collaros is healing and waiting to get his starting job back?
  • How will 36-year-old Argos quarterback Ricky Ray fare after coming off an injury plagued season and having a pure rookie backing him up?
  • Finally, BMO Field itself. How will the surface hold up to a full-speed football game? What will the atmosphere be like compared to games at Rogers Centre? Is this going to be the rebirth of the Argos and make them relevant again to the Toronto sports fan?

Even the casual fan will take notice of this game. Expect a tight contest that will go back and forth till the finish – and the Argos squeaking out a victory in the final minutes.

 – Greg McCulloch

Player to Watch: Duron Carter

For Duron Carter, the time to shine is now. Carter has only played in 52 games since his senior year in high school in 2008. This is Carter’s second stint with the Montreal Alouettes, after spending a year on the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts roster and practice roster. He still has a shot to play in the NFL, given his pedigree as the son of former NFL hall of fame receiver, Cris Carter.

Carter’s CFL debut came on August 24th, 2013 against the B.C. Lions. A CFL all-star in 2014, Carter amassed 2005 yards and 14 touchdowns in just 29 games (including two playoff games). That makes for healthy averages of 70 yards and .48 touchdowns per game. Carter has matured as a pro over the years with experience. He has come back to the CFL more humble, but equally hungry.

He will look to improve on his already impressive numbers and play a minimum of 18 games in 2016 should he stay healthy and productive. The latter is almost a given. For you fantasy football players, Carter is great value this early CFL season.

 – Kelly Bale

Countdown to Kickoff: Calgary’s Coaching Changes

In the past decade, Calgary has had only one head coach change, where other organizations in the CFL have had up to five. Even the offensive, defensive and special teams coaching has remained relatively untouched for the past couple of years. 2016 marks a new era for coaching in Calgary. Will the changes make a difference to the level of consistency that Stampeder fans have enjoyed since 2008?

Moments after the 2015 season ended, John Hufnagel announced his retirement as head coach (though he remains general manager). He leaves his legacy to former offensive coordinator, Dave Dickenson. With Dickenson moving up, Ryan Dinwiddie (from the Alouettes) takes over as offensive coach. Surprisingly, defensive coordinator Rich Stubler left the Stamps at the end of the 2015 season for the Toronto Argonauts. With Stubler gone, veteran Stampeder players and coaches Devonne Claybrooks and Corey Mace will move up to offensive coordinator and offensive line coach respectively.

With the changes, should Calgary be concerned? Not yet. Hufnagel still has his eye on the team and can provide advice to the new coaches. And Dickenson has been at Huf’s side for four years. The main change will be on the defensive side, but having Claybrooks and Mace in place will provide stability and consistency. And it’s not all about coaching, anyway. If the players lack the talent needed, it doesn’t matter what coach is in place. Montreal changed their head coach five times in the Calvillo and Cahoon era, but still produced every year with their talent.

If Calgary doesn’t maintain the standards that fans have come to expect over the years, the onus should fall on the players and injuries, because the core of the coaching staff remains – only the titles have changed.

 – Gina Schiltz