CFL Check-In: Season Review Through Week Four

It’s hard to believe that the young CFL season is already four weeks old. Coaches schemes are starting to set in, injuries are beginning to take their toll, superstars are rising and falling, and many of the things that should have happened have proven to be nothing more than fancy.

LWOS takes a CFL check-in to review some of the headlines up to this point in the season, and to preview the next four weeks in the CFL.

CFL Check-In: Season Review Through Week Four

What We Thought Would Happen

The Argos passing attack would light up the scoreboards:

Hopes were high this off-season in Toronto for the returning Ricky Ray and the Argo offence. The trio of Kevin Elliott, Tori Gurly, and Vidal Hazelton were all set to reach new heights after impressive rookie seasons which would help mitigate the loss of fan-favorite Chad Owens.  

Yet in the early going, the offence the Argos have put forward has been middling at best. Ray has been rusty in his return, Elliott has been placed on the six-game injury list, Gurly has been invisible, and the receiving core is sorely lacking the leadership that Owens once provided. Hazelton, the only consistent weapon the Argos have, is too often asked to carry the offence alone. All in all, this is not the start that the Boatmen were hoping for.

The Bombers would break out of their funk:

This past off-season the Blue Bombers went for broke in a bid to get better. Keith Shologan, Ryan Smith, Euclid Cummings and Andrew Harris were just a few of the big-ticket players brought in to give Mike O’Shea and Kyle Walters one last shot at success in the ‘Peg.

So far the gamble has not paid off with a 1-3 start to the season and poor returns on nearly all of their free agent signings. Drew Willy is either running for his life or leading an offence that can’t wait to turn the ball over, and the coaching staff seems powerless to do anything. Sadly, it looks like another case of the “same old Bombers” for the Winnipeg faithful in 2016.

The Riders would start slow:

Bold predictions aside, the prevailing opinion on the Saskatchewan Roughriders was that the team would not be the heavy favourites to make the post-season this year. Coming of one of the worst seasons in franchise history, while also scrapping the entire coaching staff along with over half the roster, it was expected that the Riders would start slow with a focus on building for next year.

Thus far the Riders have done exactly that, showing all the talent in the world at multiple positions (Ricky Collins Jr, A.C. Leonard, Josiah St. John) but not putting it all together when the game is on the line. The future is bright for the Riders but they haven’t surprised many people, starting the season 0-3.

What Surprised Us

BC is the best in the West:

With a 3-1 start and sole possession of first place in the West Division it’s officially safe to say the B.C. Lions are back. Following a year where the Lions disappointed on multiple levels, Wally Buono, the winningest coach in CFL history, decided to take matters into his own hands. The results speak for themselves through four weeks: first in rushing yards and touchdowns; second in total points and time of possession; and third in passing yards. Wally has his Lions team roaring and few outside of B.C. saw it coming.

Trevor Harris = MOP?

Move over Ricky Ray, Henry Burris, and yes even you, Mike Reilly, there is a new man in the “Quarterback Penthouse” and his name is Trevor Harris. With the most yards, touchdowns, second fewest interceptions, and highest efficiency rating among all quarterbacks, Harris is the clear-cut early favourite for MOP.

Despite leading the league in touchdowns a year ago few felt that Harris would elevate his game to this level in 2016. With a wealth of weapons around him and one of the best offensive lines protecting him, Harris may be set to break some records. One thing is for sure, with former MOP Henry Burris soon to return to action the Ottawa Redblacks have the best possible problem on their hands as they look to cruise towards another Grey Cup berth.

Who are the Edmonton Eskimos?

Who are the Edmonton Eskimos? Offensively, the Eskimos have fully taken advantage of new head coach Jason Maas’ expertise with fantastic numbers in passing and receiving yards. At 2-1 the Esks are also in good position in the early season standings and would seem to be primed for a deep run in the postseason.

Yet despite all this, something just feels “off” with Edmonton through four weeks. Both of the team’s wins have come against the worst teams in the league, and in both the end result was in doubt for much of the contest. The offensive stats jump out on paper but do not show the slow starts that have plagued the team in the early running. Factor in a defence that has fallen off a cliff compared to last year’s unit and it’s hard to tell just how good the defending Grey Cup champions really are.

What May Happen Going Forward

Hamilton Gets its Groove Back:

Hamilton Tiger-Cats fans knew it would be a bumpy ride starting the season without star quarterback Zach Collaros and have gotten just that in a rocky 2-2 start. Jeremiah Masoli has filled in as well as a back-up could, and the defence has slowly gotten its bearings back after thrashing the Montreal Alouettes last week.

With Collaros set to return within the next few weeks and a bye coming up for Kent Austin and Co., the Ti-Cats are primed to give Ottawa a run for its money as the top team in the East Division.

Calgary will Ride On:

With a close loss to the Lions in week one, followed by an easy victory over Winnipeg and a nail biting tie with the undefeated Redblacks, it’s hard to properly peg where the Calgary Stampeders should be slotted. That said, a John Hufnagel-and-Dave Dickenson-led team will relish the challenge to play the underdog as the Stampeders have all the tools to rack up wins in the coming weeks. With a solid defense led by the ageless Charleston Hughes and Bo-Levi Mitchell off to yet another solid start, Calgary will gladly force people to take notice with a strong push in the next quarter of the season.

The Search begins in Montreal:

It’s not looking good for Montreal with several lackluster games to start the season at a 1-2 pace. A rash of injuries (S.J. Green, Kenny StaffordTyrell Sutton) have stripped the offence of its teeth and, and while the defence remains strong, the Alouettes may quickly find themselves out of the playoff race.

With all that’s going wrong, head coach and general manager Jim Popp may opt to find his passer of the future early and give the reigns to Rakeem Cato or Vernon Adams Jr. rather than toil behind the reliable, but unspectacular Kevin Glenn. With a tough slate of games ahead don’t be surprised to see the Als utilize both young passers, along with National Brandon Bridge, in the search to find Anthony Calvillo’s successor in Montreal.

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