The CFL season is well underway and is off to an entertaining start. While most of the games have not been close in terms of the score, there have been highlight reel plays, magnificent performances, promising events, unsuccessful experiments, and humiliation of streakers.
Below are the studs and duds of the first four weeks of the 2018 CFL season.
Hamilton’s 2-2 record does not do Masoli’s performances justice. Masoli is second in the league with 1,378 passing yards and has picked up another 137 with his feet. The six-year veteran is establishing himself as one of the elite in the game and is shedding his scrambler tag. Before the season started the question was when will June Jones pull Masoli for Johnny Manziel; now it is where will Manziel be traded because Masoli has given Jones zero reason to make a change at quarterback anytime soon.
Leading the league in rushing yards, Powell is now involved in the best back in the league talk. Powell is averaging 118 yards on the ground through three contests making Ottawa’s offence even more dynamic. If Ottawa is going to make any noise come playoff time, Powell is going to be at the forefront of their offensive attack.
The departure of Brandon Zylstra and Adarius Bowman left a big void in the Eskimos’ aerial attack, but without much surprise, Williams has stepped up and then some. Duke is in the top five in catches, yards, touchdowns, yards after catch, and average yards per catch. Every category you look at, Williams is near the top. Williams’ league-best 433 receiving yards are almost 100 yards better than Brandon Banks’ who is second with 360.
Thursday night football
The CFL and TSN have heavily promoted their new-and-improved Thursday night football experience. So far it has not been flawless, but overall a success. Ratings are slightly up (although it’s still the least-watched night for CFL football), the concert series has been solid – although corny at times – and the games have been entertaining.
Canadian running backs
Andrew Harris is still his old self for the Blue Bombers and Jerome Messam is somewhat involved in the Riders’ offence. But new emergers/Ti-Cats Mercer Timmis and Sean Thomas Erlington have really put an emphasis on the crop of National backs. Kienan LaFrance has also seen carries for Winnipeg, rounding out the list of Nationals.
Calgary Stampeders (and amazing catches)
Despite undergoing a decently-sized turnover in the off-season, Calgary sits at 3-0 after the first month of the CFL season. If their record is not convincing enough, the Stamps are averaging 31 points per game and are allowing 11.67. As years past, the Stamps do not have any glaring weaknesses throughout the roster. Three different Stampeders’ receivers have also made stupendous catches in each of their games: Juwan Brescasin in Week 1, Eric Rogers in Week 2, and DaVaris Daniels in Week 3.
In four games this season, Hughes has 9 tackles, 5 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, and 1 touchdown. Now in his 11th season, Hughes is dawning different colours for the first time in his professional career. After one month of action, it is clear that the elite pass-rusher has still got it.
Winnipeg’s quarterback play
Raw rookie Chris Streveler filled in nicely for the injured Matt Nichols for the first three weeks of the season. Nichols, who returned to the lineup last Saturday, put Winnipeg’s offence on another level, one that is near unstoppable. Winnipeg has two excellent options at quarterback now, although Nichols is clearly their guy.
Saskatchewan’s quarterback situation
The Roughriders made a big splash in the off-season by signing Zach Collaros. Fast forward to today and Collaros is currently on a stint on the six-game injured list, and the Riders’ starting quarterback is literally a revolving door. Neither Brandon Birdge or David Watford have thrown for more than 115 yards in their last two outings. Lastly, this dud would not be complete without this now-deleted tweet from the Riders’ Twitter account.
Wally Buono has announced his future retirement after this season, it is a make-or-break year for Jonathon Jennings, Ed Hervey signed multiple big-name free agents – but its still been a miserable start to the CFL season for B.C. The Lions have been on the wrong side of blowouts for consecutive weeks and there is now a question in Jennings’ ability behind centre. It is early, but the Lions need to step it up before falling immensely behind in the West.
Deployment of Duron Carter
Due to an inexplicable lack of depth at defensive back, Duron Carter is playing cornerback with limited offensive reps. Carter had just four catches for 45 yards in the Riders’ first four games. Instead of lining up at a position where he is arguably the best in the league at, Chris Jones has Carter at cornerback. The move makes even less sense when you factor in Saskatchewan’s offensive and quarterbacking struggle. Carter has not played great on defence either, getting roasted for two long touchdowns on go-routes by his man during his three defensive starts.
Two weeks ago the CFL suspended Ottawa Redblacks linebacker Kyries Hebert for a blatant headshot on Calgary’s DaVaris Daniels. Hebert has a reputation of being a dirty player over his long CFL tenure and after possibly his worst hit yet in Week 3 on Daniels, the league suspended Hebert for one game. This raises the question: what is it going to take to get suspended for more than one game for something done on the field?
Multiple veteran receivers
B.C.’s Emmanuel Arceneaux and Bryan Burnham, Toronto’s S.J. Green, and Winnipeg’s Adarius Bowman have all had miserable starts to the 2018 CFL season. In three games, Arceneaux has 9 catches for 118 yards, Burnham has 10 catches for 102 yards, and both have failed to score a touchdown. Green has only 10 catches for 105 yards and has also failed to score. Bowman is the worst of the group with just 8 grabs for 70 yards in one more game than the rest.
The Toronto Argonauts secondary
The reigning Grey Cup champions rebuilt their secondary in 2018, and it has been a disaster after one month. Safety Jermaine Gabriel is the only starter from last year’s Grey Cup that is still starting in Toronto’s secondary (since Cassius Vaughn is playing strong-side linebacker). Rookie Alden Darby and CFL veterans Ronnie Yell, Abdul Kanneh, and TJ Heath were all brought in, and all have struggled. Heath and Yell, the two corners, have put together horrific outings specifically.
A streaking fan
Perhaps the most viral story in the CFL took place in Week 1 when a streaker stormed the field at B.C. Place. Fans who run on the field should expect to be detained by security, but this fan felt the wrath of Lions’ defender Marcell Young.
After a month of action, attendance is down league-wide in comparison to last year. Stadiums on average are filling up 73.59% according to CFLdb, which is 4.35% less than last year’s average capacity. Six of the nine teams are currently averaging less than 80% capacity. The reasoning behind this can go many different routes, although there is no definitive answer to why attendance is not excelling but rather dropping so far in the 2018 CFL season.
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