Quarterback health, the challenge of repeating, a second-year team trying to gain respectability, some scheduling quirks and the uncertain status of a high-profile player are just some of the storylines heading into the CFL season:
Quarterbacking Question Marks - The most important position on the field remains a relative unknown for a few teams heading into 2015. Ricky Ray will start the season on the six-game injured list for the Toronto Argonauts as he continues to recover from off-season surgery on his throwing shoulder. The B.C. Lions are hoping to have Travis Lulay back under centre after two injury-plagued seasons, but no one really knows how his shoulder will hold up until he takes a few hits. Meanwhile in Saskatchewan, Roughriders quarterback Darian Durant missed the end of last season with an elbow injury, but is back after undergoing surgery.
Let's Do It Again - The Calgary Stampeders won the 102nd Grey Cup last November, but can they do it again in 2015? Only two teams have repeated since the Edmonton Eskimos won five straight titles from 1978 to 1982 _ the 1996-97 Toronto Argonauts and the 2009-10 Montreal Alouettes. Life is tough at the top when everyone is gunning for you. It will be interesting to see how the Stampeders respond and if they can go back-to-back when the 103rd Grey Cup is played on Nov. 29 in Winnipeg.
Redblacks Reboot - The Ottawa Redblacks head into their second season coming off a dismal 2-16 campaign. The club is still led by 40-year-old quarterback Henry Burris and upgraded the receiver position in the off-season with the additions of Maurice Price, Ernest Jackson, Greg Ellingson, Brad Sinopoli and Chris Williams. But the Redblacks' success will come down to Burris, who needs to rebound after a sub-par campaign where he began to show his age. Ottawa scored just 278 points last season, an average of 15.4 points per game. Ottawa sold out every home date in 2014 and fans are starved for a winner. No football team in the nation's capital has posted a record above .500 since the Rough Riders finished 11-5 back in 1978.
Pan Am Nomads - Southern Ontario will host the Pan Am Games this summer, meaning the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats won't play in their own digs until August. The Argonauts open the season as the home team in their matchup against the Edmonton Eskimos this Saturday, but that one is being played in Fort McMurray, Alta. The Tiger-Cats have not lost at home since moving into Tim Hortons Field last September, and will put that unbeaten mark to the test on Aug. 3 against Toronto. The Argonauts don't play their first home game at Rogers Centre until Aug. 8 against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Tedford's Tempo - The B.C. Lions hired former California Golden Bears head coach Jeff Tedford after a disappointing 2014. Tedford wants his team to play at a high tempo and it will be interesting to see how his philosophies mix with the Canadian game. Tedford played and coached in the CFL, but has been away from three-down football since the early 1990s. He has brought in veteran co-ordinator George Cortez in hopes of kick-starting an offence that spent long stretches of last season stuck in neutral.
Sam's Status - Michael Sam made headlines when he signed with the Montreal Alouettes prior to training camp. The defensive lineman was the first openly gay player ever drafted in the NFL, but he couldn't catch on there and instead looked north to continue his career. Sam's status remains unclear after he left the Alouettes earlier this month for what the team described as "personal reasons.'' If he returns, his first season in professional football will be one to watch.
(Canadian Press/Dan Ralph)