By: RodPedersen.com Staff
The first game is finally in the books, and it was an interesting one in Edmonton with the Eskimos downing the Saskatchewan Roughriders 35-12. Any reasonable football fan knows there is little stock to be put into the final score of a team's preseason opener. Rider boss Chris Jones and his staff have plenty to dissect before returning to the field in Saskatoon for Day 10 of training camp on Tuesday.
Yes, it’s just the pre-season, but the game meant a lot for the football careers of so many players. Some took a big step forward and some a step back. Next week we'll take a closer look at all games in Week 1 of the CFL exhibition schedule.
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The top 14 or 15 were pretty easy to figure out, but what was glaring is that the CFL is having the same problem as the NFL; there is a shortage of great quarterbacks. There is the aging, future hall of famers (Ricky Ray, Kevin Glenn), the current stars (Bo Levi Mitchell, Mike Reilly) and those looking to rebound this season (Jonathan Jennings, Zach Collaros).
This is all up for discussion, so let’s have some fun:
1. Bo Levi Mitchell – Calgary Stampeders
He is the easy number one in the CFL. His stats took a hit last season, but he helped the Stampeders to another Grey Cup berth. The Eastern Washington product has been great since he stepped on the field and still has many great years ahead. This season may be his most difficult to date. Many of his favourite targets are gone and the offensive line is going through an overhaul. It will be interesting to see how he continues to advance as he is still a few years shy of his 30s.
2. Mike Reilly – Edmonton Eskimos
An incredible leader, he's gritty, and is a linebacker in a quarterback’s body. After an injury filled 2015, Reilly has rebounded with back-to-back 5,000-yard seasons. He has also improved his TD-to-INT ratio the past few years. Two big targets are gone from the offence (Adarius Bowman, Brandon Zylstra) but he still has Derel Walker and Vidal Hazelton, so the potential of another 5,000-yard season is still within his reach.
3. Ricky Ray – Toronto Argonauts
The future CFL Hall of Famer picked up his fourth Grey Cup title in 2017 and was also named an East Division all-star for a third time. Ray will be 39-years-old in October so his best years are behind him, but the California native can still sling it. There is some pressure on him this season with the acquisition of James Franklin in the offseason.
4. Trevor Harris – Ottawa Redblacks
After a few years of backing up the legends Ricky Ray and Henry Burris, Harris looked great as an outright number one quarterback in Ottawa. Harris was on track for a 5,000-yard passing season before an injury in September knocked him out of the lineup. He has great weapons to throw to in what he hopes is a rebound season in the nation’s capital.
5. Matt Nichols – Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Another example of a quarterback that waited patiently in the wings before getting his shot. It has been nothing but constant improvement the past two seasons for Matt Nichols, while leading the Bombers to a home playoff game last season. There is a ton of pressure on the Eastern Washington product this season as Winnipeg has stacked their roster for a run at the Grey Cup
6. Jonathan Jennings – B.C. Lions
2017 is a season to forget for Jennings. He threw for just 16 touchdowns, and gave up 19 interceptions in 15 games. That included three games where he threw three or more picks. It was the direct opposite of 2016 when Jennings had over 5,000-yards passing and 35 scores. The Lions need the 2017 version of Jonathan Jennings if they have a shot at a playoff spot.
7. Zach Collaros – Saskatchewan Roughriders
Another player looking to bounce back in 2018. He didn’t have a great run in Hamilton last season and was eventually replaced by Jeremiah Masoli. A change of scenery may just be what the doctor ordered. He’s not the biggest of pivots, but he’s a great fit for the Rider offence and with the tools at his disposal, look for Collaros to climb the quarterback rankings.
8. Jeremiah Masoli – Hamilton Tiger-Cats
The man who replaced the number seven ranked quarterback in 2017 is now front and centre in the Hamilton offence. Masoli is the best running quarterback that is starting in the CFL and is smart enough to manage a game and keep mistakes to a minimum. Without Collaros battling him for the starting role, it’s all on him in Hamilton in 2018.
9. Kevin Glenn – Edmonton Eskimos
Just a few days before his 39th birthday, Kevin Glenn will be Mike Reilly’s backup in Edmonton this season. He was very good in Saskatchewan last season in a starting role, but his job in Edmonton might suit him a little better. There’s still a little left in the tank and he makes a great security blanket for Edmonton.
10. James Franklin – Toronto Argonauts
Franklin was going to be the hottest free agent in the offseason before the Edmonton Eskimos sent him to Toronto. The Argos signed him before free agency began and now have their quarterback of the future behind Ricky Ray. Franklin showed flashes of brilliance in his limited action with the Eskimos and whet the appetite of fans with what he can do on the field.
11. Brandon Bridge – Saskatchewan Roughriders
With Andrew Buckley gone, Bridge is now the lone Canadian quarterback in the CFL with any game experience. He looked solid guiding the Rider offence at times last season in his first games as a starter but still has a lot of room for improvement. If Collaros goes down, the Rider offence will still be in solid hands.
12. Travis Lulay – B.C. Lions
A season ending knee injury looked like it might be the end of the road for Travis Lulay. He was re-upped for another run in the offseason even though he wouldn’t be ready for training camp. It will be a big addition for the Lions if Lulay can fully recover and return to form.
13. Tie – Drew Willy and Matthew Shiltz – Montreal Alouettes
The Als have a pretty good team, but not at quarterback. It will be a coin flip to see who will be the starter in Montreal. If both fail, it will be in the hands of two unknowns.
The best of the rest:
15. Cody Fajardo – B.C. Lions
16. Ricky Stanzi – Calgary Stampeders
17. Alex Ross – Winnipeg Blue Bombers
18. Dominique Davis – Ottawa Redblacks
19. Danny O’Brien – Edmonton Eskimos
20. Johnny Manziel - Hamilton Tiger Cats