|Graphic: Taylor Currie|
Since this is Power Ranking season for all the CFL pundits, here is the second annual ‘Out of the Tunnel -- March Power Feelings’ (we changed it to "feelings" because one can’t question another’s feelings...full disclosure: we "borrowed" this premise).
A year ago at this time our "feelings" weren't bad. Here’s how we felt about things in March of 2018:
This year, we will try to be a little more open on what we base our feelings on. Other than our trusty dart board, we consider the coaching staff, quarterback, who is returning, who the team has signed, and strength of Canadians.
They are the champs and have their future hall of fame quarterback returning to the fold. The importance of having Bo Levi Mitchell coming back to guide the offence and be the locker room leader can’t be denied.
The loss of defensive coordinator Devone Claybrooks is a big hit to Dave Dickenson’s coaching staff but replacing him with long-time assistant and former linebackers coach Brett Monson should mean the defence won't miss a beat.
Their strength of Canadians dropped with the league’s top linebacker, Alex Singleton testing the NFL waters and Lemar Durant signing with the Lions. Bringing in defensive back Courtney Stephen does help.
Calgary never takes the deep dive in free agency. They love re-signing their own and building from within. This is what general manager John Hufnagel does, sticking with the process and winning titles.
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The Tiger-Cats took a big step in 2018 but ran out of gas near the end. Last season was the Coming Out party of Jeremiah Masoli. With Trevor Harris now in Edmonton, Ricky Ray’s career coming to an end and Montreal is…well Montreal, Masoli is the top pivot in the East.
Acquiring Canadian defensive end Jamaal Westerman in the Johnny Manziel deal along with defensive tackle Ted Laurent gives them a pair of solid starting Canadians on the defensive line. The rotation there is deep as well. Throw in solid Canadians on the offensive line and at Z receiver and the Ti-Cats are set.
The coaching staff has changed things up a bit but there is still a lot of familiarity with Orlando Steinhauer taking over the reins from June Jones who still remains on the team as the offensive coordinator and assistant head coach.
Not much change on the Blue Bombers as they will have Matt Nichols returning to lead at quarterback and Mike O’Shea and staff back on the coaching staff.
Matthias Goossen retiring and losing Sukh Chungh and Taylor Loffler in free agency was a huge hit to their Canadians. General Manager Kyle Walters didn’t dive into free agency to refill the cupboard either.
It feels like they are going the Stampeders route on sticking to the process they have in place and not really deviating from that. Let’s see if that is successful for a team and a city that desperately wants/needs a championship.
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This is our biggest leap of faith. The Lions are now well into the first year of the post-Wally Buono era and general manager Ed Hervey went all-out to build his coaching staff and roster via free agency.
Of the teams that made a splash in free agency, the Leos dove in the deep end, head first. Mike Reilly was the prize pick-up of the free agency season. Add the signing of Chungh, Aaron Grymes, Duron Carter, Lemar Durant, John White and Terrell Davis along with re-signing Bryan Burnham, Hunter Steward and Joel Figueroa and this roster is shaping up to be a strong one.
The coaching staff will be led by first-time head coach Devone Claybrooks but he will have a slew of experience to help guide him through the first season hiccups.
After going through the roster in last week’s column, this defence is still one of the best in the CFL. The line will be solid with the signing of Micah Johnson and the whole starting secondary will return.
Offensively will be the biggest question mark for first-time head coach Craig Dickenson. If Zach Collaros can come close to returning to form and there is just a little improvement, this will be a very good year for the Green and White.
There still needs to be some improvement on their Canadian depth, but signing Dakoda Shepley and picking up some solid draft picks will alleviate this situation.
Much like the Lions, the Eskimos tried to rebuild their roster via free agency. They lost Mike Reilly but picked up a younger (albeit only slightly younger) version in Trevor Harris but with Duke Williams and Bryant Mitchell off to the NFL and Derel Walker now in Toronto, the receiving corps took a massive hit.
They did try to fill those gaps with Greg Ellingson and DaVaris Daniels via free agency, but it will be interesting to see how things unfold in Edmonton on the offensive side of the ball.
Defensively losing one of the surprises of the 2018 season, defensive end Jake Ceresna, to the NFL will sting.
Jason Maas still has a lot to prove as a head coach but if he can get it all together, the Eskimos can make their way back into the playoffs in a very strong West Division.
Woof. No team took a bigger hit in free agency than the defending East Divison champion Ottawa Redblacks.
Trevor Harris, Greg Ellingson, William Powell, and Sir Vincent Rogers are all gone from the offence. Jonathan Jennings will battle Dominique Davis for the starting role in Ottawa.
They still have a strong group of Canadians and it’s hard to argue with the job that head coach Rick Campbell and general manager Marcel Desjardins have done but the losses on offence may be too hard to overcome.
General Manager Jim Popp is rebuilding a team that won the Grey Cup a little over 14-months ago. Gone is Marc Trestman and in is 2013 Grey Cup winning head coach Corey Chamblin.
They signed Derel Walker in free agency and with S.J. Green and Armanti Edwards, either James Franklin or McLeod Bethel-Thompson will have some weapons to work with.
They are in a pretty good spot with their Canadians but with so much change everywhere else and how deep the hole was, it will be a tough climb in the early stages of 2019.
It wasn’t even year-one for general manager Khavis Reed and head coach Mike Sherman in 2018. It was year zero.
It feels like it was nothing gained, and nothing earned. Trading a king’s ransom for Johnny Manziel and then having Manziel proving everyone right and bombing out of the CFL means that there is still a long way to go for this team.
It will be another long season in 2019 for the Alouettes.