Archive for May, 2010

Measuring Up: Offensive Line

In football, it doesn’t matter if you have the best quarterback, a top running back, and all-star receivers if you do not have an effective offensive line. The Edmonton Eskimos were extremely fortunate to go through the entire 2009 season without sustaining a single significant injury to any of the their starters. From left to right, Joe McGrath, Kyle Koch, Aaron Fiacconi, Patrick Kabongo, and Calvin Armstrong certainly provided the Eskimos with a consistent presence protecting Ricky Ray. For the year, they were actually quite good despite the Eskimos 9-9 record. They only surrendered 29 sacks, while plowing the road for Arkee Whitlock to rush for 1,293 yards to finish third in the league in rushing despite Whitlock not playing in the first game of the season.

So how do they stack up against the other offensive lines around the league?

BC Lions

Angus Reid started 142 consecutive games at centre for the Lions prior to suffering a broken foot last October. The guy is as good as they come and will no doubt be back in his starting role in the season opener. With a healthy Reid, Dean Valli will move back to his guard position along with Sherko Haji-Rasouli. It looks like Justin Sorenson will have the inside track at the starting right tackle spot, while import Daren Heerspink, although listed on the roster as guard, will most likely cover the blind side. The Lions offensive line ranked in the middle of the CFL pack in most categories in 2009. They gave up 40 sacks last year, good for fifth in the league. BC drafted Danny Watkins in the first round of the CFL Draft, but he’s at least a year away from joining the team. For the upcoming season, the organization has brought in pretty solid looking group of prospects including former Florida Gator Carlton Meader who was part of the 2007 national championship team.

Calgary Stampeders

The retirement of Jeff Pilon and to a lesser extent, John Comiskey, leaves the offensive line of the Stampeders in a somewhat precarious position entering the 2010 season. Calgary led the league in rushing last year while giving up 35 sacks, good for third in the league. They return import CFL All-Star Ben Archibald at left tackle, as well as non-imports Rob Lazeo, Jesse Newman, and Tim O’Neill, all of whom started games in 2009. To replenish their offensive line, the Stamps have brought Dan Comiskey out of retirement and signed former Blue Bomber Matt Sheridan. Despite the additions they have made, Calgary lacks any type of depth along the offensive line and it will be interesting to see how they perform early in the 2010 season. The one positive for Calgary is that Henry Burris is one of the more mobile quarterbacks in the league and Joffrey Reynolds is arguably the league’s top running back.

Saskatchewan Roughriders

The core of the Roughriders offensive line is starting to age and may well only have a year or two left in the tank. Center Jeremy O’Day continues to play at a high level despite entering his 15th year in the league. His tenure with the Green Riders however, is surpassed by guard Gene Makowsky, who is entering his 16th year wearing Saskatchewan green. What is impressive is that in 2009, Makowsky was the Riders nominee for Most Outstanding Lineman. Non-imports Marc Parenteau and Chris Best started the majority of the season at guard for the team with Makowsky kicking out to tackle. Import Joel Bell, who started the 2009 season with the Buffalo Bills before coming north, rounds out the starting lineup at right tackle. Saskatchewan has great organizational depth with numerous players coming back from injury that could make a strong push to start. Belton Johnson was the opening day starter at left tackle in 2009 for the Riders and Wayne Smith missed the entire season recovering from an Achilles tendon injury. Newly acquired tackle Dan Goodspeed will also be in the mix for playing time. Saskatchewan’s running game struggled last year and the result was giving up 41 sacks, good for sixth in the league.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Winnipeg finished seventh in the league last year, which usually means there are a few weak spots on the team. Offensive line was not one of them. They gave up the fewest sacks in the league with only 26 being surrendered while blowing up holes for running back Fred Reid to scamper for over 1,300 yards. Import Glenn January starts at right tackle with non-import Steve Morley covering the blind side. On the inside of the line, Winnipeg’s 2009 nominee for Most Outstanding Lineman Brendon LaBatte and Luke Fritz flank veteran centre Ibrahim Khan. All are coming back healthy which should put the Blue Bombers in a good position to have a good campaign on the ground in 2010. The one concern for Winnipeg is that outside of backup Ryan Donnelly, they have very little experienced depth.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats

The emergence of DeAndra Cobb certainly played a big factor in Hamilton’s success in making the playoffs last year. The offensive line, although doing a good job in opening holes for the talented running back, struggled to keep their quarterback upright, surrendering 42 sacks in the course of the season. Marwin Hage is one of the better centres in the league and continues to be a strong presence for the Tiger-Cats. Next to him, veterans George Hudson and Peter Dyakowski were the primary guards, but will face competition in training camp from former first overall draft pick Simeon Rottier. Jason Jimenez, signed from the BC Lions, will almost certainly start at one tackle position, while Alexander Gauthier is the favourite to start on the opposite side. Based on the off-season moves made by the team’s management, Hamilton should expect an improved offensive line in 2010.

Toronto Argonauts

Like every other aspect of the Argos, the offensive line needed just a little bit of a tweaking for the 2010 season. Who are we kidding, the entire team was awful last year, but that does not mean that all of the players were bad. First, the bad news. The Argos surrendered an astonishing 55 quarterbacks sacks in 2009, more than double the amount of league leading Winnipeg. They spent their first pick, second overall, on Joe Eppele, who will compete for a starting position in training camp. As previously mentioned, not all of the linemen dressing for the Argos had terrible seasons. Guard Taylor Robertson and centre Dominic Picard had decent seasons. Veteran Rob Murphy is also a capable tackle. Regardless of the individual play of certain players, the Argos offensive line will need to be much better as a group in 2010 if the team wants to compete.

Montreal Alouettes

Bryan Chiu could be the best known lineman in the CFL. The 13 year veteran is nearing the twilight of a phenomenal career, but no one is turning off the lights in Montreal quite yet on Anthony Calvillo’s centre. Led by Chiu, the offensive line powered the Alouettes to a season where they were found at the top of most offensive categories. Flanking Chiu, veteran non-imports Scott Flory and Paul Lambert continue to be two of the best guards in the CFL. Josh Bourke and Jeff Perrett round out the line by filling the tackle spots. The Alouettes, for the most part, have an all Canadian offensive line, which allows greater roster flexibility in other positions. They have been able to maintain this by drafting well, which they continued to do in 2010 by adding Kristian Matte to their stable although Matte is for the moment with the Houston Texans in the NFL. Dylan Steenbergen, Luc Brodeur-Jourdain, and Andrew Woodruff all provide additional non-import depth with tackle Skip Seagraves is the only veteran import lineman on the roster.

Analysis

Montreal and Winnipeg probably have the best lines in the league, however the Eskimos certainly can compete with both teams. Montreal’s cohesion and depth certainly has to give them the nod as the class of the league. At the other end of the spectrum, Toronto simply did not do enough in the off-season to address what was an obvious weakness in 2009. Hamilton should be improved, while the BC Lions and Calgary Stampeders seem to be offensive lines with more questions than answers heading into training camp. When it comes to the offensive line, Edmonton certainly has one that can make a push to be one of the better ones in the league this year.

 

East vs. West

Looks like the best seat in the house.

In the CFL, when someone mentions East vs. West, one normally thinks of the two divisions in the league. This time, with the season just around the corner, and Eskimos season-tickets arriving at fans door steps, the East vs. West question has to do with Commonwealth Stadium. More specifically with where the best seats in the house can be found in the aforementioned venue. On the west side of the stadium, looking down on the Eskimos bench, or on the east side, in a good position to heckle the opposing team. Which is the best place to sit?

All for the East!

The key advantage to the east side of Commonwealth Stadium is that you get to enjoy the sunshine just a little bit longer as the late afternoon turns to dusk. This can be especially nice on a warm afternoon while you enjoy an ice-cold cola, and watch the Eskimos spank whoever wandered into Edmonton that week. Sitting on the east side also gives a fan a better chance to rain good-natured jeers and taunts down on the opposing team. True Eskimo fans of course know how to do this with class and taste, especially those found in College Corner. And finally, the east side offers the best escape route to the LRT station after the game. Taking advantage of the Eskimos Green & Go program is a no brainer, especially for those who might decide to upgrade their colas for wobbly-pops.

And now for the West!

On the other hand, sitting on the west side allows fans to stay cool and avoid squinting to watch the game as the sun sets on the fans on the opposite side. The west side is also the home side, so any true home town fan should have their bottom planted firmly behind their squad. For most of us, the west side is also probably the first side that we sat on as members of the Knothole Gang. So nostalgia certainly lends one to be part of the west side. And finally, for those who are true to their roots, associating themselves with anything starting with the word “east” is simply not possible.

So East or West? Which one do you sit on, or is it okay to straddle the fence and alternate between sides. In the end it seems, a fan just can’t go wrong by being in attendance at the greatest stadium, and with the best crowds, in the CFL.

Measuring Up: Receiving

With the most prolific passer in the league, the Eskimos will need a strong showing from their receivers in 2010 if the team wants to contend for the Grey Cup in November. They return the league’s leading receiver from 2009, but lost their number two wideout via trade. Throw in some talented non-imports as well as some imports who’s potential is still to be determined, and you have what should be a very interesting training camp.

Fred Stamps caught 85 balls in 2009, good for 1,402 yards and eight touchdowns. He cemented himself as one of the best in the CFL and a reliable target for Ricky Ray. Kamau Peterson, along with Andre Talbot and Andrew Nowacki represent a solid group of non-imports. The key to the Eskimos vertical game in 2010 will rest on a group of imports who are still new to the fans in Edmonton but offer heaps of potential. Athletic freaks Skylar Green and Rudy Burgess will be given a shot to use their speed and quickness to earn spots on the roster while Efrim Hill and Jamaica Rector will hopefully be able to take their games to a higher level from their rookie seasons in the CFL.

Let’s take a look at what the rest of the league has to offer.

BC Lions

The Lions have long relied on Geroy Simon to be, well, Geroy Simon. The 2009 season was actually a “down” year for the 12-year veteran as he was held to only 1,239 yards and six touchdowns. Expect Simon to be prepared to get back to his usual lofty numbers in 2010. His supporting cast of Paris Jackson, Emmanuel Arseneaux, O’Neil Wilson, and Derick Armstrong represents a good mix of imports and non-imports in the starting lineup. The Lions weakness in their receiving corp is a lack of depth. The Lions will be auditioning nine rookies in June including three draft picks from the 2010 CFL Draft. Some of those rookies will need to step in contribute if the Lions are to find success in 2010. Akeem Foster will an interesting rookie to watch in training camp as the former St.Francis Xavier standout was highly rated going into the 2010 Draft.

Calgary Stampeders

Jeremaine Copeland, who led the league in receiving touchdowns last year with 12 is gone to Toronto. Of course, having the likes of Ken-Yon Rambo, Nik Lewis,Romby Bryant, Brett Ralph, and Ryan Thelwell certainly provides plenty of other targets for the mobile Henry Burris to look for in 2010. Calgary has a solid group of receivers leading into the season and the real question to their success will be if the offensive line can keep Burris standing up long enough to deliver the ball. In exchange for Copeland, the Stampeders acquired import P.K. Sam, who although has not yet produced at the same level as Copeland, is six years younger. Competition will be tight at the Stampeders training camp as they have 16 receivers currently on the roster competing for maybe half that number of positions.

Saskatchewan Roughriders

The Roughriders boast the best stable of non-import receivers in the league. Hands down. No argument here on that fact. The catch (no pun intended), is that they might also have the best receiving corp in the league from top to bottom. Although they lack the one superstar receiver that most other teams boast, the fact that they have so many capable targets allows quarterback Darian Durant to distribute the ball all over the field. The result is that like in the rushing game, not a single Roughrider broke the 1,000 yard mark in 2009. The diminutive Weston Dressler came close with 941 yards, but with the likes of Rob Bagg, Andy Fantuz, Chris Getzlaf, and even a rejuvenated Jason Clermont, Durant was almost forced to spread the ball around. What makes the Roughriders receiving corps even scarier for opposing defences is that they have nine other imports competing for roster spots including former 1,000 yard receiver Prechae Rodriguez who at six-foot-five, presents a very large target. If Jordan Sisco returns from the NFL, this group could be even better.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Depth at the receiver position is an issue with the Blue Bombers who will need to get the most out of a few rookies if they want to make the playoffs in 2010. They did draft Cory Watson out of Concordia to address their non-import depth, but Watson will most likely only have a limited role this year as he adjusts to the pace of play in the CFL. Veterans Adarius Bowman, Chris Davis, and Terrance Edwards are certainly capable targets but will need to take the next step and become elite to take the Blue Bombers to the next level. Brock Ralph continues to be a solid non-import, but other than the eight year veteran, the team is void of other non-imports that could be considered starting material.  An interesting new addition to the roster is Travis Shelton. Shelton has great speed and could contribute not only as a receiver, but also in the return game.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Edmonton’s loss will certainly be Hamilton’s gain in 2010 as Maurice Mann moves to the steel city after three years with the Eskimos. He will join forces with Arland Bruce III to form a potent duo for the Tiger-Cats offense in 2010. Bruce was outstanding for Hamilton after being traded from Toronto during the 2009 season. Dave Stala and Chris Bauman are the top two non-import receivers from 2009 on the roster, although Stala is the only one that can be considered to be a legitimate starter at the moment. Marquay McDaniel and Drisan James round out a decent group that might surprise a few defenses in the upcoming season. Like most teams, Hamilton has room on their roster to add a couple of players and hope to find them among the remaining eight receivers they are bringing to training camp.

Toronto Argonauts

The big question mark in Toronto revolves more around who will be throwing the ball as opposed to who will catching it. With all new quarterbacks on the roster, it will be important for the Argos receivers to quickly develop a rapport with their new signal callers, otherwise the Toronto offense could stumble out of the blocks. The team failed to have a receiver break the 1,000 mark last year, and only had one who managed more than 600 yards in Chad Lucas. Non-import depth will also be an issue for the Argos this year with the off-season departure of Andre Talbot and Brad Smith. Their top returning non-import is Tyler Scott, who last year caught only 18 balls for 218 yards and one touchdown. The newly drafted Steven Turner might be a good bet to make the team and contribute with the lack of non-imports on the team. The big off-season acquisition of Jeremaine Copeland should help to fill at least one of the gaps on the roster, but there are lots of holes to fill for the boatmen in 2010.

Montreal Alouettes

The return of Ben Cahoon certainly must have Alouettes fans breathing easier. The guy just makes plays on the field and is as reliable and consistent as they come. having Cahoon back in the fold will certainly allow Anthony Calvillo to sleep better heading into the 2010 season. Aside from Cahoon, Kerry Watkins and Jemel Richardson are both very talented receivers who combined for over 2,200 yards and 160 catches in 2009. Brian Bratton and S.J. Green provide good depth to the position and both fourth year players should be looking to take the next step to becoming difference makers in the CFL. The one weakness that is evident for the Alouettes in their receiving corps is the dearth of talent outside of Cahoon when it comes to non-imports. Danny Desriveaux, Eric Deslauriers, and Glenn MacKay represent the only other non-imports on the roster and none of them had more than 100 receiving yards last year.

Analysis

Saskatchewan certainly has the strongest group of proven receivers in the league and should be a force in the passing game in 2010. BC, Edmonton, Calgary, and Montreal represent the second tier of receiving groups as all boast some high-end talent. Each of those organizations will need to find one or two more playmakers to solidify their groups, but as a whole should still be quite dangerous when it comes to the vertical attack. Hamilton, while not having great organizational depth, still has a group of players that can be dangerous. As for Winnipeg and Toronto, it will be interesting to see how they have reenforced what were less than a strong position for either team in 2009.

CFL & CFLPA Reach Agreement

Just as we here at Eskimos Nation start to wonder what is going on with the labour negotiations between the CFL and CFLPA, a deal subject to ratification by the CFLPA membership is struck. It is certainly a positive sign for a league that is only growing in popularity in Canada.

Although the league has not released the new terms of the collective bargaining agreement, sources within the league have disclosed that the following terms have been agreed upon.

  • Under the agreement, players received a minimum of 56 per cent of the league gate and TV revenues. Under the new agreement, players will receive the amount mandated under the league salary cap, currently set at $4.2 million, and the league will keep any additional revenue.
  • The number of non-imports on CFL rosters, currently 20, and the number of non-import starters, seven, will remain the same. It had been speculated that the league was seeking to reduce the number of non-import players on each team’s roster.
  • The agreement contains language that would allow for a random drug testing program to be implemented.
  • The four-and-half hour work day will remain as-is, however, some players will be subject to a three-day voluntary off-season workout program.

The players will have a chance to vote on the new agreement prior to the start of the season, but most feel that is will pass without much resistance. Getting this done without a disruption to the season is great for all those with a vested interest in the league including the owners and players, but most importantly the fans.

CFL Roundup 3.0

Stalled

There are a couple of stories that seem to be festering below the surface of reports coming from the CFL. The first is the state of negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. With less than two weeks before the beginning of training camps around the league, a solution does not appear to be imminent. Simply to ask question on this. What gives? The CFL is experiencing a boom in popularity and with the ultimate marketing machine in TSN fully committed to grow the game, shouldn’t everyone be doing their darndest to get this resolved?

Also festering is the status of Kelly Campbell. To date their have been no reports confirming that the talented wide receiver will be making his way north to play football. On the other hand, no one is saying that he won’t be attending training camp. A nice little press release either way would be great to see in the near future.

Quebec Major Football League

If there is a work stoppage in the CFL this summer, some players may find work anyway in the QMFL. It’s a league we here at Eskimos Nation had never heard of prior to their holding a draft last week to select CFL players. Mathieu Bertrand was the only member of the Green & Gold selected as there were numerous restrictions on who could be chosen. If there is a work stoppage in the CFL, how many players will risk playing, and potentially sustaining an injury in what appears to be an amateur senior league? It would be a stretch to think that many players would risk it.

Rule Changes

Just in case anyone is interested in some minor (or major depending on your take) rule changes for the 2010 season.

  • Teams that score a touchdown in overtime are required to go for a two-point convert by running or passing the ball into the end zone instead of kicking for a single point.
  • A team that gives up a field goal (during regulation time) will have the option of scrimmaging from its 35-yard line instead of receiving a kick-off.
  • There will be no penalty for pass interference applied if a forward pass is deemed uncatchable.
  • When a ball is punted, hits the ground and hits a player from the covering team, it will result in a penalty of five instead of fifteen yards.

You can read more about it in Rod Pedersen’s column on CFL.ca

History will be Made

I know it still hurts if you are a Roughrider fan, but this video needs to be seen by the masses.

Measuring Up: Running Game

Even though the CFL is a passing league, a team needs a solid running game to keep the opposing defense honest. The Eskimos were all set to go with a non-import tandem in 2009, and then Jesse Lumsden got hurt in the first game of the season. Cue the entrance of Arkee Whitlock, who proceeded to have a disastrous first game wearing the Green & Gold.

Lucky for Arkee Whitlock that Richie Hall is a patient man, and the coach’s patience and  confidence in the rookie running back paid dividends during the rest of the season. Whitlock finished the year with over 1,200 rushing yards, good for third in the league. He also scored 12 rushing touchdowns, good for second in the CFL behind Montreal’s Avon Cobourne. The lifespan of running backs in professional football is short, but it appears that the Eskimos may have found themselves a gamer for the next couple of years. Throw in the versatile Calvin McCarty, combined with three very good non-import fullbacks, and the Eskimos should be in good shape when it comes to the running game in 2010.

BC Lions

Martell Mallet translated 1,240 yards on the ground and six touchdowns in 2009 into an NFL contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Lions currently have six sunning backs on their roster with three imports and three non-imports. Jamal Robertson, signed as a free agent from Toronto, will compete with two CFL rookies in the form of Mickey Dean and Yonus Davis for the starting job. Robertson has shown well while playing for the Argos and will most likely emerge as the opening day starter. On the non-import side, second year running back Jamal Lee will try to take the next step into becoming a more involved player.

Calgary Stampeders

Joffrey Reynolds continues to be a model of consistency as he led the CFL in rushing in 2009 with over 1,500 yards on the ground. The 30-year old running back continues to produce at an amazing rate and is one of the most dangerous offensive players in the league.  Calgary will be brining four other running backs to camp. Jon Cornish and Rob Cote provide valuable depth as non-imports on the roster with Cornish being the primary backup at running back while Cote fills more of the receiving fullback role. Import Derek Watson saw spot duty for the Stampeders in 2009 and will need to fend off the newly signed Rafael Little for a roster spot in training camp. The key to the run in Calgary is Reynolds, and as long as he continues to perform, the Stampeders will have a good running game.

Saskatchewan Roughriders

The Roughriders have seven running backs currently signed to their roster. They were the only team in the CFL in 2009 not to have a 1,000 yard rusher on their team with Wes Cates finishing the campaign with 932 yards on the ground. Despite that fact, Cates should once again be the principal ball carrier for the Roughriders in 2010. Chris Szarka is nearing the end of his career, yet continues to be a very good starting fullback. Stuart Foord and Neal Hughes provide valuable non-import depth that also contribute to the Roughriders special teams unit. On the import side, Dominique Dorsey returns to the Saskatchewan prairies where he began his career. Dorsey will take some snaps on offense, but his true value is in the return game. Lavarus Giles, who spent some time with Winnipeg in 2009, and Marcus Thigpen will be in tough for a roster spot.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Fred Reid might be the most underrated running back in the CFL. He was second in rushing in the league in 2009, but failed to get a lot of attention due to being part of less competitive Blue Bombers squad. Winnipeg will need to have a strong running game in 2010 as they currently do not have an established starter at quarterback. Lead blocking fullback Jon Oosterhuis will be back for his second year on the offensive side of the ball. Aside from Reid, Yvenson Bernard and Daryl Stephenson provide good depth at running back. Aside from the returning players, Emmanual Marc, a 2009 cut from the BC Lions training camp, will be the only other competition at the position heading into training camp.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Like Arkee Whitlock, DeAndra Cobb was the benefactor of an early season injury. The Michigan State product became a fast fan favourite showing great skill and quickness from his first touch. Running back Andre Sadeghian and fullback Darcy Brown provide the non-import content to the roster. Neither contributed significantly to the Tiger-Cats offense in 2009. First year imports Brian Calhoun and Jhamal Fluellen will compete for the back-up position behind Cobb. Although the Tiger-Cats recently release Kenton Keith due in part to injury concerns, it will be interesting to see if the organization is willing to take a chance on hometown favourite Jesse Lumsden. With only five backs signed for training camp, there is certainly room on the roster for more competition.

Toronto Argonauts

The Argos lost their leading rusher from 2009 during the off-season when Jamal Robertson signed with the BC Lions to replace Martell Mallet. Their leading rusher coming into camp from last season is now Jeff Johnson, who gained 52 yards on the ground, so finding a new lead back will be a priority for the Argos as they attempt to start the rebuild process. Recently signed Cory Boyd and DeCori Birmingham will compete with  Amos Allen, who was signed late last year for the feature back snaps in training camp. The Argos need to hope that one of these additions can have the same type of success experienced by top rookies Cobb and Whitlock in 2009. The team will also have a strong non-import contingent attending training camp.  The aforementioned Johnson, along with Bryce Crawford and Andre Durie provide good depth to the Argos specialty teams while providing some ability on offense as well. Fullback Peter Quinney, who attended the Winnipeg Blue Bombers camp last year, will attempt to dislodge one of the veterans for a roster spot.

Montreal Alouettes

Montreal is the class of the CFL because they are strong at every position. Their running game is no exception. Avon Cobourne rushed for over 1,200 yards in 2009 and led the league in rushing touchdowns with 13. Built much like the Eskimos when it comes to the running game, Montreal employs three non-import fullbacks and a non-import back-up running back in the form of former Eskimos draft pick Dahrran Diedrick. Their fullbacks do not have the experince of the Eskimos fullbacks, but having that many non-imports certainly offers a little flexibility to the coaching staff when juggling the roster around the import ratio. Brandon Whitaker will face a good challenge from new signings Corey Council and Roosevelt Ross for the back-up position behind Cobourne. Certainly not a position of weakness for the defending Grey Cup champions.

Analysis

With seven of the eight feature backs from 2009 coming back healthy and either in the prime of their careers or still improving, running games in the CFL should be strong in 2010. Montreal, Edmonton, and Hamilton should all have good running attacks. It will be interesting to see how Joffrey Reynolds fares behind what can only be described as a patchwork offensive line. Reynolds is talented, but running backs still need the holes opened for them. Assuming Jamal Robertson makes the transition from the big smoke to the west coast, the Lions should be able to keep pace with the top-tier teams. Saskatchewan should also be okay when it comes to the running game if Wes Cates continues to perform as should Winnipeg so long as Reid stays healthy. The only team with any questions is Toronto, who will need to find a feature back quickly if they want to compete this year. Of course having a mobile quarterback like Henry Burris and Darian Durant will add teams like Saskatchewan and Calgary continue to use the run in a variety of different situations in the coming season.

Measuring Up: Quarterback

Heading into training camp, with 99% of the off-season roster moves that will be made in the books, one has to wonder how the Eskimos stack up against the rest of the league when it comes to talent by position.

Ricky Ray will the be starting quarterback for the Edmonton Eskimos for the 2010 season. Take it to the bank. If you have doubts, please refer to this article regarding the skills of Mr.Ray. Jason Maas is a more than adequate back-up. If Ray goes down to injury, he can step in and be effective. Jared Zabransky appears to still be the choice of the organization to fill the developmental spot on the roster. So how do they stack up against the rest of the league?

BC Lions

The Lions are entering the season a little unsettled at quarterback due to the presence of a couple of veterans that have both started for the Leos in the past. Look for Casey Printers to take over the controls on opening day with Jarious Jackson backing him up. Printers, despite entering his eighth professional football campaign, is only 29-years old and still has a lot game left in him. Travis Lulay, who did see some game action in 2009, will most likely fill the third string role.

Calgary Stampeders

Henry Burris better hope he can run as fast as he flaps his gums. With a patchwork offensive line, he might not survive the season. Giving credit where it is due, Burris did have a pretty good year in 2009. He was second in the league in passing yards behind Ricky Ray and tied for third in touchdowns with 22.  Drew Tate and Barrick Nealy will compete to hold the clipboard behind Smilin Hank. Both are limited in their experience which leaves the Stamps high and dry if the offensive line can’t keep Burris upright.

Saskatchewan Roughriders

Once upon a time, I had Darian Durant pegged as nothing more than a camp arm. Give the man his props, he has cemented himself as a bona-fide starter in the CFL. Aside from Anthony Calvillo, Ray, and Burris, he was the only other quarterback to throw for more than 4,000 yards last year. Although he threw a league high 21 interceptions a year ago, Saskatchewan had such a good team that they were able to recover from his mistakes and make it all the way to the Grey Cup. If he can clean up his game, Durant could be very dangerous in 2010. The departure of Graham Harrell leaves Cole Bergquist and Kent Smith to compete for the backup job. Neither have any playing experience in the CFL so it will be interesting to watch the camp battle between the two young quarterbacks.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Blue Bombers are down to five quarterback on their roster. Hooray! One has to think that the eventual starter will come out of the group of Steven Jyles, Stefan Lefors, and Buck Pierce. All three have been around the league long enough to have a good feel for the CFL game with Pierce having the most starting experience to date while playing for the BC Lions. Multiple concussions however have put his playing career in jeopardy and it will be interesting to see if he can regain the form that made him such a promising prospect in BC. Alex Brink and Adam DiMichael fill out the rest of the training camp roster. Conventional wisdom would suggest that one of them might make the roster as a developmental prospect.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Kevin Glenn should be the opening day starter for the Tiger-Cats with Quinton Porter continuing to apprentice for an eventual starting role as his back-up. Glenn is a good game manager that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He will allow the Tiger-Cats to be more than competitive in 2010. Jason Boltus and Adam Trafalis will battle for the number three spot on the roster.

Toronto Argonauts

After last season’s disappointing results, the Argos cleaned house, literally. Every quarterback was released in what has to be an unprecedented move. They have since brought in quarterbacks from all walks including the NFL (Cleo Lemon and Gibram Hamden), the CFL (Dalton Bell), and even the CIS (Danny Branagan). One of either Lemon or Hamden should emerge as the starter as both have pretty good professional experience. The camp battle to watch will be if non-import Danny Branagan can make the roster as the team’s third quarterback. Teams have typically gone with imports at quarterback, so Branagan making the team would be another huge boost for the CIS.

Montreal Alouettes

Anthony Calvillo will not be able to play forever. That being said, he is still arguably the best quarterback in the CFL. With Calvillo set to turn 38-years old during the 2010 season, the Alouettes are slowly gathering the pieces of a succession plan and will have four other quarterbacks in camp. Adrien McPherson is the favorite to back-up Calvillo as he played the role in 2009, although he will be pushed by former Argonaut Cody Pickett. Last year’s third string quarterback Chris Leak and newly drafted Marc-Olivier Brouillette fill out the competition.

Analysis

The Eskimos have one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Ricky Ray. He may not have the gunslinger arm of a Brett Favre, but he can make all the throws that are needed to win football games in the CFL. The Eskimos compare favourably with Montreal, Calgary, and Saskatchewan at this position while holding a distinct advantage over the remaining teams in the league.