Archive for June, 2010

CFL Roundup 8.0

Hamilton is the favorite?

A lot of people are picking the Hamilton Tiger-Cats as the team that could make the most noise in the CFL in 2010. From TSN to Sportsnet, everyone seems to think that Hamilton is the team to beat. Added to that, there seems to be a lot of love being tossed in the direction of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and their starting quarterback Darian Durant. I can understand some of the hype, but let’s not overlook the Montreal Alouettes, who are the defending Grey Cup Champs, or the fact that it was Ricky Ray who led the league in passing last year. If you want a stat on Durant, mull this one over for a while. In 2009 Darian Durant led the league in interceptions with 21. Ray and Anthony Calvillo? They combined for a total of 18 picks.

Let’s tone down the hype just a little.

Tracking CFL draft picks

Back at the beginning of May, amid much hoopla and fanfare, the CFL conducted its annual Canadian Draft, where the best non-import prospects are selected by various teams to join the CFL. Since that day of promise and hope, players have reported for camp, played a couple of exhibition games, and gone through the process of cutdowns. Let’s take a look a where some of the prized prospects ended up when it was all said and done.

BC Lions– Of the players that came to camp, only third round picks Joash Geese (LB) and Hamid Mahmoudi (CB) made the cut to stay on the active roster. Both will earn their keep contributing on special teams while serving as backups for the season. Highly touted fourth round pick Akeem Foster (WR) will be joined on the practice roster by Cauchy Muamba (DB) and Adam Baboulas (OL). Seventh round selection Matthew Chapdelaine (WR), the son of offensive coordinator Jacques Chapdelaine, will be on the practice roster as well but will not count towards the roster limit due to his status as an area protected junior.

Edmonton Eskimos– The Eskimos only had two of their four draft picks report to camp with second round pick Saleem Borhot (S) making the final roster despite not participating in most of training camp while he recovered from a leg injury. Borhot might get some early playing time with starting safety Elliott Richardson out at least nine weeks with a dislocated wrist. Local product Corbin Sharun (DB), who was drafted in the sixth round, made the team’s practice roster.

Calgary Stampeders – All four rookies who came to camp made the final roster for the Stampeders. First round selection Rob Maver (K/P) won a very one sided training camp battle with Warren Kean for a roster spot while their second round pick Taureen Allen (CB) played well enough to earn a spot as a backup. Karl McCartney (LB) will help out on special teams while Oama Culbreath (OL) was able to find a spot as a backup lineman after a rash of retirements along the offensive line hit the Stampeders near the end of training camp.

Saskatchewan Roughriders– First overll pick Shomari Williams (DE) is the only rookie to make the team after the final cutdowns took place last week in Regina. He will probably see some action along the defensive line during the season but is not slated to start in Week 1. With second round pick Jordan Sisco (WR) auditioning for the NFL and fifth round pick Bruno Lapoint (DE) being commited to the University of Laval for the upcoming season, the only other rookie to attend camp was Saskatchewan Huskies product Patrick Neufield (OL). Unfortunately for Neufield, the depth along the offensive line led to his release on June 23rd.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers– First round pick Cory Watson (WR) will join Brock Ralph and Aaron Hargreaves as one of only three non-import receivers on the Blue Bombers. Expect Watson to see the field in some offensive packages this season. Fourth round pick Chris Smith (LB) and fifth rounder Chris Greaves (OL) also made the team, although Greaves converted over to the offensive side of the line after being drafted as a defensive lineman back in May.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats – The Tiger-Cats cut loose their top selection from the 2010 CFL Draft as Samuel Fournier (RB) was released at the end of training camp. To start the season, the team will have their other third round selection, Eddie Steele (DT), manning a spot on the practice roster while their last pick was the one who made the active roster. Justin Palardy (K/P), who was selected in the fifth round with the 36th pick, will apprentice behind Sandro DeAngelis.

Toronto Argonauts – With nine selections made in the CFL Draft this year and a 3-15 record from 2009, the Argos were bound to have at least of their picks make the final roster. At the top of the list, second overall pick Joe Eppele (OL) looks like he will start the season as the starting right guard along the offensive line. The multi-positional Grant Shaw (DB/K) also earned a roster spot and will contribute on special teams. Third round selection Spencer Watt (WR) will be starting the season on the injured list. College free agent Danny Brannagan, who has received much media attention, will start on the practice squad.

Montreal Alouettes – With their first three picks unavailable, the bottom half of the draft class had an opportunity to make the Grey Cup Champions. Transitioning to linebacker, Marc-Olivier Brouillette (QB) made the grade and will start out playing special teams. Fourth round selection Ryan Bomben (OL) will miss at least the first half of the season on the 9-game injured reserve as he recovers from injury. In an interesting note, both Brian Ridgeway (LB) taken in the fifth round, and Justin Conn (LB) selected in the sixth round, were transferred to the suspended list.

Wildcat? Not for the Eskimos please.

Football is a copy-cat game, where teams see something that works for one team, and then try and use it for themselves. Case in point, the Wildcat offense. The Miami Dolphins shocked the league in 2008 by introducing this high-school gimmicky system. They beat the New England Patriots with it, and suddenly, every other team is looking to add it to their playbook. The Wildcat has now migrated north to the CFL and its been speculated that the Edmonton Eskimos will use second year quarterback Jared Zabransky in some type of sub-package where Wildcat plays will be run. There are just a few issues with that.

First of all, besides the Miami Dolphins, what other team has had success running the Wildcat consistently? The answer is no one.  Yes, teams have had a few plays that worked out, but the Dolphins are the only team that have executed consistently over a period of time. The Dolphins are successful using this offensive scheme because they have specific personnel that can execute the plays and a coaching staff that knows how and when to use it. Don’t believe me. Take a look at what should be the ultimate weapon in the Wildcat, Michael Vick, and the lack of success that the Philadelphia Eagles had with this concept. Why? When Vick was on the field, opposing defenses almost always knew what was coming at them.

Second, who is best person to be taking a snap from center? That’s right, your number one quarterback. As soon as you take the ball out of the hands of your best player, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage. Ricky Ray is one of the most dangerous passer in the CFL, and with the talent that the Eskimos have at receiver this season, taking the ball out of Ray’s hands and putting it into the hands or either Arkee Whitlock or Calvin McCarty decreases the ability of the Eskimos to get the ball into the hands of their receivers.

Third point. The collective bargaining agreement used by the CFL limits the work day to four and a half hours. They also do not have the luxury of mini-camps, either voluntary or mandatory, that NFL teams can use to work on plays that won’t be used that often. If a team in the CFL really wanted to be successful with the Wildcat offense, they would need to instill it into their basic packages. Every team in the CFL has the potential to make it to the Grey Cup with maybe the exception of Toronto. Do you want the Esks to waste their time focussing on what works, or a new gimmick?

The final point is that the CFL is a essentially a two down game. Third down offense is usually limited to rushes of less than a yard or near the end of the game when a team is trailing and needs to score points in a hurry. Having only two downs, as opposed to the three typically used by NFL offenses, means that CFL teams do not have the luxury of wasting a play on a gimmick. Add the fact that the CFL play-clock is only 20 seconds, and it creates a very difficult situation for a Wildcat play to be run successfully.

There are some arguments for using the Wildcat, such as it creates an 11-on-11 running play as opposed to the typical 10-on-11 situation where the quarterback hands off the ball and then stands out of the way. It also creates havoc for defenses in picking up assignments. That being said, the CFL, and specifically the Eskimos, are playing at their best when the ball is in the hands of their starting quarterback. Having Zabransky run out from under center to fill a receiver spot and Whitlock taking the snap might be entertaining for the fans, and it might even work once or twice, but the Eskimos best chance at success comes when Ricky Ray is at the controls. I may be wrong on this one, but I can’t see the Wildcat offence being successful in the CFL over the long term.

Monday Morning Long Snapper

Break in the schedule

Having the league take a collective breather for ten days after the end of the pre-season and opening on Canada Day will only help the CFL product in the end. As players heal from injuries sustained in what from most accounts across the league describe as ultra-competitive training camps, organizations have the time needed to also properly prepare for opening day. One of the arguments against having only two pre-season games for each team is that most of the players do not get enough time to shake off the off-season rust and absorb enough of the playbook to start the season running on all cylinders. With the minimum ten day break, the players should be rested, ready, and recharged to hit the field at full speed in the season openers this upcoming long weekend.

Getting back into the swing

Fred Stamps, Arkee Whitlock, and Lenny Wals were all back on the field practicing this past weekend, a positive sign that the Eskimos are healing up from training camp and will have some of their most dangerous players ready for the upcoming season opener against the BC Lions on Sunday. Maurice Lloyd is also looking to be regaining his health, and we should be hearing that he is ready and willing to practice in the coming week. The Eskimos will certainly benefit from participating in the final game of opening weekend as it should allow them to get the maximum amount of rehabilitation time to the players that are working their way back from injury.

Thoughts on the season

Make sure you check weekly on both the Edmonton Eskimos website and the CFL Daily Dose website for extra thoughts on the Eskimos 2010 season. One of the great things about the CFL is that there exists a true partnership between the fans and the teams. The passion for Canadian football demostrated by both ensures that the league should find nothing but success over the long term.

Don’t forget

For those of you who can’t stay away from Commonwealth, the Hockey Canada Foundation will be hosting the Canada Celebrates event down at the stadium this evening. You can find more details here.

Checking out the Scrap Heap

A total of 164 players were released from CFL clubs over the past five days and chances are, there are still a few who can still play in the CFL. A total of 56 of those players will be signed to their team’s practice roster, but that still leaves 108 players on the waiver wire. Let’s see who was released, will most likely not be on a practice roster, and who could perhaps be used by the Eskimos, or another team, should the need arise.

Zac Champion (QB) – Released by Calgary, Champion could be on this list for his name alone. Aside for having a great handle, Champion could be a good third option for a team. He has game experience and has played well when called upon.

Lyle Green (FB) – The veteran fullback was cut loose by the BC Lions after nine years of service. At 34 years of age, one has to wonder if Green has much left in the tank, especially considering the fact that he played in 161 consecutive games for the Leos. Still, if a team needs a good special teamer with leadership abilities, Green could fit the bill.

Chris Davis (WR) – Released by Winnipeg, Davis has a legitimate shot at resurfacing on a CFL roster. He has bounced around the league, making stops in Montreal, Calgary, Hamilton, and Winnipeg, but has also started games. If a team has a need for a receiver that they could insert quickly into their lineup, Davis could be a pretty interesting option.

Jamaica Rector (WR) – Caught in the numbers game in Edmonton, Rector is a talented receiver that should be able to find work elsewhere in the CFL. His 14 starts in 2009, where he produced 48 catches for 532 yards and one touchdown shows that he can be an effective weapon in the passing game.

Zac Carlson (OL) – The Hamilton Tiger-Cats gave up their first round pick in 2010 to select Carlson in the supplemental draft. The offensive lineman certainly has talent, but can it be harnessed by the right situation and team. Sounds like Calgary might be interested to help fill the gap left by their sudden rash of retirements along their offensive line.

Joe Sykes (DE) – Sykes was supposed to be one of the guys that replaced the departed Stevie Baggs and John Chick in Saskatchewan this year. Now it looks like he will need to try and steal someone’s job in another city. He only played in five games last year with Saskatchewan as he adjusted to the Canadian game.

John Eubanks (CB) – Calgary, much like Edmonton, were not happy with the play of their defensive backs last year, and Eubanks was released in favor of new players. He can still play in the league, and could be a good pickup for a team that needs a little more depth in their defensive backfield.

Darren Toney (DB) – Another BC Lions release, Toney played in all 18 games for BC last year, recording 52 tackles and seven pass knockdowns. Someone will be giving him a call when they have an injury.

Nick Kordic (S) – The non-import safety was released by Winnipeg, and could potentially interest a team like the Eskimos who are rather thin at the position with Elliott Richardson on the 9-game injured reserve and Saleem Borhot coming back from injury. He has made his living in the CFL on special teams.

A Note about Practice Roster Players

Someone asked me Twitterif I thought another team might make a play for Braidwood off the Eskimos practice roster. I responded that I didn’t think so, as Braidwood has been essentially out of football for the past two years. Added to that, teams have their own practice roster players to worry about. Think about it, if you were Hamilton and had a need for a defensive tackle on your active roster, would you rather bring up Eddie Steele from your own practice roster, or bring in Adam Braidwood from the Eskimos? Just thought I would expand a little on that. Teams want to develop their own talent if they can. The players on the practice roster know the systems, which is why they make the best injury replacements.

A look at the Final Roster?

So this could or could not be the final roster, as it seems like there might still be a roster move or two to be made in the coming days. It appears that six players will spend at least some time on the injured reserve list, and that the Eskimos have decided who they want on their practice roster. So that leaves us with 47 players. Yes, that’s right, 47. It looks like Kevin Wuthrich, who was on the practice roster as an area protected junior last year, will fill the same role with the Eskimos this year. I may be wrong on this one, but it’s the only way I can figure out what to do with the extra player and get the roster down to 46. If someone else knows better, please let me know.
For the four man reserve, I know that Rod Davis occupied one of these spots last year, so logic says he might be back in that same situation. As for the others, I just took players where it looked like there was an extra. Don’t read too much into this.

Just as a brief reminder, according to the CFL website, the following are the basic rules governing rosters in the CFL.

  • Each team may have a maximum of 42 players, including 3 players who shall be identified as quarterbacks and 39 other players, of whom not more than 19 may be imports.
  • Teams must have a minimum of 41 players, including two players who shall be identified as quarterbacks and 39 other players, of whom not more than 19 may be imports.
  • Each team must establish a reserve roster of 4 players. These 4 players may be imports or non-imports.
Offense
QB: Ricky Ray, Jason Maas, Jared Zabransky
RB: Arkee Whitlock, Calvin McCarty
FB: Mathieu Bertrand, Graeme Bell, Chris Ciezki
WR: Andrew Nowacki, Kelly Campbell
SB: Fred Stamps, Kamau Peterson, Brad Smith, Andre Talbot, Jason Barnes
C: Kyle Koch, Gord Hinse
G: Patrick Kabongo, Adam Rogers
T: Calvin Armstrong, Joe McGrath, Jeremy Parquet
Defence
DT: Andre Coleman, Dee Sterling, Justin Brown
DE: Kai Ellis, Greg Peach, Justin Cooper, Kenneth Pettway
LB: Maurice Lloyd, Mark Restelli, TJ Hill, Javier Glatt
DB: Jason Goss, Chris Thompson, Lenny Walls, Lawrence Gordon
S: Saleem Borhot, Jason Nugent
Special Teams
K:Noel Prefontaine
KR: Skyler Green
LS: Tim St.Pierre
Reserve
Greg Wojt, Rod Davis, Weldon Brown, Efrem Hill
Injured Reserve
Aaron Fiacconi, Dario Romero, Randee Drew, Elliott Richardson, Tristan Jackson, Derek Schiavone
Practice Roster
Daniel Libre, Pascal Fils , Sharun Corbin, Adam Braidwood, Neil Puffer, Roderick Williams, Tremayne Kirkland, Kevin Wuthrich (APJ)
With Aaron Fiacconi, Dario Romero, and Randee Drew only on the 1-game injured roster for the moment, the Eskimos will have a few more difficult decisions to make in the coming weeks, but’s that for another day and time. Following training camp and the exhibition season is always fun, but now it’s time for the regular season.

Training Camp Cuts 5.0

Congratulations Son, You Made the Team…

With the final roster moves coming down today, there are a few surprises that have come from the Eskimos. Players have been released who most thought were probably safe, while others have made the team. Let’s a take a look at who the Eskimos released today.

Patrick Afif (OL) – No real surprise here as imports have to be exceptional to make the team along the offensive line.

Kevin Challenger (WR) – Unfortunately for Challenger, the Eskimos were stacked with non-import receivers this year. The addition of Brad Smith and Andre Talbot in the off-season pretty much made it impossible for him to crack the lineup.

Jamaica Rector (SB) – Much like Challenger, Rector was looking at long odds to make the team based on the amount of talent available at receiver. The return of Kelly Campbell probably was the one move that cost Rector a spot with the Eskimos. Don’t be surprised if he turns up either on the practice roster or with another CFL team.

Greg Whelan (LB) – Despite being a good special teams player, Whelan is not a player that was going to be put into a starting spot. Javier Glatt is a better player.

Frantz Joseph (LB) – Maurice Lloyd, Mark Restelli, and Rod Davis are better players, leaving Joseph, who was brought in as an injury replacement last year, out in the cold.

Willie Amos (DB) – A bit of a surprise here, as Amos was taking reps with the first team defence in camp. That being said, other defensive backs have looked good in camp as well.

Taylor Inglis (LS) – The veteran long snapper was undoubtedly a salary cap casualty.  It will be interesting to see if this is the end of his football career as he is unlikely to leave Edmonton given his ties to the community and the commercial real estate business he works for full-time.

Update

Daniel Libre, Adam Braidwood, Pascal Fils, Neil Puffer, Roderick Williams, Corbun Sharun, and  Tremayne Kirkland, all are being shown as deleted from the Eskimos roster on the CFL website.

Aaron Fiacconi, Randee Drew, Dario Romero, Derek Schiavone, Tristan Jackson, and Elliott Richardson look like they have all been placed on the injured reserve as well.

Update #2

So forget about what I posted above about Rector perhaps being on the practice roster. Based on the seven deletions from the Eskimos roster that happened quietly on the CFL website, those seven will be the practice squad for the Green & Gold. When you look at the list, all have some form of upside and should be willing to fill one of the least glamorous jobs in all of professional football.

The fact that Derek Schiavone is back on the injured reserve list is a little curious. The Eskimos have been doing this with Schiavone for a couple of years and you have to wonder when they will be making a decision on what the future holds for the young kicker.

Dario Romero will not be on the injured reserve list for very long. If it is still the kidney stone problem, you can bet that he will be ready to go for opening day. This of course will trigger more movement on the roster.

That’s all for now. It’s been a pretty exciting day around the league with all the decisions being made. Stay tuned for more a little later.

Last Chance Projected Roster

With only 24 hours before the final cutdowns have to be made, now is the time to throw out one more roster prediction. With a few cuts already made, it makes it that much easier to be right. Of course, chances are, Danny Maciocia and Richie Hall will throw us all for a loop and take a couple of guys that no one saw making the Eskimos, but hey, they’re the professionals.

Just as a brief reminder, according to the CFL website, the following are the basic rules governing rosters in the CFL.

  • Each team may have a maximum of 42 players, including 3 players who shall be identified as quarterbacks and 39 other players, of whom not more than 19 may be imports.
  • Teams must have a minimum of 41 players, including two players who shall be identified as quarterbacks and 39 other players, of whom not more than 19 may be imports.
  • Each team must establish a reserve roster of 4 players. These 4 players may be imports or non-imports.
Basically, the Eskimos will have a 46 man roster for the duration of the season.
 
Offense
 
QB: Ricky Ray, Jason Maas, Jared Zabransky
RB: Arkee Whitlock, Calvin McCarty
FB: Mathieu Bertrand, Graeme Bell, Chris Ciezki
WR: Andrew Nowacki, Kelly Campbell, Efrem Hill,
SB: Fred Stamps, Kamau Peterson, Brad Smith, Jason Barnes
C: Aaron Fiacconi
G: Patrick Kabongo,Kyle Koch, Adam Rogers
T: Calvin Armstrong, Joe McGrath
  
Defence
 
DT: Dario Romero, Adam Braidwood, Justin Brown
DE: Kai Ellis, Greg Peach, Justin Cooper
LB: Maurice Lloyd, Mark Restelli, TJ Hill, Javier Glatt, Jason Nugent
DB: Jason Goss, Chris Thompson, Willie Amos, Lenny Walls, Lawrence Gordon
S: Saleem Borhot, Elliot Richardson
 
Special Teams
 
K:Derek Schiavone
KR: Skyler Green
LS: Taylor Inglis
  
Reserve
Rod Davis, Andre Coleman, Gord Hinse, Greg Whelan
 
 Practice Roster
Daniel Libre, Weldon Brown, Pascal Fils , Sharun Corbin, Dee Sterling, Greg Wojt, Tremayne Kirkland
 
Notes
Just a couple caveats to the above list. With 10 days before the first game, I assumed that all of the players with bumps and bruises (Whitlock, Fiacconi, etc) would be healthy enough to play. That might not be the case, but it’s what I went with. Randee Drew and Tim St.Pierre are set aside for the moment on the injured reserve.
When looking at who the Eskimos should cut and keep, you get a real appreciation for how difficult the coaches jobs are to make these decisions. Deciding on who should be the final players is not an easy exercise at this point. If you are interested, Diesel over at EsksFans also took a stab at making the final roster. A tip of the hat to you sir on the effort. It will be interesting to see how this final roster finally shakes out. The good thing about having to make so many tough decisions is that you know the Eskimos have a lot of talent to choose from when it comes to fielding a competitive team this year.