2015 Team Overviews

Over the past week we have been giving you brief looks at the 9 teams of the CFL heading into the 2015 season. Just in case you missed those posts, here is a comprehensive look at how these teams will look with a brand new season starting June 25th!

WEST

Calgary

Team overview: The 2015 Calgary Stampeders look eerily similar to the dominant squad that plagued the other 8 teams of the CFL last season. John Hufnagel, Dave Dickenson, and Rich Stubler will again hold the reigns for the Stampeders as; HC, OC, and DC, respectively. Bo Levi Mitchell will again start under center, with Jon Cornish at his back, a stout offensive line at his front and a deep receiving corps to boot. Defensively, additions have only served to strengthen the team’s already strong talent pool with incumbents like Charleston Hughes, Juwan Simpson, and Keon Raymond, being met a crop of veterans from around the league.

Notable 2015 changes:

Intangibles: What more can be said about the modern iteration of the Stampeders, that has not already been said. Under Huff’s leadership (2008+ specifically) this team has been competitive every season, with the worst record occurring in 2009 where the team had to settle for a 10-7 record and a loss in the Western Final. Keep in mind that Hamilton made the Grey Cup final last season with a 9-9 record. Add to that mix: a soon-to-be elite quarterback (if not already), a future hall-of-fame running back, 2 of the best kickers/punters in the CFL and a defense that doesn’t quit, and you have a nightmare for any team in competition.

Edmonton

Team overview: This season’s Eskimos squad looks as though it is poised to start right where they left off in 2014. Chris Jones will enter his second year as head coach in Edmonton, and will look to reinforce the systems that he put in place last season. Similar to Calgary, Edmonton is looking forward to benefit from continuity. Mike Reilly will lead his offense, Adarius Bowman will catch his passes, Odell Willis and Alomondo Sewell will haunt quarterbacks, and Kendial Lawrence will open up the special teams playbook. There is a lot to look forward to if you are a fan of the Edmonton Eskimos.

Notable 2015 changes:

Intangibles: This team is going to be good. Why? They will be good because they were already good last season, and despite a few losses on the roster, this is very much the same team that troubled the league (safe Calgary) last season. It was announced yesterday that John White has suffered a season-ending injury, which truly is a shame as he was on my list of running backs to potentially lead the league this season. We wish John a speedy recovery. Without missing a step though, Hervey and Jones went and grabbed another proven-beast in Chad Simpson, who in 2012 rushed for 1,039 yards on a team that finished with a 6-12 record. Defensively, this group is among the scariest and deepest in the league. Check the names on D-line: Sewell, Steele, Willis. Linebackers: Sherritt, Kanya, McCoil. Defensive Backs: Foster, Hinds, Lawrence, and Watkins. Good luck to all opposing offensive coordinators.

Saskatchewan

Team overview: The bulk of 2014 saw Saskatchewan dealing with what’s often known as the Grey Cup hangover. It seemed that despite a lot of talent in all 3 phases of the game, Saskatchewan still faced adversity in the latter half of the season. This time around, Corey Chamblin will be calling the defense himself as head coach and will rely on newcomer Greg Quick to oversee his defenders. On offence, George Cortez has been replaced by another new face in Jacques Chapdelaine.

Notable 2015 changes:

Intangibles: The 2015 Sasktchewan Roughriders will play a different brand of football relative to last season. Fans will see this change most clearly on offence where an emphasis on passing will likely re-emerge under Chapdelaine. Pair that with perennial all-star receivers: Chris Getzlaf, Weston Dressler, Rob Bagg, and Taj Smith, and the Roughriders will have no problem bringing completions down on the gridiron. Darian Durant has come into camp near 100%, which means that Sask’s offensive viability has received a huge boost heading into the new season. Defensively, this squad is as strong as any team in the league. The defensive line will consist of 2014 sack-leader John Chick on one end, with Alex Hall managing the other end position. Add Tearrius George into that mix and you have a line that will be spending a good amount of time in the faces of opposing quarterbacks. Should playbook modifications be absorbed efficiently throughout their installations, Saskatchewan should look like a stronger iteration of themselves in 2015.

BC

Team overview: No team in the CFL has seen a more dramatic change in team culture this off-season than the BC Lions. It was clear from the get-go that GM Wally Buono wanted to shake things up from the top down. Coaches have been changed, veterans have been released, and a new crop of Leo-hopefuls are now clawing their ways into a new chapter in BC Lions history. Jeff Tedford, BC’s new head coach, has enjoyed a storied career in in the: CFL, NCAA, and the NFL. Tedford now comes to BC with a rolodex that only sweetened the deal that saw him become BC’s 25th head coach.

Notable 2015 changes:

Intangibles: The word coming out of camp this season is that coach Tedford is looking for fast-paced practices. Pacing is of course a very interesting part of Tedford’s background as he all but revolutionized the hurry-up offence as a coach in the NCAA. With Travis Lulay on the mend, and looking like he might grace the gridiron once more, things are indeed looking up for the BC Lions. When looking at all 9 teams in the league, it is clear that BC has undergone the most drastic changes since last season. With change, one needs to expect hiccups along the way, but we should expect to see a cohesive and positive effort from the Lions week-in and week-out. You can’t forget that the 2014 Most Outstanding Player; Solomon Elimimian, will once again be helping run the Lions’ defence along with his “Team 100” co-captain: Adam Bighill. Offensively, Andrew Harris is back in the fold which means big things for the Lions. Last season, Harris was at one point on pace for a 1,000-yard season in both rushing and receiving, before he went down to injury. With Harris back at 100%, and Lulay looking to get him the ball, BC stands a chance against whatever team they face.

Winnipeg

Team overview: Last season was the start of an organizational rebuild. Mike O’Shea took the reins of the team as head coach, and did so with a roster in transition. Drew Willy will now move into his second season as a starting quarterback which will be an easier position for the young pivot to be in. Willy now knows the system, has a ton of experience that he lacked last season, and has been given assets to play with. Winnipeg hosts the 2015 Grey Cup, and it is no secret that they intend to play in the championship.

Notable 2015 changes:

Intangibles: Along the same lines as Ottawa, Winnipeg really went all-in during the off-season to try and bolster their lineup. Clearly, a lot of changes were made to the offensive line. The Bombers added 3 2014 starting offensive linemen to their roster which provides depth at a position that was lacking at points last season. Despite missing the playoffs last year, the Bombers went undefeated for the first 3 games and were 5-1 after 6 weeks of play. That didn’t happen by accident, and a lot of that success was due to Drew Willy. Drew now has a full season under his belt as a starting professional quarterback. He has a solid offensive line in front of him, and he has a group of strong receivers with whom he has chemistry. Winnipeg will score more in 2015. Defensively, Winnipeg looked to get bigger this season as an undersized group in 2014 had its share of problems with the West’s dominant run offenses. With the Grey Cup at home this season, the Blue Bombers will look to make a splash early and this time around, sustain their success.

EAST

Hamilton

Team overview: This season for Hamilton looks as though it can be opened with one word; continuity. Although you will see changes in several phases of the game, Hamilton has retained the balance of their firepower that yielded an undefeated home record in 2014. Match that with continuity in all major coaching positions, and the Tabbies have a very serious opportunity to try and add 1 more post-season victory culminating in the 2015 Grey Cup.

Notable 2015 changes:

Intangibles: Hamilton is a team that has a lot going for them. Hamilton has reinvigorated their fan-base, which can best be illustrated with their undefeated campaign (all-time) at Tim Horton’s Field. The Tiger-Cats have also rapidly become a team of depth throughout uncharacteristically high amounts of injuries. Through these set-backs, players like: Brandon Banks, Mossis Madu, and Terrell Sinkfield, all earned their shots to become steady-contributors for Hamilton. The Ticats culture has players in second and third depth chart slots ready to compete the instant that their names are called, and that is an immense key to success in professional football.

Montreal

Team overview: Coming off a very polar 2014, the Alouettes look to shrug off their early season woes and embrace their late season heroics heading into 2015. Similar to Chris Jones in the previous section of this article, Tom Higgins is heading into his sophomore season with Montreal, which is undoubtedly a better position to be in relative to his freshman foray. Jim Popp made some very interesting off-season acquisitions as well, which should provide the Al’s with an offensive pop that was lacking at points last season. All things relative, this roster looks stronger than 2014.

Notable 2015 changes:

Intangibles: The Alouettes roster is currently brimming with talent. Proven talent at that. With the biggest veteran recruitment effort occurring in recent memory, Jim Popp has managed to acquire several potential hall-of-famers. Does that necessarily mean the team will be unstoppable? Of course not. Does that mean that all of the young Alouettes that struggled to find an identity early in 2014, now have pillars of the game to lean on? You bet. This team will be stronger than last season. Montreal’s defence was a shining point from start to finish last year, and damn if Popp didn’t lock every last one of them up for 2015. Jonathan Crompton will start as the team’s QB1, but this time, his receiving corps is as deep as they come. Look for Montreal to improve from a 9-9 record, and be a real Grey Cup contender in 2015.

Toronto

Team overview: 2014 was a difficult year for the Argo’s. Few teams made as many injured reserve announcements as the boatmen, and none saw the same amount of impact players go down. With key pieces like: Andre Durie, Chad Owens, Ricky Ray, Matt Black, and Jason Barnes (to name a few), all missing portions of the season, it’s a testament to the organizational strength that Toronto was still in the running for a 2014 playoff spot. This season, injuries should be mended and Toronto should once again be in position to vie for the championship.

Notable 2015 changes:

Intangibles: Toronto’s roster has a lot of new names to learn, but with those new names, there are a lot of seasoned veterans to bring about rapid rookie development. More importantly, key players will be back in full force for Toronto this season. Consider that Andre Durie and Chad Owens, a dynamic-duo if there ever was one, only played 2 games together in 2014. With the two of them looking for passes from one of the league’s best quarterbacks in Ricky Ray, you have the makings of a 2012-repeat. Ricky Foley is back with Toronto after spending 2 seasons in Riderville. Foley now comes back as a vet that can really impact a young group of defensive linemen. Tristan Okpalaugo, Toronto’s Rookie of the year nominee last season, will certainly benefit from having Foley back in the fold. Last season’s special teams player of the year: Swayze Waters will also have a profound impact on the success of this team as the CFL’s new rule changes look to put a little more pressure on the league’s kickers.

Ottawa

Team overview: The REDBLACKS learned a lot last season. That’s good, because with a 2-16 record, nobody’s content. With that said, 2014 was really an opportunity for the team to start a building process. If this off-season is any indication of how the team will fare in 2015, REDBLACKS fans have a lot to look forward to. Marcel Desjardins went out and aggressively attacked free agency, as well as the CFL draft. In football, aggression is always a part of the puzzle.

Notable 2015 changes:

Intangibles: Rick Campbell did not have a healthy stock of veterans to work with last season. He had several key pieces acquired via the CFL dispersal draft, but those picks alone were not enough to field a consistently competitive team. What that meant was a lot of learning for his rookies, which now will only serve to strengthen the team’s chances in their second season with Ottawa. Add to that mix, an obscenely deep round of additions, and you just might have yourself another contender in the east. Henry Burris struggled to find open receivers last year. This season he will have: Carter, Ellingson, Henry, Jackson, Price, Sinopoli, and Williams to throw to, not to mention a strengthened offensive line with SirVincent Rogers on left tackle. Ottawa did everything right in the off-season, now it’s time to learn the playbook and hit the ground running in 2015.

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