Having covered all 6 playoff competitors from 2014, we now shift to the 3 squads that will look to rebound in 2015. Should you wish to read the previous articles, you can click here for Calgary and Hamilton, here for Montreal and Edmonton, or here for BC and Saskatchewan. Clearly then, today’s article will cover the Toronto Argonauts, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and the Ottawa REDBLACKS.
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:
- Jason Barnes was released
- Shea Emry was traded to the Saskatchewan Roughriders
- Ricky Foley was signed by the Toronto Argonauts
- Brandon Isaac was signed by the Toronto Argonauts
- Matt McGarva was signed by the Toronto Argonauts
- Steve Slaton has announced his retirement
- Spencer Watt was signed by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats
- Anthony Woodson was signed by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats
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.
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:
- Greg Ellingson was signed by the Ottawa REDBLACKS
- Ernest Jackson was signed by the Ottawa REDBLACKS
- Brett Maher was released
- Damaso Munoz was signed by the Ottawa REDBLACKS
- Maurice Price was signed by the Ottawa REDBLACKS
- SirVincent Rogers was signed by the Ottawa REDBLACKS
- Brad Sinopoli was signed by the Ottawa REDBLACKS
- Chris Williams was signed by the Ottawa REDBLACKS
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.
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:
- Ivan Brown was signed by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers
- Stanley Bryant was signed by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers
- Marc Dile was signed by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers
- Sam Hurl was signed by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers
- Glenn January was released
- Dominic Picard was signed by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers
- Chad Rempel was signed by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers
- Jamaal Westerman was signed by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers
- Ian Wild was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL)
- Jason Vega was released
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.