In the CFL, the quarterback is often the most heavily discussed position. This should continue to be the case this week, as rookie camps and training camps open up across the league.
The Toronto Argonauts and Winnipeg Blue Bombers, two teams who missed the playoffs last season, both are not sure who their starting quarterback will be heading into the season.
Toronto will have Dalton Bell, Danny Brannagan, Ken Dorsey, Gibran Hamdan and Cleo Lemon. None of these quarterbacks have any real CFL experience. The main battle here should be between Dorsey (who has NFL experience), Bell (who has the most CFL experience) and Lemon (who has NFL experience and had a successful college career). It is really any one’s position to win.
Winnipeg certainly has more experienced quarterbacks in camp. Buck Pierce, Steven Jyles, Adam DiMichele Alex Brink will all be competing for the starting quarterback job, but the main battle will be between Jyles and Pierce. Pierce has more experience than Jyles, entering his eighth year in the league and having started more games than Jyles, but Pierce also has suffered through injuries. Jyles is desperate to finally be a starting quarterback, and unless Pierce stays healthy, he may get his wish in Winnipeg.
Winnipeg and Toronto are not the only teams dealing with questions concerning the quarterback position.
In Saskatchewan, fans are wondering who the backup quarterback will be this season. While Darian Durant is the clear-cut starter, Ryan Dinwiddie, Cole Bergguist, Todd Reesing and Kent Smith will be battling it out for the backup position. Dinwiddie is the “veteran” among the group, but both Reesing and Bergguist have great potential. The backup quarterback position is up in the air, but Bergguist could have the upper hand because he spent all last season with the organization.
The competition between Casey Printers and Jarious Jackson should make the B.C. Lions training camp interesting. Jackson saw more time than Printers last season, throwing for 1,252 yards and 12 touchdowns, but Printers was the starter from week 17 on. In the East semi-final that saw B.C. crossover to play Hamilton, Printers helped the Lions upset Hamilton 34-27. With Printers, a former most outstanding player in the league, the Lions know they have a potentially dangerous quarterback. With Jackson, the Lions know they have a quarterback who has never really lived up to his potential. The job, therefore, should be Printers to lose.
There are other battles to keep an eye on during training camps, largely thanks to the number of quality players that went to the NFL in the off-season.
Toronto has plenty of position battles to watch, mainly on the offensive side of the ball. With Jamal Robertson gone, Toronto’s leading rusher from last season, the Argonauts will be looking for a replacement. Jeff Johnson, Bryan Crawford and Andre Durie will be the main players to focus on. In the receiving core, Jermaine Copeland and Chad Lucas will be starters, leaving players like Mike Bradwell, Jason Carter, Obed Cétoute and Chad Rempel to battle it out for the other spots. Also, while Toronto didn’t bring in lots of competition for kicker Robbie Dehaze, it will be interesting to see how he performs in training camp.
The Roughriders lost starting defensive end’s John Chick (32 tackles and 11 sacks in 2009) and Stevie Baggs (55 tackles and 12 sacks) in the off-season. There are a number of players fighting for their jobs, including first overall draft pick Shomari Williams, Brent Hawkins, Ikenna Ike, Kitwana Jones, Joe Sykes and Michael Stadnyk. While any of these players could earn the starting role, it appears that Hawkins is one of the front runners, with 23 career tackles and 5.5 sacks in the NFL. Williams could be another front runner for the position, though he is a rookie. For the second defensive end spot, Saskatchewan may in fact rotate players in during the season.
Edmonton, who traded away wide receiver Maurice Mann in the off-season, certainly are facing some questions in the receiving core. Kevin Challenger, Rudy Burgess, Skyler Green, Efrem Hill, Andrew Nowacki and Kevin Wuthrich are competing. With over 400 yards and one touchdown last season, Nowacki has got to be the favourite for one spot, while Challenger, Green and Hill should be the main contenders for the other.
The Calgary Stampeders have a few questions at well. With last year’s middle linebacker Tim Johnson gone, the team will be looking for a new middle linebacker. But, the main concern for Calgary is the offensive line. Veteran’s Jeff Pilon and John Comiskey retired this off-season and Dimitri Tsoumpas went to the NFL. Ben Archibald, Randy Chevrier, Dan Comiskey, Rob Lazeo, Jesse Newman, Tim O’Neill and Matt Sheridan will be some of the offensive lineman to watch at training camp.
The Hamilton Tiger Cats and Montreal Alouettes both don’t have many questions heading into training camp. However, since both teams should be very competitive this season, they will definitely want to have a solid training camp and come together as a team.
Cleary, there should be plenty of battle to keep your eyes on as training camps get underway across the CFL. And of course, with training camps opening, it means the season is that much closer. Preseason action starts on Sunday, June 13 and the regular season begins on Thursday, July 1 with an exciting doubleheader.
Let the games begin!