November 14th, 2018

Inside the CFL: Kelly’s Peerless Pigskin Prognostications

By None on June 12, 2018.

Is Bo good to go? Can Zach get back on track? Will Wally Buono go out with a whimper or bang? Will Jason Maas learn to relax? Can Winnipeg overcome a devastating injury? Time for my Fearless Football Forecast, otherwise known as Kelly’s Peerless Pigskin Prognostications.

Saskatchewanshould finish first this season because they have an awesome offence, a physical, aggressive defence and superb special teams. The quarterback tandem of former Ti-Cat starter Zach Collaros andCanadian Brandon Bridge give theRiders stability and injury protection at the most important position.Since winning the East with Hamilton in 2014, Collaros has missed more games than he’s played. If he can stay healthy, they’ll end up on top. If not, they might still make it with Bridge.

Coach Chris Jones increased team speed by releasing veteran receivers Rob Bagg, Bakari Grant and Chad Owens. Outstanding targets remain with Duron Carter, Naaman Roosevelt, Caleb Holley, Shaq Evans Jordan Williams-Lambert, Devon Bailey and Joshua Stanford.

The offensive line with Terran Vaughn, Brendon Labatte, Dan Clark, Jarvis Harrison and Thaddeus Coleman will open holes for running backs Tre Mason, Jerome Messam and Marcus Thigpen who will miss the first two games due to a drug suspension.

Defensively, they will mount a ferocious pass rush with CharlestonHughes and Willie Jefferson. The inside men are ZachEvans and Eddie Steele. Sam Eguavoen, Sam Hurl and Derrick Moncrief are the linebackers. The secondary with Nick Marshall, Ed Gainey, Mike Edem, Crezdon Butler and Jovon Johnson is the best.

Because of retirements, age, legal problems and salary cap concerns, Calgary will field an unusual number of new faces. But the core is still there and the front office did a superb recruiting job. Defensively, the Stampeders should be better than the group that led the CFL last year. The kicking game is tops, although the return game is still up in the air.

Offensively they lost Hat High’s Dan Federkeil at tackle but the O-line remains experienced and deep. An average receiving corps got a big boost with the return of former all-star Eric Rogers from the NFL. Jerome Messam is gone from the backfield but Terry Williams looks great.

If Bo Levi Mitchell’s shoulder has healed, the Stamps will once again contend for the top.

Despite losing Adarius Bowman and Brandon Zylstra, quarterback Mike Reilly still has excellent receivers with Derel Walker, Jamill Smith, Vidal Hazelton, Kenny Stafford, Juran Criner and Bryant Mitchell. C.J. Gable, Calvin McCarty and Shaq Cooper are in the backfield. The O-line is first rate.

The biggest changes are on defence where Coach Jason Maas dumped three veteran linemen in favour of youngsters Alex Bazzie, Kwaku Boateng and Jake Ceresna. The only holdover is All-Canadian Almono Sewell. Middle linebacker J.C. Sherritt looks fully recovered from his Achilles injury. He’s joined by Adam Konar and Korey Jones. Johnny Adams and Aaron Grymes lead an average secondary. The kicking game was terrible last year. The same culprits are back.

Mike Reilly is a great quarterback, Kevin Glenn provides insurance.

I’m picking them third only because a Winnipeg team that I thought would challenge for first was dealt a severe blow when quarterback Matt Nichols was injured in practice. He won’t be back for about six weeks. The Bombers are strong defensively with the addition of linebacker Adam Bighill. Andrew Harris is double trouble running and catching the ball. The receivers are average. They’ll be tough in the Fall when Nichols returns but it could be too late.

B.C. Lion GM Ed Hervey has done a good job signing free agents like defensive ends Odell Willis and Gabe Knapton, linebacker Otha Foster and DBs Marcell Young, Anthony Orange Winston Rose and Garry Peters. If the chemistry develops the defence will be good.

Special teams are satisfactory.

The return of tackle Jovan Olafioye solidifies the O-line, Jeremiah Johnson and Chris Rainey provide a good ground game. Newcomer receiving vets Kevin Elliot and Cory Watson combined with Emmanuel Arceneaux and Bryan Burnham to improve the receiving corps. It all comes down to quarterback. If Jonathon Jennings falters again, the Lions’ fate is in the paws of the usually injured Travis Lulay. If Jennings fulfills his potential, Wally Buono’s coaching career can end in stellar fashion.

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