Thursday, May 16, 2013

2013 CFL Primer

By Kevin Beane

Football is just a little over a month away!

It's time again for my look ahead to what is the most satisfying form of football to get one through the offseason. Most Americans dismiss the CFL out of hand, either because they disdain the 3 downs, 110-yard field between the end zones, or conceding a point on touchbacks, or because they instinctively make fun of anything Canadian, which is an instinct I share. Nonetheless, the product is much closer the NFL/college rules than Arena Football, and is the second-best professional league in the world in terms of talent.

This year, I'm calling it a primer rather than a preview, because I can't pretend I know enough to make an educated forecast.

MONTREAL ALOUETTES

Players You Might Remember From Their College/NFL Days: RB Dominic Rhodes, RB Noel Devine, LB Steve Octavien

The Als are lead by their ageless quarterback Anthony Calvillo, who has lead the team to multiple Eastern Conference titles over the last decade. He'll be 41 in August and is still elite. Montreal was active in the offseason, picking up another CFL legend Arland Bruce, as they try to maintain conference supremacy.

TORONTO ARGONAUTS

Players You Might Remember From Their College/NFL Days: QB Alex Brink, RB Gerald Riggs, Jr., WR Juaquin Iglesias

The Argonauts limped into the playoffs last year at 10-8, and then went on to win the whole thing. Their star is ex-Hawaii receiver Chad Owens, who was the league's Most Outstanding Player and set a CFL record for most all-purpose yards in a season in 2012.

WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS

Players You Might Remember From Their College/NFL Days: QB Max Hall, RB Chad Simpson, CB Demond Washington.

The Blue Bombers have been something of a floundering franchise, making the playoffs only one of the last four seasons, in a league where six of the eight teams get in. Being the most centrally-located CFL franchise, they have switched between the Western Conference and the Eastern Conference multiple times depending on the fates of other franchises, and will again switch in 2014 when Ottawa re-enters the league.

HAMILTON TIGER-CATS

Players You Might Remember From Their College/NFL Days: QB Jeremiah Masoli, QB Henry Burris, CB Dee Webb

The Ti-Cats are something of the Arizona Cardinals of the CFL, a franchise with less historical or recent success than their peers. Henry Burris, who had a brief and disastrous stint with the Chicago Bears in 2002, is perhaps second only behind Anthony Calvillo in terms of CFL quarterback star power. His first year with Hamilton was insane statistically but the Ti-Cats porous defense still lead to a playoff miss.

BRITISH COLUMBIA LIONS

Players You Might Remember From Their College/NFL Days: WR Courtney Taylor, G Patrick Kabongo, DB Terrail Lambert

If the Ti-Cats are the Cardinals of the NFL, then the Lions the Steelers or the Packers of the league, having not missed the playoffs since 1996. Perhaps tellingly, they also seem the franchised least inclined to make splashy "import" free agent signings. They play at BC Place, which has a retractable roof, a factoid they only share with Toronto, who play at the Rogers Centre (where they Blue Jays play; you may remember it as the Sky Dome). Based on no kind of data and only what I remember seeing, it seems like the Rogers Center roof is usually open and BC Place's is usually closed, giving the Lions the appearance as the CFL's "dome" team.

SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS

Players You Might Remember From Their College/NFL Days: WR Limas Sweed, RB Stephfon Green, QB Darian Durant

While I am comparing CFL teams to NFL teams, the Riders remind me a bit of the New York Giants. They are constantly trying to keep their head above water in a very competitive division, but when they succeed, they succeed to the fullest: they made the Grey Cup in three of their last five playoff appearances, and in two of those, they did not get a playoff bye.

The comparisons to the Giants end there, however. They are the only major professional sports team in the province (the only CFL team that can say that), and have historically have been more doormat than power.

CALGARY STAMPEDERS

Players You Might Remember From Their College/NFL Days: QB Darron Thomas, QB Drew Tate, DL Alex Watkins

The Stamps are the team always battling BC for Western Conference supremacy. They are lead by running back Jon Cornish, who last year broke the single-season rushing record by a native Canadian. He also holds the single-season rushing record for the Kansas Jayhawks.

EDMONTON ESKIMOS

Players You Might Remember From Their College/NFL Days: QB Jacory Harris, QB Jonathan Crompton, S Cary Harris

The Eskimos have only made the playoffs four of the last seven seasons. While that may not sound bad, consider that they never missed the playoffs between 1972-2005. Needless to say, this is the CFL's most storied franchise, but, like perhaps the Dolphins or Vikings, their points of pride are in the past, not the present.

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