CFL Team by Team Preview

CFL Team by Team Preview

Saskatchewan Roughriders
June 27th, 2007

Regina, SK (Sports Network) - FACTS & FIGURES: Division - West. 2006 record - 9-9-0. Playoff result: Third in West Division, beat Calgary 30-21 in conference semifinal, lost 45-18 to B.C. in division final. Stadium - Mosaic Stadium. Capacity - 27,838. Colors - Green, white and black.

What a whirlwind the offseason has been for Eric Tillman.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders general manager has been busy orchestrating a flurry of trades, the latest coming on the weekend when he dealt offensive lineman Rob Lazeo and a conditional 2009 draft pick for running back Wes Cates, who averaged more than seven yards a carry last year backing up star Joffrey Reynolds. Once Cates gets settled, he will be the Riders starting tailback, replacing Kenton Keith, who is now with the NFL's Indianapolis Colts.

Not content, Tillman also dispatched receivers Jason French, a six-year veteran, and Thyron Anderson, a former 1,000-yard player, to Hamilton for defensive back Tad Kornegay shortly afterwards.

Tillman also used trades to acquire receiver D.J. Flick and kicker Jamie Boreham from Hamilton and lineman Eric Wilson and a negotiation list player from Winnipeg, to name two other deals.

And if he wasn't dealing, Tillman was shaving payroll -- when he joined the Riders late last year, Tillman learned the club was at least $600,000 over the $4.05 million salary cap. Once Tillman was finished cutting salary, the Riders were minus offensive lineman Andrew Greene (Winnipeg, free agent), defensive tackle Nate Davis (Winnipeg, free agent), linebacker Jackie Mitchell and defensive backs Omarr Morgan (Edmonton, free agent) and Davin Bush (Winnipeg, free agent).

But at least the Riders have a familiar face at quarterback, with Kerry Joseph returning as the starter. Joseph finished fourth among CFL passers with 3,489 yards last year and his 22 TD passes were tied for second overall. But he also threw 17 interceptions, just one behind league leader Ricky Ray of Edmonton.

Should Joseph struggle, veteran Marcus Crandell will again be there to step in. Crandell, 33, threw just 30 passes last year but is in his ninth CFL season and knows how to run an offense. He also owns a Grey Cup ring earned in 2001 with Calgary.

Cates ran for 181 yards on 25 carries (7.2 yards per carry) last year in Calgary and is a terrific acquisition for the Riders and would appear to be a nice fit along with veteran fullback Chris Szarka. The question remains, though, just how the club will use him?

As an offensive coordinator, new Riders head coach Kent Austin favored a passing attack and it's something that led to his being fired by the Toronto Argonauts last year because Austin's scheme didn't better involve former NFL rushing champion Ricky Williams.

Austin's preference to pass should bode well for Matt Dominguez, a 1,000-yard receiver last year in an offense that led the CFL in rushing. Joining Dominguez are Flick, another former 1,000-yard receiver, and sophomore Andy Fantuz, a first-round draft pick last year who cracked the starting lineup in the 10th week of the season, and Jason Armstead, another former 1,000-yard receiver.

Defensively, Fred Perry had an outstanding year rushing the passer. Perry finished second in the CFL in sacks with 14, just two behind B.C.'s Brent Johnson, who was the league's top Canadian and defensive player last year.

Tackle Scott Schultz remains one of the league's toughest nose tackles and does a nice job of plugging up the middle. At first glance, the loss of Davis would appear to be a big one, but Davis battled injuries the last little while, resulting in his missing a lot of playing time. Terrell Jurineack had nine sacks in 14 games last year and could add good punch with more playing time.

Mitchell might be gone from the linebacking corps, but Reggie Hunt remains. Hunt finished second in tackles last year with 83 and also added six tackles for a loss and a sack for the Riders. Third-year pro Kitwana Jones had eight sacks last season as a backup linebacker.

The secondary will definitely miss Morgan and Bush, but Tristan Clovis raised eyebrows last year by becoming the club's starting safety as a rookie and finishing with 25 tackles, 11 more on special teams, one quarterback sack and one interception. Eddie Davis, a 13-year pro entering his seventh season with the Riders, will again be the glue that holds the unit together.

There's a lot to like about the Roughriders, but considering all the changes made the future looks brighter than the present.

Sports Network predicted finish: Fourth.

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Edmonton Eskimos
June 27th, 2007

Edmonton, AB (Sports Network) - FACTS & FIGURES: Division - West. 2006 record - 7-11-0. Playoff result: Fourth in West Division, missed playoffs. Stadium - Commonwealth Stadium. Capacity - 60,081. Colors - Green, gold and white.

Last year was a first for the Edmonton Eskimos.

After winning the Grey Cup in 2005, the Eskimos finished last in the West Division last season to miss the CFL playoffs for the first time in 35 years. Not surprisingly, the offseason was one full of changes. With the retirement of president Hugh Campbell, head coach Danny Maciocia was also given the title of director of football operations and the immense responsibility of re- tooling the Eskimos roster.

It's a job Maciocia didn't take lightly, as prior to training camp such veterans as linebacker Singor Mobley, running back Troy Davis, defensive backs Donnie Brady and Malcolm Frank and receiver Ed Hervey were either let go or retired in the offseason. The purge continued at the final cutdown when receiver Derrell Mitchell, a 10-year CFL veteran who had helped the club win its championship in 2005, was cut.

There will be no change, though, at quarterback as Ricky Ray, who threw for a league-high 5,000 yards last year, remains the starter. However, it might take Ray and Co. a little time to gel as the Eskimos will have a new offensive gameplan this year under new offensive coordinator Jacques Chapdelaine, who helped the B.C. Lions win the Grey Cup last year as the club's offensive coordinator.

At first glance, one might question why Chapdelaine would choose to leave a Lions team that could easily repeat as CFL champion for an Edmonton team that last year finished last in the West? The truth is Chapdelaine has his eye on one day becoming a CFL head coach, and he figured with Wally Buono firmly entrenched in B.C., he didn't see an opportunity for that to happen in Vancouver.

Not that Maciocia has designs on leaving the sidelines soon. However, it was more reasonable for Chapdelaine to assume that Maciocia would be more apt to leave coaching to concentrate on heading up the Eskimos football operations department than Buono doing so in B.C. And there should be no questioning Chapdelaine's coaching success. A former CFL receiver with four teams during a seven-year career, Chapdelaine has won a Vanier Cup (Canadian college title) as a coach in '99 with Laval and captured two Grey Cup titles (2001 with Calgary and last year with B.C.).

Under Chapdelaine last year, B.C. led the CFL in passing (292 yards per game), scoring (27 points per game), touchdowns passing (36), most plays from scrimmage (1,461), passing percentage (68.3 percent) and had a league-low 15 interceptions.

About the only blemish against the Lions offense last year was that it allowed a league-high 56 sacks.

Third-year Eskimo Ron McClendon will get the nod at tailback despite being injured during camp. However, McClendon, nicknamed Goldie because of his gold front tooth, showed enough to make free agent signee Josh Ranek, a former 1,000-yard runner with the Ottawa Renegades, expendable.

Former NFL star Jason Tucker tops an Eskimos receiving corps that includes veteran Kamau Peterson, obtained in the offseason from the Hamilton Tiger- Cats. Youngsters Andrew Nowacki and Trevor Gaylor also return. The Eskimos' offensive line received a huge boost when center Kevin Lefsrud decided to end a one-year retirement and return to the club.

Lefsrud's presence should prove beneficial to youngsters like Patrick Kabongo and Joe McGrath and also combine with other proven veterans Tim Bakker and Dan Comiskey to solidify Edmonton's front.

Defensively, the Eskimos also welcomed the return of end Rahim Abdullah, who signed as a free agent. He should strengthen a front line that includes fellow end Adam Braidwood as well as tackles Robert Brown and Ron Warner, formerly of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The Eskimos will miss middle linebacker A.J. Gass, who is expected to miss 4- to-6 weeks with a knee injury. Former Minnesota Viking Antico Dalton starts in Gass's place, with former NFL players Siddeeq Shabazz and Ray Perryman seeing time at linebacker.

Cornerback Omarr Morgan, a former CFL all-star and regarded as one of the league's top cover men, signed with Edmonton as a free agent in the offseason and immediately improved the club's secondary. But the Eskimos didn't stop there, also landing defensive backs Jason Goss and Stanford Samuels to go with returnees Shannon Garrett and J.R. Larose.

Sports Network predicted finish: Third.

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Calgary Stampeders
June 27th, 2007

Calgary, AB (Sports Network) - FACTS & FIGURES: Division - West. 2006 record - 10-8-0. Playoff result: Second in West Division, lost 30-21 to Saskatchewan in conference semifinal; Stadium - McMahon Stadium. Capacity - 36,651. Colors - Red, white and black.

The Calgary Stampeders are quickly developing a reputation of being unable to win in the playoffs. For the last two years, the club has shown during the regular season to be a contender. In 2005, the Stampeders posted an 11-7 mark and were 10-8 last year. But in both instances, seasons of promise ended with disappointing first-round playoff losses.

That could explain why in the offseason the Stampeders signed former NFL first round pick Akili Smith. Starter Henry Burris has been solid during the regular season the last two years, but hasn't been able to lead Calgary to any postseason success.

Burris will begin his third season as Calgary's starter, but Smith was impressive during the exhibition season and will undoubtedly be asked to come off the bench should Burris struggle. And if Burris doesn't play well, there's no doubt he'll hear it from the fans at McMahon Stadium, whose expectations the last two years haven't come close to being met.

Burris finished third in CFL passing last year with 4,453 yards and had a league-high 23 touchdowns. But he also had 18 interceptions, tying Edmonton's Ricky Ray for the league lead.

But Burris' mobility is another element opposing defenses must account for. He ran for 480 yards, averaging 6.9 yards per carry, and also scored seven touchdowns. However, the bulk of Calgary's running game is handled by running back Joffrey Reynolds, who was second overall in the CFL in rushing with 1,541 yards. He averaged 5.9 yards per carry and scored nine touchdowns.

Calgary also signed Canadian running back Jon Cornish, who last year rushed for a single-season record 1,457 yards as a senior at the University of Kansas. He also scored eight touchdowns and had 24 catches for 194 yards. But not only can Cornish spell Reynolds, he is also a solid special teams player.

Nik Lewis was the club's leading receiver with 77 catches for 1,114 yards and five touchdowns. Veteran Jeremaine Copeland had a down year by his standards with 54 catches for 978 yards and six touchdowns. But Calgary's receiving corps should be boosted by the signing of free agent Ryan Thelwell -- who was with B.C. last year -- and return of Marc Boerigter following five seasons in the NFL. In 2001, his second season with Calgary, Boerigter had 48 catches for 931 yards and a team-high 11 touchdowns as the Stampeders won the Grey Cup. Following that season, Boerigter signed with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Another positive factor for Calgary is offensive coordinator George Cortez, who is regarded highly in CFL circles for orchestrating innovative and high- scoring offenses. But he will have big shoes to fill as last year's offensive coordinator Steve Buratto, put together a viable offense but many felt his firing was a case of Buratto being made the scapegoat for the Stamps' playoff woes.

But the Stampeders were busy at the CFL cutdown, dealing running back Wes Cates to Saskatchewan for Canadian offensive lineman Rob Lazeo and a 2009 conditional draft pick. Then, Calgary sent defensive back Coby Rhinehart to the Montreal Alouettes for future considerations.

If there was a weakness last year, it was defending against the pass as Calgary finished last in that category, averaging 278 yards against per game. But the defender most making a stir in training camp was Brandon Browner, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound defensive back from Oregon State. A CFL rookie, Browner signed as an undrafted free agent with the NFL's Denver Broncos after his college career and was said to have impressed the coaches with several interceptions and aggressive play during training camp.

But he suffered a fractured forearm and missed the entire '05 season, spending it on injured reserve before being released earlier this year. Browner has not only shown a penchant for being able to deliver big hits, but amazingly at his size he's still capable of providing adequate man coverage, something that's important in the passing CFL.

Kicker Sandro DeAngelis enjoyed a banner '06 campaign. The former Nebraska Cornhusker was named the CFL's top special teams player after leading the league in scoring (214 points) and field goals made (56) and tried (65). This after finishing second in scoring as a rookie the year before with 179 points.

Sports Network predicted finish: Second.

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British Columbia Lions
June 27th, 2007

Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) - FACTS & FIGURES: Division - West. 2006 record - 13-5-0. Playoff result: First in West Division, beat Saskatchewan 45-18 in division final; beat Montreal 25-14 in Grey Cup. Stadium - B.C. Place. Capacity - 29,706. Colors - Orange, black and silver.

There's no doubt which team is the one to beat this year in the CFL. The B.C. Lions return as the defending Grey Cup champions and a solid threat to become the first team since the 1996-97 Toronto Argonauts to capture consecutive CFL championships.

B.C. dominated the CFL last year, registering the league's best record (13-5) and having four players walk away with its top four awards.

Receiver Geroy Simon was the MVP, defensive end Brent Johnson captured the top defensive player and Canadian honors, Rob Murphy was named top lineman and defensive lineman Aaron Hunt claimed the top rookie award. And after the club captured the Grey Cup, head coach Wally Buono was named the league's coach of the year.

All five are back this year. Offensively, the Lions appear stacked, and nowhere is that more evident than at quarterback. Veteran Dave Dickenson is the starter, and when healthy is the CFL's best. Despite battling injuries last year, Dickenson completed over 70 percent of his passes and threw for 3,032 yards and 22 touchdowns.

But if Dickenson goes down, the Lions counter with Buck Pierce, a backup who could start on most other clubs. And No. 3 quarterback Jarious Jackson would definitely get more playing time elsewhere.

Simon was the CFL's top receiver last year with 105 catches for 1,856 yards and 15 touchdowns. But teams can't afford to give him extra attention because slot back Jason Clermont is also a dominant receiver for the Lions and fellow Canuck Paris Jackson has the potential to thrive in one-on-one coverage.

The Lions did lose Ryan Thelwell as a free agent to Calgary. B.C. led the CFL in passing last year, but lost in the offense was the effectiveness of running back Joe Smith, who ran for 887 yards on 166 carries, averaging more than five yards a carry.

Smith and Co. were helped by a solid offensive line that's anchored by Murphy. But in order to re-sign Murphy in the offseason, the Lions had to release veteran Bobby Singh.

The Lions will also have new offensive coordinators this year as Dan Dorazio and Steve Kruck share those duties after Jacques Chapdelaine went to the Edmonton Eskimos. B.C. could be still adjusting to the new schemes and gameplans as the club lost both of its exhibition games.

However, given the abundance of talent the club has offensively, many believe the Lions are more than capable of overcoming that change.

B.C.'s defense, the CFL's best last year, is led by Johnson, who made league history by becoming the first player to win the top Canadian and defensive player awards in the same year.

But Lions safety Barron Miles also had a banner season, registering a CFL-high 10 interceptions in 2006 as B.C.'s defense recorded nine touchdowns (six fumble returns, three interception returns) and forced 61 turnovers.

The architect of B.C.'s stellar defense is defensive coordinator Dave Ritchie, a former head coach with the Lions, Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Montreal Alouettes. Ritchie spent seven of his 11 years as a CFL head coach with Winnipeg, leading the Bombers to a 52-44-1-1 record during his six-year tenure. But he won a Grey Cup as the Lions head coach in 1994. Ritchie made it known in the offseason that he was interested in becoming a head coach again, and his name was mentioned as a candidate for the Saskatchewan Roughriders vacant job seeing as he had worked with Riders GM Eric Tillman in B.C. But Tillman opted to hire former Saskatchewan quarterback Kent Austin for the job.

Ritchie was mentioned as a candidate for the vacancy in Hamilton, but that position went to former Montreal coach Charlie Taaffe, and in Montreal GM Jim Popp decided to also assume the head coaching job on a full-time basis.

Ritchie stands seventh all-time in CFL head coaching wins with 108. He has been nominated for the league's coach of the year award six times, winning in 2001 after he guided Winnipeg on a 12-game win streak and eventual Grey Cup appearance before losing to Calgary.

Ritchie has also served more than 10 years as a defensive coach in the CFL with Montreal, Ottawa and Winnipeg.

Sports Network predicted finish: First.

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Hamilton Tiger-Cats
June 27th, 2007

Hamilton, ON (Sports Network) - FACTS & FIGURES: Division - East. 2006 record - 4-14-0. Playoff result: Missed playoffs. Stadium - Ivor Wynne Stadium. Capacity - 28,830. Club Colors - Black, gold and white.

The good news for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats is there's really nowhere to go this season but up.

The last two years have certainly been miserable ones for the Ticats, who after going a dismal 5-13-0 in 2005 actually dropped further down in 2006, posting a league-worst 4-14-0 record to not only finish last in the East Division but also miss the playoffs for the second straight year.

But hope certainly springs eternal in Hamilton as the club, under new coach Charlie Taaffe, actually won both of its exhibition games, which is half the number of victories the Ticats earned all of last year.

Taaffe comes into Hamilton with a pretty impressive resume. He was the CFL's coach of the year in 1999 and 2000 while with the Montreal Alouettes and led the Als to the 2000 Grey Cup - where the club lost a heart-breaking 28-26 decision to B.C. - before departing for the University of Maryland.

Taaffe's coaching background is on the offense. He was the Alouettes offensive co-ordinator before he was promoted to head coach and at Maryland he was the Terrapins' offensive co-ordinator. And given Hamilton's struggles last year, they could certainly use Taaffe's expertise.

Quarterback Jason Maas returns as the starter after enduring a miserable '06 season, this after twice coming off the bench in '05 to rally Edmonton to playoff wins en route to a Grey Cup title. Now, Maas did complete over 60 per cent of his passes with Hamilton, but had just eight touchdown passes compared to 17 interceptions.

And the Ticats finished last in the CFL in passing with 3,906 yards and just 13 TD tosses while giving up 29 interceptions. Compare that to the league- leading B.C. Lions, who threw for over 5,200 yards and 36 touchdowns and just 16 interceptions. Any coincidence B.C. also managed to win the Grey Cup last year while Hamilton posted the league's worst record?

Backing up Maas will be Rocky Butler, obtained in the offseason from Saskatchewan, and rookie Timmy Chang.

Maas will have a different receiving corps this year. The Ticats dealt D.J. Flick to Saskatchewan, released veteran slot back Mike Morreale and just recently acquired receivers Jason French and Thyron Anderson from Saskatchewan. Also, the Ticats took University of Regina receiver Chris Bauman first overall in the CFL Canadian college draft.

Hamilton will also have a different look in the backfield, with Canadian Jesse Lumsden starting the season at tailback. The Ticats selected Lumsden with their first-round draft pick two years ago, but Lumsden opted for NFL tryouts with Seattle and Washington the last two seasons, both times joining the CFL club at midseason after being released.

Hamilton's defense led the CFL last year in points allowed (24.4 per game), TD passes allowed (30) and yards allowed (372 per game) so it's not surprising the club's top offseason pickup was defensive lineman Nautyn-McKay Loescher, a former Alabama Crimson Tide player. McKay-Loescher spent last year with the Grey Cup-champion B.C. Lions, but wanted to return east to be closer to his home town of Toronto.

The Ticats also used fourth overall selection in this year's draft to take defensive lineman J.P. Bekasiak, a six-foot-six, 300-pounder from the University of Toledo, and also have Jermaine Reid in camp. Reid, a six-foot- four, 275-pound defensive lineman from Akron, was Hamilton's second-round pick, ninth overall, in 2005.

But while these players are all talented, they're also all young and, in the case of Bekasiak and Reid, still very green about the pro game.

Hamilton lost its top defensive player last year in the offseason when defensive back Jason Goss was traded to Edmonton for receivers Richard Alston and Nicolas Bisaillon, the negotiation rights to Chang and a 2007 second-round pick.

The kicking game also features a different face as gone are kicker Jamie Boreham and punter Pat Fleming. CFL rookie Nick Setta of Notre Dame will handle both punting and kicking duties for the Ticats this season.

Hamilton is also looking for increased production from kick returner Corey Holmes. The CFL's top special teams player in '05 with Saskatchewan, Holmes was a non-factor with the Ticats last year, something the Cats desperately need to change for improvement in '06.

Sports Network predicted finish: Fourth.

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Montreal Alouettes
June 27th, 2007

Montreal, QC (Sports Network) - FACTS & FIGURES: Division - East. 2006 record - 10-8-0. Playoff result: Beat Toronto 33-24 in East Division final. Lost 25-14 to B.C. in Grey Cup. Stadium - Percival Molson Stadium. Capacity - 20,002. Club Colors - Red, blue, grey and black.

When general manager Jim Popp began looking for someone to be the Montreal Alouettes' fulltime head coach this season, he didn't look far.

Popp took over the coaching duties with Montreal late last season when Don Matthews resigned due to health reasons. The Alouettes ended the regular season 2-2 under Popp, but he did manage to lead the team past Toronto into the Grey Cup, marking the fifth time in seven years that the club had reached the CFL title game.

However after B.C. defeated Montreal, 25-14, Popp decided to take on the coaching job fulltime. He'll be one of four people in the CFL this year to be handling both positions - B.C.'s Wally Buono, Calgary's Tom Higgins and Edmonton's Danny Maciocia.

Another move Popp made was to make Marcel Bellefeuille the club's offensive co-ordinator and allow him to completely change an offensive scheme that had been in place for five years and was one that veteran quarterback Anthony Calvillo had become very comfortable in.

Under Matthews, Calvillo was not only allowed to call his own plays, but also given a big say in the club's offensive schemes. Now, Calvillo won't be calling nearly as many plays and the Alouettes, who lived for the big pass, will spend time developing a running game this year.

However, Montreal seemed to struggle mightily with the new offense in the pre- season, prompting many to suggest the Alouettes will be slow out of the gate to start the season while Calvillo and Co. get used to Bellefeuille's gameplans.

And in the ultra-competitive East Division, that could mean the difference between hosting a home playoff game at the end of the year and being the road team throughout the CFL postseason.

Then again, Montreal has always been a streaky team. Last year, the Als won their first seven games before losing their next six contests.

Calvillo, 34, has been one of the CFL's top quarterbacks in recent years. Two years ago, he threw for over 5,500 yards _ his second straight 5,000-yard season. But while he was second in passing last year, he only threw for 4,714 yards and 20 touchdowns, down by his lofty standards.

Calvillo had registered five straight 5,000-yard seasons prior to 2006. He enters the season with 49,442 career passing yards, easily within striking distance of Ron Lancaster, who is third overall with 50,535 yards.

Calvillo also needs less than 200 completions to surpass the recently retired Danny McManus for second in league history.

But at least Calvillo will have slot back Ben Cahoon and receiver Kerry Watkins back. And veteran Robert Edwards returns to anchor the running game, although he was injured in training camp. Youngster Jarrett Payton, the son of Chicago Bears legend Walter Payton, made the roster, but was also injured in training camp.

The offensive line will be without Uzooma Okeke as the 14-year veteran and former winner of the CFL's top lineman award, was released at the final cutdown.

Montreal's defensive line has two big holes to fill with the retirement of Ed Philion and defection of tackle Adriano Belli to Toronto. At least defensive ends Alain Kashama and Anwar Stewart are back.

So too is linebacker Timothy Strickland while veteran John Grace, a former standout with Calgary, was signed in the offseason.

The secondary was boosted by the return of Chip Cox after he was released by the Washington Redskins. When healthy cornerback Davis Sanchez is one of the league's top cover guys.

And there's no denying the value of kicker-punter Damon Duval, who is among the league's best in both disciplines.

But, if Montreal struggles to start the season and falls behind its conference rivals early, then it could be difficult for the Als make up the lost ground should Winnipeg and Toronto - the two teams expected to battle the Als for first in the division - themselves start quickly.

Sports Network predicted finish: Third.

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Winnipeg Blue Bombers
June 27th, 2007

Winnipeg, MB (Sports Network) - FACTS & FIGURES: Division - West. 2006 record - 9-9-0, third in East Division. Playoff result: Lost 31-27 to Toronto in East Division semifinal. Stadium - Canad Inns Stadium. Capacity - 29,503. Colors - Navy blue and metallic gold.

The onus this season is on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to prove that last year was no fluke.

Winnipeg was the CFL's most improved team in 2006, registering four more wins last year than it recorded in '05. As a result, rookie head coach Doug Berry was deservedly nominated for the league's top head coach award, which was won by Wally Buono of the Grey Cup champion B.C. Lions.

Taking a look at Winnipeg's lineup on both sides of the ball, it's not hard to believe the Bombers will be contenders in the East again this year.

Offensively, they have the CFL's rushing leader in running back Charles Roberts and two big-time receivers in Derick Armstrong and Milt Stegall. In fact, Stegall needs just two touchdowns to break the league's all- time mark of 137 that's shared by retired running backs George Reed and Mike Pringle.

But the real key to Winnipeg's offense will be quarterback Kevin Glenn.

Entering his fourth season with the Bombers, Glenn has shown flashes of brilliance at times and last year threw for 3,427 yards and 17 touchdowns. But he also had 13 interceptions, and in the club's playoff loss Glenn had just 12 completions in 22 pass attempts, although he did parlay that into 224 yards and a TD.

Trouble is, though, Glenn does get hurt, meaning the Bombers need a reliable backup. So, the club acquired former Texas Tech star Kliff Kingsbury from Montreal for veteran Brad Banks. Kingsbury does have NFL experience, but is rather short on reps in the Canadian game.

But the key for a quarterback in Winnipeg's offense is to be able to hand the ball off to Roberts while also getting into the hands of both Stegall and Armstrong and then watching all three do their thing. The job entails making sure the quarterback doesn't do anything to lose the game, rather than trying to win it himself.

The Bombers also boast a very stout defense, led by middle linebacker Barrin Simpson, who led the CFL in tackles with 110. The next player closest to Simpson last year had 83 tackles.

However, as dominant as Simpson is, a big key to his success is stellar play by a solid defensive line that gives Simpson the freedom to flow to plays and put himself in position to make tackles untouched. Defensive tackle Doug Brown remains one of the CFL's top linemen as the 6-foot-7, 302-pound Brown occupies two offensive linemen in the middle himself. Rush end Tom Canada is a tenacious pass rusher while end Gavin Walls is indeed under-rated and newcomer Nate Davis, when healthy, is also solid up the middle.

Winnipeg also worked to shore up its defensive secondary by adding veteran Davin Bush from Saskatchewan. His presence, along with that of returnees Anthony Malbrough and Kelly Malveaux, will definitely help the Bombers.

So to will the experience of defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall, who transformed a Bombers defense that in 2005 gave up more yards than any team in CFL history into the unit that helped anchor the club's amazing turnaround last year.

Surprisingly, just like B.C.'s Dave Ritchie, Marshall wasn't seriously considered for any of the three head-coaching vacancies that existed in the offseason, which is great news for the Bombers heading into the 2007 season. Veteran kicker Troy Westwood returns but despite posting a respectable 42.9- yard punting average he won't do both jobs. Either journeyman Pat Fleming or rookie Chris Beckman will do that.

Sports Network predicted finish: Second.

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Toronto Argonauts
June 27th, 2007

Toronto, ON (Sports Network) - FACTS & FIGURES: Division - East. 2006 record - 10-8-0, second in East Division. Playoff result: Beat Winnipeg 31-27 in East semifinal; lost 33-24 to Montreal in East final. Stadium - Rogers Center. Capacity - 52,595. Club Colors - Argonauts blue, metallic silver and state blue.

Training camp did little to resolve the biggest question surrounding the Toronto Argonauts this season: Who will step up and be the club's starting quarterback?

The Argos went into camp with five players battling for the No. 1 job, and all that's known is that former Indianapolis Colt Tom Arth and former Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch aren't in the mix. Arth was released during camp while Toronto placed Crouch on the nine-game injured list, meaning he'll have to miss the first half of the season.

That leaves CFL veterans Damon Allen and Michael Bishop, along with former NFLer Mike McMahon to start the year on the active roster.

Bishop started the first pre-season game and performed well, as did McMahon. Allen, pro football's career passing leader who is entering his 23rd CFL season, didn't play in the opener, but started the club's final exhibition game, and wasn't overly impressive. Again, McMahon came off the bench to play well, but again he wasn't facing a starting defense. This week in practice will likely play a big role in deciding who starts Thursday's season-opening game at Rogers Center against the B.C. Lions, the defending Grey Cup champions. The smart money is on Allen because the Lions last year had the league's best defense and Allen has much more experience as a CFL starter than both Bishop or McMahon.

However, with Bishop showing in last year's playoffs that he's capable of coming off the bench to rally Toronto, if Allen gets the nod he could be on a very short leash.

Toronto won't have former Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams to hand off to. Williams is awaiting reinstatement back into the NFL, leaving former NFL first-round pick John Avery and Canadian Jeff Johnson to carry the brunt of the running load.

The offensive line will also feature a different look, with Bernard Williams and Jerome Davis both gone. The Argos acquired Taylor Robertson from Calgary in the offseason, then signed six-foot-seven 330-pound Canadian Steve Morley, who spent time with both Green Bay and the New York Jets the past few years.

Speedsters Arland Bruce III and Tony Miles are the club's top two receivers. Bruce finished the season ranked second in receiving yards last year while Miles battled injuries after surpassing the 1,000-yard plateau in 2005.

The Argos tinkered with their defense in the offseason, releasing such veterans as linebacker Antonious Bonner, defensive end Eric England and defensive back Clifford Ivory. Toronto did sign former NFL safety Anthony Dorsett Jr., but he was released during training camp.

Toronto's defense was among the toughest to both pass and score against last year, but once again the 3-4 alignment had trouble stopping the run. The Argos allowed a league-high 135 yards rushing per game.

Canadian Mike O'Shea, who last year moved into third on the league's all-time tackles list, returns to anchor an active linebacking corps that includes veterans Michael Fletcher and Canadian Kevin Eiben. But gone is Antonious Bonner, who was released, and will likely be replaced by steady Chuck Winters.

The secondary returns veterans Orlondo Steinauer, Jordan Younger, Ken Wheaton and Anthony Parker, who finished second in interceptions last year with eight and returned four for touchdowns.

The kicking game is in solid shape with veteran Noel Prefontaine. With the CFL returning to more liberal blocking rules on kicks and punts, Bashir Levingston could reclaim his spot as the league's most dangerous returner.

Mike (Pinball) Clemons returns as head coach and has the difficult task of trying to lead Toronto to the Grey Cup as the host city. Not since 1994 with the B.C. Lions has a CFL team won the Grey Cup as the game's host city.

Sports Network predicted finish: First.

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