Stay tuned, the CFL goes live right after this
By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Now in his second season at the helm of the Edmonton Eskimos, head coach Kavis Reed may have a bigger job before him in 2012 than he did when he broke in a year ago.
For a team that finished 11-7 in the regular season and bowed to eventual Grey Cup Champion British Columbia, making a major switch at the quarterback position was somewhat of a surprise.
Ricky Ray was one of the top signal-callers in the league a year ago, especially during the first few weeks when he could do no wrong, yet Edmonton opted to trade him to Toronto for Steven Jyles, with other players and future considerations factored in as well.
Now entering his seventh season in the CFL, Jyles has had a tough time finding a permanent home, having made stops in Saskatchewan, Winnipeg and Toronto since breaking in with this same Edmonton squad back in 2006. Jyles hasn't been an overwhelmingly successful passer with just 31 aerial majors and almost as many interceptions (29), but Reed still has him sitting at the top of the depth chart heading into the first week of the 2012 regular season.
Making the transition to Jyles a bit easier will be slotback Adarius Bowman who matched Fred Stamps with 1,153 receiving yards in 2011. Stamps has now put up three straight years with at least 1,100 receiving yards and is consistently a big-play threat.
Also competing for top honors in the West Division will once again be the Calgary Stampeders, a team which had its 2011 campaign cut short by Edmonton in a 33-19 setback the second week of November.
The Stamps no longer have former MVP Henry Burris lining up at quarterback, as he was moved to Hamilton in a trade in January which brought Kevin Glenn into the fold, which means Glenn and/or Drew Tate will be expected to carry the squad going forward. Tate hasn't had much starting experience in the league, so the job will likely fall to Glenn even though his career quarterback rating is just 88.5.
A former rookie of the year and a CFL All-Star in both 2010 and 2011, receiver Nik Lewis has spent his entire career with Calgary and has registered no less than 1,000 receiving yards every season since 2004 when he broke into the league. A clutch possession receiver who may not make the flashy plays or always end up in the end zone, Lewis will help the Stamps transition to life after Burris.
The bigger question for the offense is how well receivers like Ken-Yon Rambo and Romby Bryant will respond. Rambo, who spent some time in the NFL early in his career, isn't getting any younger so he'll need to step up his efforts in order to remain a key part of the offense for the Stampeders moving forward. Bryant, someone who has never missed a CFL game due to injury, registered a modest 51 catches and five touchdowns a year ago. He will need to elevate his play to continue to get looks down the field.
As has been the case now since 1998 when he came over from Hamilton, Anthony Calvillo is the catalyst once again for the Montreal Alouettes. As someone who now owns almost every major passing record not just in the CFL but in all of professional football, the Utah State product was used sparingly during the preseason this year because head coach Marc Trestman already knows what he has in this national treasure.
Even though he took a few more hits than usual last year and saw his completion rate drop to 61.8 percent, the lowest since 2003, Calvillo again threw for more than 5,200 yards and tied for the league lead with 32 TDs. Say what you will about growing old, this football player simply gets better with age.
Helping to make Calvillo's job a bit easier is slotback Jamel Richardson, a four-time East Division All-Star who erupted for a staggering 112 receptions for 1,777 yards and 11 TDs in 2011. Richardson has now posted four straight 1,000-yard campaigns and has landed in the end zone 43 times during that span.
Even though he recorded just four majors through the air last year, S.J. Green is another valuable weapon for the Als who posted career highs with 87 catches for 1,147 yards and is poised to put up similar numbers again this year.
One of the bigger surprises from the 2011 campaign was the fact that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers lost their last two regular-season outings yet still made the playoffs and eventually lost to BC in the title game. Then again, this was a team that won seven of the first eight games of the season so there were some high expectations at the mid-season mark.
Head coach Paul LaPolice has brought another talented coach to the Bombers in Gary Crowton, now the offensive coordinator after serving in the same capacity with Maryland, LSU and Oregon at the collegiate level. Crowton has Buck Pierce as his starting quarterback, the New Mexico State product throwing for a career-high 3,348 yards in 2011 after rehabbing from injury. However, Pierce was picked off 18 times a year ago, compared to throwing just 14 TDs so there is still work to be done.
Unfortunately for the Bombers and Crowton, the offense doesn't have many household names in the receiving corps. A three-time divisional all-star, Terrence Edwards is the one who comes the closest to fitting the bill of a top- flight receiver. For the second year in a row, Edwards led the team in receptions and is now only nine catches shy of 400 for his career, but he'll need some of his teammates to step up and make plays in order for defenses not to focus solely on him.
Preseason action and countless predictions don't mean much of anything since championships are won on the field, so saddle up and get ready for another exciting season of CFL play which begins in earnest this week.
06/27 10:16:03 ET