Steinberg’s MMQB: Pre-season answers and questions
In last week’s first Monday Morning Quarterback of 2014, we talked about some interesting guest coaches at 2014 training camps. Now that we’ve seen our first five games of the pre-season, it’s time to start focusing on the nitty gritty of camp.
We’ve got position battles, emerging talent, and plenty of unanswered questions as the start of the regular season draws closer.
Then there were two
The Calgary Stampeders quarterback position has been in flux ever since they decided to trade Henry Burris to the Hamilton Tiger Cats. Since that time, we’ve seen Kevin Glenn, Drew Tate, and Bo Levi Mitchell all start and win football games.
With Glenn now departed, it truly is just a two horse race to determine who starts for the Stamps on June 28th at home to Montreal.
I believe Calgary should give the ball to Tate on opening day, and nothing we saw on Saturday night changed that for me. The Stamps opened their 2014 pre-season with an exciting 23-20 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at McMahon Stadium, and we got what we were expecting at quarterback.
Calgary alternated drives with Tate and Mitchell and gave the coaching staff a first glimpse of game related comparables.
So why do I think it should be Tate? I believe he’s better suited to be a full time starter in this league right now. Mitchell’s ceiling is extremely high, he’s exciting, and he stretches the field very well.
It’s Tate’s poise, savvy, and ability to manage an offence that wins out for me, at least as it stands right now. I think this Stampeders offence needs his type of presence, and if they can get it for the majority of 2014, they’ll be in very good shape.
There is one caveat, however.
If Tate runs into injury problems, the same way he has the first two seasons of his starting career, the team has to make the change and make it for good.
Despite Calgary finding success with a revolving door of quarterbacks last season, I don’t believe it makes a ton of sense to shuffle back and forth if you don’t have to. If Tate goes down for any extended period of time, give the ball to Mitchell and let him keep it for the rest of the season.
They were technically the home team on Saturday night, but I think Ottawa football fans should be excited when they get to see their team really debut on home field on July 18th. The REDBLACKS opened their inaugural season with a 21-17 loss in Regina at the hands of the Roughriders, but gave us some very interesting things to ponder.
The first team on offence only saw a little bit of action, as was to be expected, but there were bright signs. Quarterback Henry Burris looked ready to pick up from last season, as he threw only one incomplete pass on six attempts.
We know he’s going to be the leader of this Ottawa attack, and nothing on Saturday night told you that was a bad choice. Burris isn’t the long term future at the position, we know that, but there’s no doubt he’ll be invaluable in his team’s quest to be relevant in their first season.
Chevon Walker is a powerful running back, and he showed us that in his limited action. What really intrigues me about Walker is his ability in the red zone.
He opened the scoring in Regina with a two-yard touchdown plunge and that’s where he is at his most dangerous. The title of “go-to receiver” is still very much up for grabs right now, so having Walker’s ability inside the 20 is going to be extremely important early on.
There’s still some work to do on the defensive side of the football, as Darian Durant looked pretty comfortable in the pocket during his limited work for Saskatchewan.
The Riders were also able to get some nice traction on the ground, and it’s pretty clear tackling is going to need to improve in Ottawa, but we this defence was going to be a work in progress, so I’m willing to give it a few weeks to round into shape.
When you add in Jamill Smith’s evening, which included a 76-yard punt return, you have to be satisfied as a REDBLACKS fan that at least you got some highlights. The team doesn’t debut at TD Place until late July, and it’s going to be a hot ticket.
In the meantime, however, Ottawa needs to give their fans something to be excited about from afar. A few standout moments in Regina, and a couple solid, if not spectacular, performances have done that in the early going.
We’ve already mentioned a few quarterbacks already, but this weekend gave us some other interesting things to think about at the position. If you’re Mike Benevides in BC, you sure are happy you have Kevin Glenn on your roster.
In Friday’s 14-11 win over Edmonton, Glenn just did what he does: throw for a good completion percentage, manage an offence, and give his team confidence every time he steps into the huddle.
John Beck comes with the NFL pedigree, and Travis Lulay is the starter for good reason, but Glenn is an important piece nonetheless. He is a winner, as we saw from his time the last two seasons with Calgary, on top of his stops in Winnipeg and Hamilton prior. He’s also a good teammate and isn’t going to let his place on the depth chart be a distraction.
But most importantly, he adds another high-end football brain to the conversation in BC. Glenn has never been freakishly gifted with athletic ability, instead relying on his smarts and understanding of the game to move him forward. That’s where he’ll be most important in Vancouver.
Sticking with that game at Commonwealth, it sure was promising to see Mike Reilly’s work in just over a quarter of action with the Eskimos. He threw for 117 yards on 11-for-12 passing and showed zero rust or worse for wear after all the abuse he took late last season.
We found out Reilly was legit as a starter in 2013, and that’s exactly the beginning to 2014 Edmonton was praying for.
The biggest question now is can they protect him? Reilly looked comfortable and didn’t have to try to move the football himself because protection broke down in front of him.
Granted, BC wasn’t rolling with an opening day roster, but that’s a positive sign in June. The Eskimos have some big questions with their running game, so Reilly is going to be relied upon heavily in the early going, so keeping him upright takes on an even higher priority.
While it was the Hamilton debut of Zach Collaros on Saturday afternoon, it was his potential backup that stole the show. Jeremiah Masoli is not ready to be a starting quarterback full time in this league, but his performance in Hamilton’s 28-23 win over Montreal might just move him up to number two on the depth chart.
Masoli threw three touchdowns as the Tiger-Cats put together a very nice second half to open their preseason. But what’s more interesting is what it showed in Masoli’s progression as a professional quarterback.
The former Oregon and Mississippi product has always had explosive ability, but it was his poise and patience that struck me against the Alouettes. Collaros is the guy in Hamilton, but if you’re Kent Austin, perhaps you have an interesting weapon you can deploy when the time is right.
At the very least, you’ve gained more confidence in a quarterback that won’t turn 26 until August.