Berg vs. Ferg returns for another season on CFL.ca as columnists Pat Steinberg and Marshall Ferguson debate over some of the league’s most contentious storylines. This week they debate over which new name has stood out the most.
In a league where Calgary’s Bo Levi Mitchell rarely posts a loss and a pass-happy Ottawa offence has controlled the East in recent years, two different offences are emerging as the CFL’s elite early in the season.
Despite a loss this week, the Toronto Argonauts are still tops in the league in passing and second in points scored under a renewed Ricky Ray-led offence and led by the tutelage of head coach Marc Trestman.
Conversely, the Eskimos offence is no stranger to racking up big yards with Mike Reilly at the helm and one of the league’s premier receivers Adarius Bowman in the mix. Bowman has been quiet thus far which is what makes the unbeaten Esks all the more dangerous.
CFL.ca columnists Patrick Steinberg and Marhsall Ferguson duke it out:
Football is quite often a bit of a science experiment, that’s one of the many aspects of the game and specifically the CFL that makes us love it. Take a dash of feisty experienced receiver, add a hint of veteran quarterback and a lot of motivation from a new regime then add them together and wait through a training camp to see if there is a reaction.
That’s basically what happened to the Toronto Argonauts in the last six months. When you add those things together it’s anyone’s guess what could come of it and there are certainly no guarantees despite trusting all the elements of the experiment.
What has happened in the first three weeks of the CFL season for Toronto’s offence is impressive in a many ways.
First, and perhaps most importantly Marc Trestman seems to have re-shaped and reinvigorated future first ballot hall of fame Ricky Ray. Trestman is asking ray to combine his career long dependability and patient decision making with a vertical passing game that has caught Hamilton, BC and Ottawa all a little bit off balance. To change a player of that caliber and make them more effective is special.
Second, who knew SJ Green had this in the tank? It makes sense that he feels at home in Toronto with Trestman and General Manager Jim Popp from their Montreal days and that all sounds great on paper but to see the things he is doing on the field is a surprise to anyone who truly understands the magnitude of his knee injury last season.
Finally, I believe the Argos are just scratching the surface of their potential offensive fire power. They haven’t truly found an effective way to run the ball yet and Ray showed a level of play in week one he has yet to retain in the following weeks. At some point the Argos will use Brandon Whitaker or James Wilder Jr. to bust a game open and Ray will play at that week one level again. If everyone stays healthy and the Argos get back Devier Posey and Jeff Fuller from injuries sooner rather than later the East division leading Argos could become quite the show at BMO.
I know they’ve only played two games, but the Edmonton Eskimos look like they haven’t missed a beat on the offensive side of the football. 2016 saw the Esks put together the CFL’s most terrifying passing attack and they look poised to do just that again. That’s why I lean towards them as the most impressive offence in the early going, even with Toronto’s explosive start to the season.
Quarterback Mike Reilly looks as dynamic and dangerous as ever in Edmonton’s 2-0 start. He led the league with 5,554 yards last season and he’s not far off that pace as it stands right now; he’s averaging just over 300 yards per game thus far. Even more impressive, Reilly is ahead of pace when it comes to accuracy. After finishing third in the CFL with a 70.8% completion rate in 2016, Reilly is up to 73.4% in his first two starts. Plain and simple: Reilly looks as good to start this season as he did last year.
But it goes beyond that for the Eskimos. Even with Derel Walker no longer in the fold, Edmonton’s arsenal at receiver remains impressive. And most promisingly, the Esks aren’t relying too heavily on Adarius Bowman, which was a worry. Instead, they’ve gotten solid performances from Brandon Zylstra, D’haquille Williams, and Vidal Hazelton so far, allowing them to diversify things a little more. And make no mistake, Bowman still has plenty of game-breaking performances in store.
I’d be even more bullish on this group had John White not suffered his season-ending injury in week two. White looked very much like a top-flight runningback prior to going down, so that would have given Edmonton another dynamic weapon. However, with how good this offensive line has looked through two games, I think the Eskimos can still have an effective running game even without White.
Edmonton’s offence was explosive in 2016 and I actually think they’ve got more potential this season. With Walker’s departure, the Esks have gotten more diverse at receiver while their offensive line looks solid. And, when a quarterback like Mike Reilly in the fold, that offence is always going to look pretty good.
DON’T SIT ON THE FENCE!
While both sides are pretty convincing, someone’s got to take it. Whose argument convinced you the most?
You can vote for this week’s winner both on CFL.ca and Twitter. Meanwhile, continue the conversation by tweeting @Fan960Steinberg and @TSN_Marsh.
The winner will be revealed in the following week’s Berg vs. Ferg.