March 8, 2019

Defending champs lead way-too-early Nissan Titan Power Rankings

Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

TORONTO — The new season is still months away, but that can’t stop the minds at CFL.ca from creating the first power rankings of 2019.

Free agency has passed and depth charts are just starting to take shape, as several of the league’s top stars have settled into their new homes.

Despite all the off-season craziness, though, the defending champions begin the year in their rightful spot atop the rankings.

Who made the most of the 2019 off-season? More in the Nissan Titan Power Rankings:

Header_CFLPowerRankings


1. Calgary Stampeders

Record: 0-0
Last Week: —

On paper this hasn’t been a good off-season for the Stamps. On paper. They’ve lost two thirds of their starting defence along with coordinator DeVone Claybrooks — the backbone of three consecutive Grey Cup appearances. On the other hand, most of the offence is back — including two-time MOP winner Bo Levi Mitchell — while John Hufnagel has concocted some sort of top-secret winning formula. We’d be foolish to doubt them.


2. Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Record: 0-0
Last Week: —

The Bombers have established a nice floor for themselves as a good, consistent football team. The question: how high can they go? Big-splash signing Willie Jefferson opposite of Jackson Jeffcoat will be a handful for opponents, but the real questions are on offence. O-linemen Sukh Chungh and Matthias Goossen are out, while GM Kyle Walters wasn’t able to upgrade his receiving corps as planned. Have the Bombers improved from last year?


3. BC Lions

Record: 0-0
Last Week: —

The Lions landed the CFL’s biggest free agent since Doug Flutie back in 1996, signing Mike Reilly to a four-year deal in a move intended not only to bring a championship to BC but also reinvigorate the Lions’ fan base in a competitive Vancouver market. While Reilly’s quarterbacking resume speaks for itself, a new-look coaching staff led by former Stamps coordinator DeVone Claybrooks adds an intriguing dynamic to a club that expects to compete for the West in 2019.


4. Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Record: 0-0
Last Week: —

Led by breakout star Jeremiah Masoli and the most productive offence in the CFL last season, the Ticats are widely considered the favourite to win the East in 2019. Orlondo Steinauer has been grooming a long time for his first head coaching job, while offensive coordinator June Jones has all of his top playmakers at his disposal including Brandon Banks, Jalen Saunders and running back Alex Green, who all signed contract extensions in the off-season.


5. Edmonton Eskimos

Record: 0-0
Last Week: —

After losing Mike Reilly, a little retail therapy was the answer for Esks fans as GM Brock Sunderland went on a two-day spending spree in free agency. Edmonton landed a league-high seven of CFL.ca’s top 30-ranked free agents, including former REDBLACKS trio Trevor Harris, Greg Ellingson and SirVincent Rogers. With Harris and Head Coach Jason Maas already having a rapport, the Eskimo offence is primed to put up big numbers in 2019.


6. Saskatchewan Roughriders

Record: 0-0
Last Week: —

The departure of Chris Jones casts a shadow over Mosaic Stadium following last year’s second-place finish. Jones wore a lot of hats in the Riders’ organization, while his unique coaching style simply can’t be duplicated. Craig Dickenson (head coach) and Jason Shivers (defensive coordinator) are first-timers at their position, and the team has yet to find an experienced backup for starting quarterback Zach Collaros. The talent and potential are obvious in Saskatchewan, but there are some ‘what-ifs’.


7. Toronto Argonauts

Record: 0-0
Last Week: —

Cautious optimism surrounds the Argos following their forgettable journey from first to worst in 2018. Head Coach Corey Chamblin returns to a re-energized defence, which added big names in free agency including Micah Awe, Tobi Antigha and Shawn Lemon. However, the biggest factor will be on offence, where Jim Popp has named James Franklin his starting quarterback and surrounded him with new talent including a familiar face in star free agent signing Derel Walker. It’s a make-or-break season for Franklin.


8. Ottawa REDBLACKS

Record: 0-0
Last Week: —

Has Marcel Desjardins outsmarted all of us? Fans are down on the REDBLACKS after several of the team’s top players were allowed to walk in free agency, but there’s a method to the supposed madness: Desjardins doesn’t overpay for free agents. With two of the league’s most highly-regarded coordinators in Noel Thorpe (defence) and Jaime Elizondo (offence), the REDBLACKS believe they have the talent to continue competing for Grey Cups — just as they’ve done for four years now.


9. Montreal Alouettes

Record: 0-0
Last Week: —

While the departed Johnny Manziel dominated the headlines in Montreal this off-season, Kavis Reed has quietly done a nice job of improving the Als’ talent base. New defensive starters Taylor Loffler and Bo Lokombo add a little more ratio flexibility, and on offence DeVier Posey is a game-changing talent and much-needed vertical threat. Complemented by rising stars Eugene Lewis and William Stanback, a big year from Antonio Pipkin is all the Als need to become vastly improved in 2019.