- FREE AGENCY
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Ottawa REDBLACKS must have been listening to the outside noise over the last few weeks. With wins in Week 2, both teams sit 2-0 on top of the East Division and have gone a long way to silencing some of the doubts surrounding them entering the season. It has been a really nice early story this season.
The questions asked about the Ticats centered on whether or not they could repeat the success of 2018 without offensive mastermind June Jones on the sidelines. And, despite a 23-17 win over Saskatchewan to open the season, those whispers got a little louder heading into their game against the Argonauts on Saturday.
Hamilton responded rather emphatically and spoiled Toronto’s home opener in grand fashion. Jeremiah Masoli threw for three touchdowns and ran in one more. Bralon Addison hauled in all three of those touchdown passes. Both he and Brandon Banks went over 100 yards receiving, while Sean Thomas-Erlington hit triple digits on the ground. Thanks to an absolute offensive explosion, the Tiger-Cats won their second straight game 64-14 at BMO Field.
This was actually the topic I wrote on in last week’s Berg vs. Ferg column. I get why some have wondered if Hamilton can have similar offensive success to last year. I’ve felt a little differently, though, because of the type of people we’re talking about here.
Yeah, almost all of Masoli’s success prior to this season has come with Jones running the offence, but that doesn’t change the fact he’s an excellent quarterback. It also doesn’t change the supporting cast; Masoli has elite receivers in Banks, Addison, and Luke Tasker (who didn’t even play on Saturday) to spread the ball to.
The new man running this offence is no slouch, either. Jones left big shoes to fill in The Hammer, but Tommy Condell had all chops to give it a go. Let’s not forget how successful Condell’s offences were in his prior stint as Hamilton’s OC; they consistently ranked near the top of the league over three consecutive seasons.
The outside opinions of Ottawa were even more cynical entering the season. I’ll cop to it myself; I chose the REDBLACKS to lose to both Calgary and Saskatchewan here on CFL.ca. But this team has seen the predictions and read about the uncertainty and they’ve thrived. After taking their first ever win at McMahon Stadium in Calgary in Week 1, Ottawa outlasted the Riders 44-41 on Thursday for their second win.
We led last week’s MMQB talking about Dominique Davis and how dangerous he could be if he got those interceptions down. After throwing four in a Week 1 win over the Stamps, Davis was extremely accurate at home to Saskatchewan, which was another very encouraging sign. Davis finished with 354 passing yards on 30-for-39 passing, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. It was a resounding result following a far more inconsistent first start.
I’m surprised to see the REDBLACKS doing what they’re doing early this season, but pleasantly so. I’m happy if I turn out to be wrong on Ottawa’s fortunes this season; they play in a great market with passionate fans and a beautiful stadium. Seeing them have success is good for the league.
For the REDBLACKS and Tiger-Cats, it’s a nice start to the season. Both squads have made pundits and fans alike reevaluate the questions and concerns that existed prior to the season. It’s a small sample size and there’s a lot still to be determined, but these two teams have given us a lot to think about to start 2019.
So far so good
Boy do the Edmonton Eskimos look like they’ve been playing together for years. Of course, that’s not true, because the Esks completely overhauled their team during the off-season. The results thus far have been very strong and I’m not expecting Edmonton to fall dramatically off the pace at any point this season.
Quarterback Trevor Harris is statistically the most accurate active quarterback in the CFL. While he’s yet to ascend to the top tier of CFL pivots with Bo Levi Mitchell and Mike Reilly, Harris has quietly clipped along with a career completion percentage over 70 per cent. He was on brand Friday against the Lions.
This game was supposed to be an emotional return for Reilly. The former Eskimos’ franchise player signed with BC in February but it was his replacement stealing the show in their first head-to-head showdown.
This offence has a few things going for it. First off, they’ve got talent; Harris is surrounded by Greg Ellingson and CJ Gable on offence and they’ve all had really nice starts. Additionally, Edmonton has the luxury of reuniting Harris with Ellingson after a few really successful seasons in Ottawa. That combo was dialed in against BC; Ellingson’s night finished with two touchdown catches and 174 yards receiving.
Edmonton’s next test is against a very good Winnipeg team to kick off Week 3 on Thursday. Going up against one of the top defensive units in the league, we’ll get a much better indication as to where this new look offence is. As of right now, though, they’re looking pretty darn good.
Despite losing to Ottawa, the Riders got some positive news over the weekend. It was Cody Fajardo starting at quarterback for Saskatchewan on Thursday night and he looked strong in his debut with a new team. The uncertainty at pivot for the Riders was a big talking point heading into the season, but Fajardo asserted himself well and made a nice case to remain at the top of the depth chart.
Finally, Week 3 finishes with a huge bounce back game for Toronto. Their 64-14 loss to Hamilton still stings, but it’s on the Argos to use this setback as a positive. Toronto has the chance to respond to a difficult loss, but they also face the prospect of things getting worse. Which way things end up going is very much up to the Argonauts.