Berg vs. Ferg is back for 2019 as columnists Pat Steinberg and Marshall Ferguson debate over some of the league’s most contentious storylines. This week’s question: Which offence in the CFL is the most exciting?
TORONTO — Defence may win championships, but there’s nothing fans love more than good offence.
The first few weeks have offered plenty of it, from the explosive play of Brandon Banks and Lucky Whitehead to the consistency of the Edmonton Eskimos.
While Mike Reilly hasn’t quite lit up the scoreboard in his new environment yet, there are plenty of options to choose from in this week’s debate.
Before losing on Thursday night, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats combined for more than 100 points in their previous two matchups, including a 64-point effort against the rival Toronto Argonauts. Jeremiah Masoli and the Ticats haven’t missed a beat despite the off-season departure of June Jones.
In Edmonton, Trevor Harris has enjoyed running Jason Maas’ offence, a unit that has played keepaway with opponents so far while averaging a league-best 485 yards per game — even without the services of receiver DaVaris Daniels.
Despite a 28-21 loss to Winnipeg in Week 3, the Edmonton Eskimos boast the CFL’s most explosive offence right now. Through three weeks of the season, the Esks have shown us a balanced offensive attack and one that looks like it’s just getting started. The craziest thing is, we’re talking about a team that hasn’t missed a beat after losing Mike Reilly in free agency.
An elite offence starts with a quarterback and Edmonton is getting nothing but outstanding work from Trevor Harris in his first year. Let’s not forget, though, Harris has started his career as one of the most accurate quarterbacks in CFL history. Nothing has changed this year; Harris has completed almost 72 per cent of his passes, is already over 1,000 yards, and has six touchdowns against no interceptions. Even in Edmonton’s only loss, Harris was very strong and was let down by a few drops with his team in scoring position.
Harris has some really tantalizing weapons at his disposal, too. Greg Ellingson followed Harris from Ottawa to Alberta and that connection hasn’t missed a beat. No one has caught more passes than Ellingson’s 21 and his 313 receiving yards puts him second in the league. Right there with him are Ricky Collins (293 yards) and Kenny Stafford (221 yards), while newcomer DaVaris Daniels has yet to debut, which gives the Esks another dynamic weapon.
Have you noticed who’s leading the league in rushing heading into Week 4 though? That would be Edmonton’s CJ Gable, who just happens to have 347 yards on the ground through his first three games. Gable had a good but inconsistent 2018, thanks to some spotty stretches from the offensive line. Through three games in 2019, this Eskimos offensive line has looked very strong and Gable is showing everyone he’s still a top end CFL running back.
There are some really good offences in this league, as teams like Hamilton and Winnipeg have shown thus far. In terms of combining explosiveness with consistency, though, no one is doing it better than Edmonton.
They have it all right now. A flashy game breaking speed receiver, a savvy possession receiver returning from injury, a dynamic national running back who somehow keeps finding ways to make catches no running back should be able to and a varied offensive line full of characters whose talent is somehow able to match their lofty expectations.
Oh, and there’s the quarterback.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats offence has come about in the strangest of ways. A backup quarterback in Jeremiah Masoli turned an 0-8 season into an opportunity he’s run with all the way to being named East MOP in 2018, while his success has directly correlated with that of an undersized and non-traditional receiver who continues to run circles – and fly routes – around defenders in Brandon Banks.
Those two alone could qualify as the most exciting offence in the CFL but then you get to the real difference maker, the third contributor who pushes Hamilton over the top: Sean Thomas-Erlington (let’s hope for a speedy recovery after his injury Thursday night).
Thomas-Erlington is as likely to drop a shoulder and run through contact as he is to attempt – somewhat recklessly – hurdling a defender. His violent slashing running style makes him a great watch because you never know what is coming next and his usage in the re-vamped Tommy Condell offence has defenders guessing whether to play run or pass on every snap.
The Ticats are unpredictable, varied, playing with pace and ringing up points through the first three weeks of the season in a way that reminds many Hamilton fans of the 2015 season Condell coordinated before Zach Collaros fell to a season ending knee injury.
For my money, the Ticats offence is appointment viewing right now as the most exciting attack in the Canadian football League.
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.