Happy New Year and welcome to 2020! It’s not cutting down on carbs or being nicer to your mother-in-law, but these will have to do. So, without further ado, I’ve got a New Year’s resolution suggestion for every CFL team.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Keep working with Chris Streveler
The Bombers wouldn’t be Grey Cup champions if not for Streveler, and specifically his work in the West Division Final against Calgary. The man is an absolute beast and one of the most unique quarterbacks the CFL has ever seen. Winnipeg has quarterback decisions to make this winter, but keeping Streveler in the fold and continuing to develop him should be one of those choices.
The challenge for the Bombers is simple if they do indeed bring Streveler back (and if he doesn’t end up in the NFL): develop him as a passer while accentuating his strengths as an incredible athlete. I really think Steveler could be a long-term starting quarterback in the CFL, but more development is needed. That development should take place with Winnipeg.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats: Focus on the regular season
2019 was the best ever regular season in Hamilton and ended with a disappointing loss to the aforementioned Bombers in the 107th Grey Cup presented by Shaw. It would be very natural for the Tiger-Cats to enter the 2020 season with the sole intention of avenging that loss and erasing the hurt of the prior season. There’s one problem though: it’s not that simple.
Hamilton still has 18 games to play next season. One of head coach Orlondo Steinauer’s biggest jobs will be keeping a group focused solely on getting back to the Grey Cup motivated to play in June and July. The Tiger-Cats will have as good a team as anyone on paper in 2020, but they have to stay focused on a number of little goals if they want to achieve the ultimate one come November.
Calgary Stampeders: Replace one of the best
The loss of a punter may not seem like a massive hole to fill, but in Calgary’s case, the retirement of Rob Maver is significant. The Stamps have had an incredible luxury over the last years of rolling out one of the best punters in league history. They’ve also had the benefit of Maver’s Canadian passport, making him even more meaningful each and every week.
So how does Calgary go about filling the void left by Maver? It’s an interesting question without an easy answer. The Stampeders could look at the 2020 CFL Draft, likely in the later rounds, to bring in another Canadian punter. The good news is special teams coordinator Mark Kilam is staying put for next season. Kilam is one of the best in his job anywhere in the league, which should give fans in Calgary plenty of hope a suitable replacement for Maver is found.
Montreal Alouettes: Build on last season
I’m sure you could use “build on last season” for any team year over year, but this applies to Montreal very well. The Alouettes were the surprise of the 2019 season and made a long-awaited return to prominence. Montreal was clearly one of the two best teams in the East Division and laid a lot of solid groundwork for the future. Now it’s time to take it a step further.
Despite a rough playoff starting debut, I believe the Als have their guy in quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. The big question now is who surrounds Adams in 2020, as receiver Eugene Lewis and running back William Stanback are both free agents. Montreal has a solid group coming back, though, and it’ll be crucial to turn last year’s great story and turn it into one with a number more chapters.
Edmonton Eskimos: Make Shaq Cooper a bigger part of the plan
Both Shaq Cooper and CJ Gable are free agents this winter, which makes for a very interesting conversation at running back for GM Brock Sunderland. Gable has been strong, reliable, and consistent since joining the Eskimos, so there’s a chance he comes back. Regardless of Gable’s future in Edmonton, though, Cooper needs to be a big bigger piece of the offensive puzzle in 2020.
When Cooper was given the chance last season, he excelled, which is why I want to see him on the field for more snaps going forward. With Gable in the fold, the Eskimos didn’t even dress Cooper for a number of games this season for ratio reasons. Whether he’s sharing carries with Gable or not this season, though, Cooper can’t be left out of the equation on a regular basis.
Toronto Argonauts: Re-sign Derel Walker
I have no idea what the Argos are doing from a player personnel standpoint because they’re a team very much in transition. Pinball Clemons is in as general manager and his first big move was to hire Ryan Dinwiddie as a first time head coach. No one knows who’s in the plans for next season and who the new regime wants to move on from. If the Argos have they’re say, though, Walker needs to be a priority re-signing this weekend.
Quarterback was a position in flux for Toronto last season, which made it hard for any of their playmakers to play to full potential. Despite that, Walker still went over 1,000 receiving yards and showed his elite game-breaking ability on a few occasions with a couple monster outings. If Nick Arbuckle is indeed following Dinwiddie from Calgary to the Argos, having a weapon like Walker would be very desirable.
Saskatchewan Roughriders: Let Jason Maas work his magic
I’m really excited to see what Jason Maas and Cody Fajardo can do working together in Regina this year. After being fired as head coach in Edmonton, Maas resurfaced as Saskatchewan’s offensive coordinator in short order. It’s a great hire for the Riders, as Maas is one of the CFL’s foremost offensive minds, despite the way things ended with the Esks.
When Maas works with quarterbacks, they tend to have their most productive years. It happened with Trevor Harris in Ottawa and Edmonton, and Mike Reilly as a member of the Eskimos. Coming off a breakout year, I feel like the ceiling is sky high now that Fajardo has a chance to work with Maas. This is quite the realistic resolution, too, because I think Sask will be just fine letting Maas get to work on his new quarterback partnership.
Ottawa REDBLACKS: Get Brad Sinopoli some help
After four straight seasons of 1,000 receiving yards or more, Sinopoli’s numbers fell way off in 2019 with Ottawa. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, though, knowing how miserable this season was for the REDBLACKS. Sinopoli was down more than 700 yards year over year, but that doesn’t mean he’s fallen off by any stretch of the imagination. He just needs some improvements around him in that offence.
Ottawa struggled at quarterback all year and Dominique Davis, the guy they used the most, had issues with accuracy. Furthermore, with the departure of Greg Ellingson, Diontae Spencer, and William Powell, the REDBLACKS were down three huge offensive weapons. As such, Sinopoli was so much easier to defend, because he was Ottawa’s biggest threat every snap. I hope Ottawa can take some steps forward with their personnel, because Sinopoli is still a great talent in an a functional offence.
BC Lions: Be patient
With Rick Campbell hired for 2020, the Lions are on their third coach in three seasons. DeVone Claybrooks got only one year in BC before being fired, which shows you this is a team eager to win and win now. These things take time, though, and it might not come right away for the Lions. I thought general manager Ed Hervey was hasty in firing Claybrooks, but let’s hope Campbell’s leash is a little longer.
BC has some good pieces to build around, starting with quarterback Mike Reilly in year two back with his old team. Reilly was really starting to round into form in the four or five weeks before suffering an injury that ended his season. With Bryan Burnham, Lemar Durant, and Shaq Johnson all under contract for the coming season, there should be more offensive continuity to start the season.