If you play pro football for any extended period of time, you’re bound to have a “down” year compared to career averages. As we look ahead to 2020, I’ve got six big names ready to bounce back after lackluster seasons…by their standards.
Micah Johnson | DL | BC Lions
One of BC’s biggest splashes of the winter looks poised for a huge season after just one year in Saskatchewan. Prior to his tenure with the Riders, though, Johnson had thoroughly earned his reputation as the CFL’s most dominant interior lineman as a member of the Calgary Stampeders. It’s not like Johnson had a poor 2019, because he was still a force in the interior, it just wasn’t the overpowering stuff we’re used to.
Here’s the scary part for opposing offensive lines: Johnson is only one season removed from racking up 14 sacks with the Stamps. He knows as well as anyone the totals were down last season, and Johnson will be as motivated as ever when the new season starts. Finally, Johnson’s reunion with Lions’ head coach Rick Campbell is interesting. Campbell was Johnson’s first CFL defensive coordinator and I’m fascinated to see how the former uses the latter in orange and black.
James Wilder Jr. | RB | Montreal Alouettes
Mix an extremely motivated player with a great opportunity and you’ve got the makings of a resurgent season. Those pieces all exist for Wilder as he joins the Montreal Alouettes after three years in Toronto. With William Stanback’s departure to Las Vegas, the Als were in need of a new number one tailback, which is why signing Wilder made so much sense. The fact he’s coming off a frustrating year with the Argos just adds to the equation. The guy is ready to dominate again, like he did in his first two CFL seasons.
“I’m ready to get back to that, I can’t wait,” Wilder told me during Grey Cup week in Calgary. “It’s no secret, it was a little disconnect with the coaching staff and I (in Toronto). Getting the ball, getting more in the offence, getting benched, and you know, it was just a lot of stuff going on. It was a tough year, it really was a tough year mentally.”
Wilder seems as ready as ever to lead a Montreal rushing attack that averaged more than 124 yards per game last season.
Kamar Jorden | WR | Calgary Stampeders
Jorden didn’t have a down season the way we typically think. Instead, the dynamic receiver is coming off a 2019 where he barely played, save a cameo appearance in the Western Semi-Final vs. Winnipeg. After sustaining a torn ACL ten games into his 2018 season, Jorden missed almost all of last season in recovery, too.
Ideally, the Stamps wouldn’t have brought Jorden back for their playoff game had they not been so thin at receiver. It’s not that he wasn’t medically ready. Instead, the ideal would have been to ease Jorden back prior to pumping him into a huge game, but Calgary didn’t really have that luxury. Regardless, Jorden had started establishing himself as one of the league’s most dominant receivers prior to his injury and he’ll be as hungry as ever to get back there again this year.
Brad Sinopoli | WR | Ottawa REDBLACKS
From 2018 to 2019, Sinopoli went from 154 catches and 1,376 receiving yards to 113 and 671. That didn’t happen because he forgot how to play or lost any of his ability. In fact, I believe Sinopoli still has all the tools to be the CFL’s most consistent and dominant possession receiver. With new quarterback Nick Arbuckle in the fold for 2020, I can’t see how Sinopoli’s abilities won’t be on display in a big way once again.
Ottawa’s quarterback situation last year made it hard for any receiver to have a big year, but especially a guy like Sinopoli. Because both Dominique Davis and Jonathon Jennings aren’t really traditional passers, an over-the-middle mainstay like Sinopoli wasn’t used to his fullest. Arbuckle, on the other hand, is far more comfortable staying in and slinging it from the pocket. Prior to 2019, Sinopoli racked up 1,000-yard seasons in his sleep with the REDBLACKS, and that’s exactly what I’m expecting again this year.
Rene Paredes | K | Calgary Stampeders
One of the most accurate kickers in CFL history was below his career accuracy average last season, which means he’s very likely in line for a big bounce back. Much like the most consistent NHL goalies, accurate kickers adhere to probability more than they rely on lady luck. Since breaking into the league in 2011, Paredes has followed every down year with multiple where he resembles a field goal robot.
Paredes hit at 82.7% last season, which is roughly eight percentage points lower than what his career average was coming in. In the four years prior, though, Paredes was nailing field goals at 89.5%, which is elite. The pattern is pretty convincing for Paredes: his rookie season wasn’t great (77.8%), but was followed by two years at 94.0%. His last down year was 2014 (73.3%), so I’m fairly confident Paredes is poised for a big time bounce back.
Darvin Adams | WR | Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Adams showed he was still a force to be reckoned with when it mattered most last season: the playoffs. En route to a Grey Cup victory, Adams busted off 105 yards and a touchdown in the Western Semi vs. Calgary and then another 93 vs. Saskatchewan in the Western Final. They were two of Adams’ three most productive games of the season and included a pair of big gains at 71 and 63 yards. It showed me Adams is still as dynamic as ever.
There were some questions as to whether Adams was still that guy during the regular season. His yardage totals were down significantly, but when you consider the quarterback carousel the Bombers were on in 2019, it’s understandable. Knowing the success Adams had once Zach Collaros was installed at pivot, though, I’m expecting a big time return to form in 2020. After all, Adams was at 1,120 and 1,028 receiving yards the prior two seasons.