Photo: The Canadian Press
TORONTO — From the Saskatchewan Roughriders chasing the chance to play for a Grey Cup at home, to a complete rebuild finally rolling out on the field in Ottawa, there’s no shortage of intriguing storylines in front of us as we look at the 2022 CFL season.
We’ve spent almost six months following an off-season that was loaded with player movement across the league. As camps have opened and rosters have come to life, we’re seeing new faces — Andrew Harris in Argos’ Double Blue, anyone? — in new places. We’re seeing teams like the BC Lions trying something bold and new at quarterback.
We’re also seeing the league’s reigning heavyweights, in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Hamilton Tiger-Cats, re-tuned. Each have lost players key to their success in years past — Harris in Winnipeg, Brandon Banks and Ja’Gared Davis in Hamilton — but otherwise moving forward with the core of their respective teams intact, confident that they’ve adjusted enough to take another run at a championship.
While things are just getting started across the country, it’s also hard not to think about the end of the road to this season and who its biggest star might be. Zach Collaros was the face/arm of the Bombers’ dominance in 2021 and won the first MOP award of his career, en route to leading his team to back-to-back Grey Cup wins.
In the first edition of The Weekly Say for the 2022 season, CFL.ca’s writers delve into all of this and more.
What storyline out of training camp interests you the most?
Marshall Ferguson: Edmonton. Everything surrounding the Elks has the type of energy you expect from a Chris Jones-led operation: Mystery and intrigue with the potential to be uniquely exciting. The quarterback room was already full of conversation-worthy topics before adding Canadian Tre Ford, to only make the whole situation that much more interesting.
Don Landry: I am eager to see just how much better the Ottawa REDBLACKS are going to be this season after an off-season of massive change. In particular, I’m curious to see an offence that ought to be polar opposite to last year’s tire spinners.
Jim Morris: I find the quarterback situation with the BC Lions one of the most interesting storylines coming out of training camp. It’s just not the idea of two Canadians, it’s the lack of experience the two possess. It will be a great story if the Lions find success but if they don’t? Also interesting.
Kristina Costabile: Ottawa’s got my attention. I’m interested to see how Jeremiah Masoli gives the REDBLACKS an opportunity to improve an offence that struggled quite a bit last season. Plus with some new additions to the defence, how will everyone gel together this year?
Chris O’Leary: It’s Edmonton. It’s not often you see a coach declare an open battle at the most important spot on the field. If I had the power of teleportation, I’d be plopping myself down in a seat at Commonwealth Stadium every morning to see who’s gaining the edge at quarterback there.
Which team has had the most interesting off-season addition?
— Toronto Argonauts (@TorontoArgos) May 20, 2022
O’Leary: That picture that the Argos put out on social media of Brandon Banks and Andrew Harris at their first practice reminded me of seeing leaked photos of a classic sneaker in a never before seen colourway. It was just so different and unfamiliar, no matter how much you might have mentally prepared yourself for it.
Costabile: Seeing Andrew Harris and Brandon Banks in Double Blue on social media was shocking to say the least. After both moving on from their respective teams this off-season, can they still dominate as they had previously? Only time will tell.
Landry: Andrew Harris in Argo blue is the addition that interests me the most. Will he be the Andrew Harris we’ve known all along? We are not used to 35-year-old running backs dominating and there is a lot of wear and tear on that body of his. Can he still be the force we’ve known him to be?
Morris: To me, Andrew Harris signing with the Argos one of the most interesting off-season additions. You wonder how much Harris has left in the tank and what he has left to prove.
Ferguson: Ottawa’s overhaul has been stunning. How it turns out on-field remains to be seen but Shawn Burke and Co. have given Ottawa a chance to compete quickly, which felt unattainable in 2021.
Who do you think will be the MOP this year and why?
Morris: I’m wondering if this will be Cody Fajardo’s year to be MOP. The Riders have played in back-to-back Western Finals. They have a chance to win a Grey Cup at home this year. To do that, they will need Fajardo to be at his best.
Costabile: With the success we’ve seen from Zach Collaros and the Blue Bombers over the last two seasons, something tells me that he’ll be in this conversation later on this year. I think 2021’s MOP is going to continue that magic in 2022.
Ferguson: I believe Jeremiah Masoli has a real chance if Ottawa lines everything up, but coming from 2021 in Hamilton to an MOP campaign in a new city is a big ask. I’d lean toward a Western quarterback, with the logical choice being Zach Collaros partnering up with Greg Ellingson. Never count out Bo Levi Mitchell though, especially when paired for a full season with Reggie Begelton!
Landry: Lucky Whitehead is my choice as MOP in 2022. I see 1,300 or 1,400 yards receiving. I see a couple hundred more on interesting rushing plays, jet sweeps and the like. And a few eye-poppers on specials.
O’Leary: I learned a hard lesson last season and that was to never underestimate the Bombers and Zach Collaros. Collaros is in the perfect offence and environment in Winnipeg. While he leads the Bombers’ three-peat attempt, he’s got a great shot at back-t0-back (back-t0-Zach?) MOPs too.