‘I’m always up to say things I’ll regret later.’ – Jamie Nye 20/02/2023 to CFL.ca Deputy Editor, Kristina Costabile.
The question was simple, on whether I wanted to do a crystal ball post-free agency on some way too early predictions for the 2023 season.
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It’s a little look behind the curtain on why the CFL gets me to do these. I love predictions. I’ve made predictions part of my pre/post-game shows in Saskatchewan for every game. And I like BOLD predictions.
So without further ado, here’s a few predictions for the ‘23 season after a lot of change from last year. The twist is that I’m only picking players who will be on new teams in 2023.
NEW TACKLE LEADER
Without Darnell Sankey to win a third-straight tackle crown, we are looking for a new king in the CFL.
There are a few candidates to look at here with a complete circle of four linebackers moving between four teams; Jameer Thurman making his way to Hamilton, Avery Williams going to Montreal, Micah Awe to Calgary or Jovan Santos-Knox heading to Ottawa.
I have to go with Jameer Thurman. Thurman is playing in a defence that just saw Santos-Knox rack up 105 tackles in 2022. Thurman had Cameron Judge playing next to him and was asked to be a little bit of everything in the Stampeders defensive scheme.
The Tiger-Cats play a little more traditional and Thurman is a 100-tackle guy. The only thing that will prevent this from happening is a healthy Simoni Lawrence eating up tackles.
NEW PASSING LEADER
Yes, we need a new of those in 2023 since McLeod Bethel-Thompson is out of the league.
We have a few options here as well; Bo Levi Mitchell, Cody Fajardo, Trevor Harris, and Dane Evans will be in new threads for the upcoming season.
All of them could do some damage in their new locales but when I look at the systems and the weapons around them, I just can’t ignore what Bo Levi Mitchell has around him in Hamilton.
Tim White, Papi White, a healthy Bralon Addison, and Duke Williams to name a few. Add in Joel Figueroa to help protect Mitchell and I truly think we could see Mitchell find his 5,000-yard form again for the first time since 2018.
BREAKOUT PLAYER (OFFENCE)
The speedster is now making the move to Saskatchewan and I think he’ll fit in very well with Trevor Harris who can get him the ball in space. Bane will be asked to do much more than he was in Calgary.
He doesn’t need to be a return specialist as the Riders have Mario Alford for that after winning the Most Outstanding Special Teams Player in 2022. Instead, Bane can use most of his energy making big plays in the receiving game. Bane was always the fourth or fifth option whenever he got the opportunity to line up in the Stampeders offence, but in Saskatchewan I think he could get a much more prominent role.
BREAKOUT PLAYER (DEFENCE)
Yes, I’m going back to the Calgary to Saskatchewan well here too.
Banks jumps right to the top of the depth chart off the edge and the Roughriders defensive line could actually be a heck of a rotation if they start flipping Banks, Anthony Lanier II and Pete Robertson around the line to join the beast in the middle, Micah Johnson.
Banks could get a lot of one-on-one blocking as the other three saw double teams a lot last year. Banks is like Bane; they will get a lot more time to make a name for themselves and I clearly think they both have it in them.
I’m looking forward to a healthy Jeremiah Masoli in Ottawa with a team that was very aggressive last year in free agency but didn’t exactly see the pay off in the standings.
This season I see Bob Dyce’s steady hand with Khari Jones and Barron Miles around him as offensive and defensive coordinators pushing the REDBLACKS forward.
I think Shawn Burke, in his second year, went out this off-season and found players to compliment what was already there and to add depth to their weaknesses from 2022. Cariel Brooks, Drew Desjarlais, and Shaq Evans come in but I’m seeing Burke rely more on the negotiation list like they did in Hamilton to find the next stars to build up their roster.
I have to go with the Toronto Argonauts here.
They’ve lost a lot from the Grey Cup Championship team and when you are sitting here in February and your quarterback room has a collective total of 52 passes thrown in their CFL career combined, and other teams chewed away at your offensive line depth, I’m feeling a bit nervous.
The deal that sent Dane Evans to BC takes away from the Argonauts chances to land an experienced veteran to help out with the Argonauts.
Now, it’s only February 24 and there are three months separating today until training camp, but to predict an 11-win season again for Toronto is a lot more bold than predicting them to slide down the East standings, especially when Ottawa and Hamilton are better.
GREY CUP MATCHUP
DON’T DO IT.
DON’T DO IT.
DON’T DO IT.
Winnipeg vs. Hamilton
I’m disappointing even myself with this one. This isn’t bold at all. Boring. Predictable. YAWN. It’ll be the most predicted Grey Cup matchup from prognosticators from now until May and through to November, likely.
So, you want me to tell you who I’d pick if I can’t pick these two teams?
OTTAWA VS SASKATCHEWAN
A healthy Jeremiah Masoli in Ottawa and a better offensive line and Trevor Harris in Saskatchewan has my eyes on these two teams.
Ottawa’s move to Khari Jones and Barron Miles to compliment the steady hand of head coach Bob Dyce should have Ottawa finally seeing significant movement forward.
Meanwhile in Saskatchewan, I’m thinking Kelly Jeffrey could be what Jordan Maksymic was to the BC Lions; an under the radar hire at coordinator, who just quietly puts together a very efficient and effective offence.
And if neither of these four teams make the Grey Cup, remember… I’m always up to say things I’ll regret later. See you in November.