Stampeders.com, Kevin Sousa/CFL.ca
With free agency well underway we’ve seen plenty of player movement, which means brand new combinations around the league. Here are three new duos I’m looking forward to seeing in 2023.
» Market Ready: The 2023 CFL Free Agent Tracker
» A team-by-team look at Free Agency
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Trevor Harris and Jake Wieneke – Saskatchewan Roughriders
This isn’t necessarily a “new” tandem in 2023 but more of a transplanted one. Both quarterback Harris and receiver Wieneke opted to leave Montreal this winter and signed with the Riders in free agency. Both players should be energized and ready for big seasons in Saskatchewan.
Harris must be feeling good after being courted by the Roughriders and was signed to a two-year deal last month. For Harris, it’ll be the first time since the shortened 2021 campaign he’ll enter a season as the unquestioned No. 1 and he’ll do it coming off a solid campaign the prior year. With a team’s faith and confidence behind him and the wisdom gained from some tough stretches over the last two years, I’m looking for another strong campaign for Harris.
Wieneke, on the other hand, is looking for a big bounce back after seeing his statistics drop last season. Wieneke went from 898 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns in 2021 to 589 yards and two touchdowns in 2022. But at the age of 28, I’m willing to bet he’s in store for that big bounce back this year. Let’s not forget Wieneke had 19 combined touchdowns in his first two CFL seasons going into the 2022 campaign. With something to prove on a brand-new team and with a familiar quarterback to boot, I’m looking for big things this year.
Jameer Thurman and Simoni Lawrence – Hamilton Tiger-Cats
When Hamilton signed Thurman after four seasons with Calgary, one thought came to mind immediately: I hope it means the Ticats will re-sign Lawrence, too. Well, that’s exactly what happened and I think newcomer Thurman and mainstay Lawrence have the chance to make a devastating linebacker duo in Black and Yellow.
Thurman joins the Tiger-Cats as one of the CFL’s most versatile and athletic linebackers. His range, power and ability to drop into coverage was on full display last season with the Stamps as Thurman racked up 73 defensive tackles, three interceptions and two forced fumbles. Pairing that with Lawrence feels like a match made in heaven.
Lawrence, who led the CFL with 98 defensive tackles in 2019, has the chance for monster totals this season teaming up with Thurman. One of the league’s elite WILL linebackers, Lawrence is a devastating tackler and should pair well with Thurman’s ability to impact everything on the field.
Mike Rose and Julian Howsare – Calgary Stampeders
Rose has established himself as one of the CFL’s most disruptive interior forces. Howsare has established himself as one of the CFL’s most versatile defensive ends. I really can’t see how these two don’t end up making a devastating duo in their first year together.
Let’s start with Howsare, who was Calgary’s big splash in free agency last month and one of their most intriguing signings in some time. The 30-year-old is fresh off his best season to date where he racked up seven sacks and two interceptions, both career highs. Howsare can do many things at a high level: get to the quarterback, stop the run and drop into coverage.
All those things should fit well with Rose, who has quickly established himself as one of the league’s best interior linemen. He’s posted back-to-back seasons of seven sacks, which is great, but his ability to demand increased attention from opposing offensive lines is something that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. Howsare does the same thing, which means those two on the same line should be quite the handful.
Celebrating International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day is Wednesday, March 8 this year and it’s an opportunity to highlight the changing football landscape in the Canadian game. Having had the chance to shine the spotlight on IWD the last couple years, it’s awesome to see strides being made each year.
Most recently, the CFL and the Ottawa REDBLACKS welcomed Nadia Doucoure to the coaching staff as their offensive quality control coach. For Doucoure, it’s a long time coming. She’s been working in football for more than two decades going back to her time in her home country of France before making the move to Saskatoon in 2014.
Since getting involved in the sport in 2002, Doucoure has coached, played and served in administration roles. She follows Tanya Henderson, who became the first full-time female coach in CFL history ahead of the 2022 season, when she was hired as a defensive assistant by the BC Lions.
Doucoure and Henderson are undoubtedly trailblazers. As are Taylor MacIntyre (receivers coach) and Amanda Ruller (running backs coach) at McMaster, among others. The landscape is changing and football minds like the four we’ve highlighted here are driving that change. I’m excited to see what new names we’ll be shining the spotlight on for IWD 2024.