A team’s first preseason game can be a launching pad for some players. Some teams will opt to play the starters more in the second game ahead of the season.
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This means with more reps for the guys on the bubble, they need to take advantage of the opportunity when it arrives this weekend.
With seven of the eight teams in action this week playing their first preseason games, here’s something to look for in each game, including a peak at the quarterback battles going on behind the starters.
MONTREAL AT OTTAWA | Friday, May 26 at 7:30 p.m. ET
(RDS, TSN, CFL PRESEASON LIVE U.S. & INTERNATIONALLY)
Both teams will not have their starting quarterback in the lineup for this one, for different reasons. The REDBLACKS seem extremely cautious, or patient, or concerned over Jeremiah Masoli’s leg injury that ended his season last year. Meanwhile, the Alouettes know Cody Fajardo is familiar enough with Jason Maas’ offence that they would rather see their other quarterbacks in action.
Caleb Evans‘ adjustment from Ottawa to Montreal intrigues me for this game. Evans has shown flashes he has all the tools to be a great CFL quarterback but he hasn’t put it together yet. I feel with Fajardo likely in the game next week, he better cement his spot as assumed backup before Maas gets any ideas.
Same goes for Nick Arbuckle in Ottawa.
The other storyline I’m watching for is the REDBLACKS’ pass rush. Lorenzo Mauldin IV was dominant last season but he could use some help to really solidify Ottawa’s defence and the REDBLACKS brought in plenty of American defensive linemen. I’m watching to see if a few jump off the page early to show Ottawa will have improved play in the trenches this season. I’ll also be keeping an eye on first overall pick Dontae Bull to see how he’s coming along as Ottawa’s top offensive line prospect.
TORONTO AT HAMILTON | Saturday, May 27 at 4:00 p.m. ET
(CFL PRESEASON LIVE)
I’m not sure what we’re going to get with Chad Kelly and Bo Levi Mitchell, in terms of their reps. But it’s equally important in what the teams see behind them for completely different reasons.
For Mitchell, there will always be questions about how many games he’ll actually be able to start for the rest of his career with the injuries and shoulder issues. The Tiger-Cats only have three quarterbacks on the roster so if Mitchell doesn’t play or gets limited reps I’m interested to see what they have in Taylor Powell out of Eastern Michigan as a potential future prospect as Matthew Shiltz is easily Bo’s backup.
In Toronto, it’s an entirely different reason to get ample time to evaluate the backups because you can’t bet your house that Chad Kelly is going to lock down ‘franchise guy’ status. The issue is Kelly’s career pass attempts of 45 is 45 more than any other quarterback on the roster. So Toronto needs to get a good, hard look at backup Ben Holmes and their two newcomers.
The other story I’ll be following is the defensive secondary for the Tiger-Cats. They’ve lost a few of their key players last season and they’ve plugged some holes in free agency, but they need one or two to show they can be dependable enough to lock down some of the top receivers in the CFL.
WINNIPEG AT EDMONTON | Saturday, May 27 at 4:00 p.m. ET
(CFL PRESEASON LIVE)
I’ll be honest, I don’t think there is much drama for the quarterback positions for these two teams. You know who the starters are going to be and the main backup for the most part, though we’ll all be watching for rookie Jarret Doege of the Elks to see if he can put together back-to-back games where he looks as poised as he did on Monday.
If Doege can do that, ok, maybe we will have some more interesting conversations about the depth chart for the Elks behind centre.
The other position I’ll want to look for is in the middle of the Bombers’ defensive line. Losing Casey Sayles isn’t great. And I know what you’re thinking. Yes, they do have Jake Thomas, Willie Jefferson and Jackson Jeffcoat. But I thought Sayles was a key member of that defensive line with his versatility. I’ll be watching to see if they’ve been able to plug yet another hole with ease as the Bombers have been able to do so well.
Remember, this is the same team that lost Kenny Lawler last off-season and brought in rookie of the year sensation Dalton Schoen. Even scarier, they’re now teammates.
BC AT SASKATCHEWAN | Saturday, May 27 at 7:00 p.m. ET
(CFL PRESEASON LIVE)
Trevor Harris is away for the birth of his third child so we get to watch the battle for his backup job up close. Mason Fine is the incumbent but he’s been pushed all camp by Shea Patterson and Jake Dolegala. The team will be watching closely to see if Patterson and Dolegala can continue their stellar play in training camp to possibly make a change at No. 2 in Saskatchewan.
The Lions have a 1-2 punch and maybe the best in the league with Vernon Adams Jr. and Dane Evans. Nothing to see here, though. Or at least not yet. This is Adams’ team, for as long as he keeps winning.
Aside from that, I think it’s obvious what most of those around the league are looking for. Did the Roughriders improve their offensive line?
Most of my attention will go to the offensive tackles. They’ve brought in several American tackles to lock it down. Now it’ll be time to prove they can to protect the team’s most valuable asset, in Trevor Harris.