If you are a certain age (mine) you used to go to the movies (before streaming) on a near weekly basis.
I remember waiting in line for tickets for hours (Michael Keaton’s ‘Batman’, circa 1989) when I was young. I can vividly recall the first movie I ever went to on a date (‘Pacific Heights’ in 1990, also starring Michael Keaton) and I still go as often as I can (‘Air’, a more than enjoyable competent film).
I have a slew of idiosyncratic rules when going to the movies and one of them is I never miss the previews, never. What makes the preview so fascinating is that sense of anticipation. You are exposed to brief flashes of a summer blockbuster and suddenly you’re pumped to see the film in the not-so-distant future.
That is how I feel about preseason football.
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» Nye: Storylines to follow in all four preseason games
» Landry’s five takeaways from training camp
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I know in both examples I’m not going to see all the best parts. A good preview does not show the climatic scenes and in football you may only get a couple series with the All-Star players before they’re whisked away for safety. In both cases though, there is more than enough to entertain you and more importantly get you excited for the start of the regular season. This is a long way of me saying each preseason game is filled with hints of what’s to come.
In this case I’m interested in Friday’s Ottawa REDBLACKS-Montreal Alouettes preseason opener. If I was going to make a preview for the 2023 REDBLACKS’ and Alouettes’ regular seasons here are the compelling storylines I would add to my 30-45-second sizzle reel before the start of the actual season.
The Redemption Story!
One coach is looking to prove he can take his team to the Grey Cup, while the other is desperate to show he belongs as the ultimate leader of men; it’s Jason Maas versus Bob Dyce.
Maas had an up and down first run as the head coach of the Edmonton Elks from 2016 to 2019. He had a winning record but never managed to get his team to the Grey Cup. Hey, you try beating peak Calgary Stampeders during that time span!
The last we saw of Maas he was the offensive coordinator of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Now he has a new lease on life helming a CFL team again, but as he knows, the head coaching crown can be heavy. Lots of coaches get, and deserve, a second chance but if it doesn’t work this time for Maas there may not be another sequel.
On the other side, Bob Dyce has been grinding through the CFL coaching life for two decades with his only chances for glory being as an interim head coach with the Roughriders in 2015 and with Ottawa last year. This is his first opportunity to be in charge of his own team from Day 1 and to put his own unique imprint on a football team. This Friday we get our first glimpse of what their respective football philosophies will look like.
We all understand we’re not going to see Jeremiah Masoli or Cody Fajardo sling it on Friday. I understand we’d love to see them out there but that is not the smart play. Health is the key concern and Masoli and Fajardo have over 3,200 combined career pass attempts. They know what they’re doing out there.
That doesn’t mean we will be robbed of drama Friday night, as there is plenty on the line. REDBLACKS backup Nick Arbuckle recently hooked up with the National Capital Flag Football league to stay in game shape. Now that is an unorthodox and also commendable way of staying at the top of your game. Arbuckle is 30 years old; he had some moments backing up Bo Levi Mitchell back in the day in Calgary but his time to become a full-time starter is starting to run out.
On the other side is the 24-year-old Caleb Evans, the former REDBLACK who has made a name for himself as a short yardage beast (19 rushing touchdowns in two seasons) but not as a passer (nine touchdowns against 16 interceptions). He has his entire football career ahead of him. Let’s see what he can do on a new team.
The Return of the King
In 2021, Montreal Alouettes’ running back William Stanback led the league in rushing. In 2022 his season was effectively derailed after his third carry in the opener against the Calgary Stampeders. He performed well at the end of the year but we’re all excited to see if we get the all-world version of him in 2023. There is a chance he doesn’t suit up on Friday but at the very least we will see him on the sidelines. The man dropped 10 pounds this off-season. I want to see what he looks like, whether it’s on second-and-short or in street clothes. Maybe he can give some diet/nutrition tips.
Montreal’s Last Line of Defence
With the news that All-Star cornerback Jumal Rolle is retiring, the Alouettes have a massive hole to fill at one of the most important and loneliest positions in football. I’m curious to see who starts on Friday, who gets the most reps and who makes the most plays to earn the starting role in Week 1. I’m focusing on players like Kabion Ento and Dionte Ruffin, while being prepared for an unknown to wow me.
We could do 2,000 words on what needs to happen for Ottawa to be a legitimate playoff team or we could sum it up like this: keep Jeremiah Masoli healthy!
I know this sounds football nerdy, but you could spend the entire game watching whoever lines up at offensive tackle for the REDBLACKS. Let’s see how new acquisition Terry Vaugh looks on second-and-long or just how far Zach Pelehos has progressed from his rookie season. Do we see All-Star guard Jacob Ruby getting snaps at the tackle position? I’m curious to see how this five-man operation does protecting whoever is at quarterback on Friday because in two weeks their collective responsibility will mean so much for the entire franchise.
Let the football preview begin!