April 15, 2024

MMQB: 4 takeaways from the CFL content shoot

Christian Bender/CFL.ca

The annual CFL content shoot always provides great material. From the slick photo shoots to some insightful interviews, it’s always worthwhile to bring some of the league’s best players together in one place with a new season around the corner.

That’s exactly what happened last week, which means we’ve got some interesting things to sink our teeth into for this week’s MMQB. Here are some of the top takeaways from what we heard at this year’s content shoot.

» Landry: McManis fuelled by last season’s Eastern Final loss
» Flip The Script: Stanback embraces change in ’24
» Stamps Picked 6: Houston takes skillset to Calgary

William Stanback may be the most motivated player in the league heading into the 2024 season (Thomas Skrlj/CFL.ca)

William Stanback: A fresh slate with a chip on his shoulder

“You can’t really say someone fell off or lost a step when they haven’t been given the ball. Anyone who ran for over 1,000 yards last season, look at their carries compared to mine. I still average over five yards a carry. I understand. I see that stuff on Twitter and sometimes Facebook too. But I don’t really care about what the critics say about me. I’ve never even had 200 carries a season. So, if I get 200 carries this year coming up, just imagine how many yards I’ll get.”

After reading his chat with CFL.ca’s Vicki Hall, I’m not sure there’s a more motivated player entering the 2024 season than Stanback.

There’s no question Stanback felt underutilized last season, even while helping the Alouettes capture the 110th Grey Cup. When Montreal granted the standout tailback his release this winter, Stanback was quick to sign with the BC Lions. It’s very apparent the 2021 East Division Most Outstanding Player is ready to prove to everyone he can still pound the rock at an elite level.

Honestly, I never underestimate a star player with something to prove. Stanback averaged 5.4 yards per carry en route to racking up 800 rushing yards last season. He’d have easily gone over 1,000 yards for the third time with a full slate of games. Now, joining a dynamic BC offence with the potential for a larger role and a healthy chip on his shoulder, I’m fired up to see Stanback on the west coast.

Peters will look to take another step in his career this season in Hamilton (Thomas Skrlj/CFL.ca)

Jamal Peters: Truly leaving his mark

“There’s a lot of stuff people haven’t really seen, and I haven’t even played my best yet. Year four is going to be a special year. I still have to do some things people haven’t seen. Yeah, I want to catch the ball, catch interceptions, but now I’ve got to show them I can be really physical and hit. So, the only thing I can do is stay consistent. That’s the main thing I keep telling myself: stay consistent. And out-grind my opponents and outwork myself.”

After three seasons in Toronto, Peters chose Hamilton in free agency this winter on a deal that reportedly makes him the CFL’s highest paid defensive back. Peters told me last week he feels like he’s just getting started and, at just 27, it’s hard not to agree. With 10 interceptions over the last two seasons, the Ticats are getting a bona fide ball hawk.

Peters is more than just big plays. He’ll almost certainly slot in at boundary cornerback with Hamilton, one of Canadian football’s most challenging positions. That means huge coverage responsibilities, which Peters has always been keen to tackle. Combine that with his desire to be even more physical in 2024 and there’s a solid chance we’re talking about Peters the CFL’s premier shutdown corner by the end of the season.

McManis is ready to put last year’s hard-taught less to use with the Argos in 2024 (Christian Bender/CFL.ca)

Wynton McManis: Avenging an Eastern Final Final loss

“I’m still pissed, man, and I’m not gonna get over it. I don’t think it’s for me to get over. I think it’s for me to learn from it and to let it burn. And to always have that feeling. To understand everything that glitters isn’t gold. And I think that’s what last year was for us. It was a lot of glitter. We did a lot shining but underneath all that where did we really go?”

If you’re an Argos fan, those words from your superstar linebacker are exactly what you want to hear. Unfortunately, a stunning 38-17 loss to Montreal is the most resounding memory of Toronto’s 2023 campaign, despite tying a CFL record with a 16-2 regular season. And as McManis told CFL.ca’s Don Landry last week, the memories are still fresh for him too.

But this isn’t necessarily uncharted territory for McManis. As a member of the Stampeders in 2017, McManis was part of a banner regular season that ended with a heartbreaking Grey Cup loss. He was also there the following year when Calgary got the job done in a Grey Cup victory over Ottawa.

You can bet McManis will be drawing on that experience as Toronto looks to do something very similar in 2024.

After leading the league in interceptions last year in Winnipeg, Houston will look to elevate the Stampeders’ defence this year (Thomas Skrlj/CFL.ca)

Demerio Houston: Making the switch

“It’s going to be a bit bittersweet moment going up against my former team that I’ve been with my whole professional career. Lining up against guys that I normally go against in practice, this is gonna be the real deal. I’m excited for it. I know it’s always a good game whenever Calgary and Winnipeg play, so just to still be in that rivalry is a blessing, but on the other side of it.”

Competing for that shutdown corner title is Houston who joins the Stampeders after three seasons in Winnipeg. And after some of the hotly contested big games these two teams have been in over the last couple years, making the move to Calgary must feel a little surreal for last year’s league interceptions leader. But a gamer like Houston won’t have much trouble making the adjustment.

Much of the off-season for Winnipeg was occupied with figuring things out with Dalton Schoen and Brady Oliveira. And in a salary cap world, sometimes that means a few high-end departures, of which Houston certainly qualifies. Houston was outstanding from his boundary corner position last year and paced the league with seven interceptions en route to being named a CFL All-Star for the first time.

Now Houston is on the other of a rivalry that should still be a lot of fun in 2024.

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