May 13, 2024

MMQB: East Division training camp questions

The Canadian Press

2024 training camp is officially underway!

It was awesome to see images from across the country as the league’s brightest stars returned to on-field action over the weekend. We’re now exactly one week away from our first preseason game and less than four from the 2024 regular season opener between the Montreal Alouettes and Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

It’s good to have football back, friends.

Last week we focused on one camp question for all five West Division teams. This week we’re focusing our attention on the other side of the country.

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» MMQB: West Division training camp questions
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Montreal Alouettes: How will they deal with repeat pressure?

For many players in Montreal, the 2024 season will be their first defending a championship. Core members like Darnell Sankey, Marc-Antoine Dequoy, Tyrice Beverette and Reggie Stubblefield are Grey Cup champions for the first time. And with that comes a different kind of pressure and, more significantly, a different kind of perception around the league.

The Alouettes won’t be surprising anyone and they’ll be looked at as the East Division’s benchmark. The run Montreal went on down the stretch, culminating in their Grey Cup triumph, forced the rest of the league to wake up and take notice. How will the Als deal with that? With veterans like Cody Fajardo, Sankey and others, I’m guessing very positively.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats: Who will emerge as the starting quarterback?

It feels like the Ticats’ quarterback conversation might last all season. Heck, training camp is just getting underway and there’s already intrigue surrounding veteran Bo Levi Mitchell. The two-time Most Outstanding Player arrived in Hamilton last week sporting a walking boot, although head coach Scott Milanovich says it’s precautionary only. Mitchell is expected to start getting practice reps in this week.

But after a frustrating first year in Black and Gold, Mitchell’s status as the No. 1 is anything but secure. Sophomore Taylor Powell, with the ink on a brand-new contract extension still drying, enters 2024 with eyes on being the starter, too. The 25-year-old Powell showed outstanding flashes as a rookie and finished with 2,283 passing yards and 10 touchdowns last year.

Toronto Argonauts: How does the cavalry look?

The Argos are facing more roster questions entering 2024 than you’d expect for a team coming off a record-tying 16-2 season. But such is the nature of pro football, especially in a league governed by a salary cap. As a result, Toronto has plenty to figure out as it tries to return to the top of the mountain. How this team replaces some key figures will dictate their success in doing so.

Toronto has said goodbye to the likes of Jamal Peters, Dewayne Hendrix, Brandon Barlow, Javon Leake, Adarius Pickett, AJ Ouellette and Kurleigh Gittens Jr. over the last six months or so. Those are some big shoes to fill for those tasked with doing so. Furthermore, second year quarterback Cameron Dukes has been thrust into the spotlight with Chad Kelly suspended for at least the first nine games of the season. The Argos have a lot going on as they get camp started.

Ottawa REDBLACKS: Is Dru Brown the answer?

Ottawa’s quarterback search has been ongoing for more than five years now, dating back to Trevor Harris’ departure in 2019 free agency. And don’t get me wrong: the REDBLACKS have tried valiantly to find the right guy. But from Jeremiah Masoli to Nick Arbuckle, Matt Nichols and more, it just hasn’t worked. And that’s why Ottawa’s Dru Brown acquisition is so fascinating.

After three seasons understudying behind Zach Collaros in Winnipeg, Brown has been pegged for some time as the consensus “next one” at quarterback. With his most CFL work to date in 2023, Brown started two games for the Bombers and threw for 983 yards, nine touchdowns, and zero interceptions. He’s earned this opportunity and now we get to see what Brown is truly all about.

Quick hits

Congratulations are due to Ted Laurent on an outstanding career. The dominant nose tackle retired after 12 CFL seasons over the weekend, the last nine spent in Hamilton.

In 139 appearances with the Ticats, Laurent racked up 42 sacks and established himself as one of the league’s most disruptive interior forces. Laurent finishes his stellar run as a five-time division All-Star, two-time CFL All-Star and was named the East Division’s Most Outstanding Canadian in 2014.

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