June 22, 2011
The second and final round of CFL pre-season games starts Wednesday evening with the Montreal Alouettes travelling to Hamilton to take on the Tiger-Cats at 7 p.m. Eastern, followed by the B.C. Lions hosting the Saskatchewan Roughriders at 10 p.m. Eastern. On Thursday, the Toronto Argonauts head to Winnipeg, and the first Battle of Alberta takes place Friday with Calgary visiting Edmonton. The final scores of these pre-season games may not matter all that much (as I discussed on the 3rd And Long podcast Wednesday) , and the players seeing substantial time might not always be the ones you'd expect, but these games are still important for teams' depth charts and players' jobs. Here are some things to keep an eye out for in the second round of games.
—Montreal at Hamilton (7 p.m. Eastern Wednesday, TSN): There are the classic revenge storylines with Avon Cobourne (Hamilton) and Sandro DeAngelis (Montreal) facing their old teams, but DeAngelis and Sean Whyte may be a more notable pairing to watch. The Alouettes picked up both non-import kickers in the offseason to replace Damon Duval (who was allowed to leave as a free agent and is now with Edmonton), trading a 2012 first-round pick for Whyte and signing DeAngelis after Hamilton cut him. Whyte's been more successful lately, but DeAngelis has a stellar career record. It's worth noting that DeAngelis was perfect (two for two) on field goals in Montreal's first pre-season game, while Whyte missed his only chance; Whyte was better on punts, however. Another area to watch for the Alouettes is the running back corps, where no one was particularly successful in their first game. On the Hamilton side, keep an eye out for their new aggressive mantra, especially on defence. There are some interesting players to watch there too, including new middle linebacker Renauld Williams and the diverse cast trying to lock down spots in the secondary.
—Saskatchewan at B.C. (10 p.m. Eastern Wednesday, TSN): It's going to be interesting to see how the Riders' receiving corps is shaping up, as that was one of their biggest question marks heading into training camp. The departure of Andy Fantuz and Rob Bagg's injury setbacks mean there are at least two spots up for grabs, and beyond Weston Dressler and Chris Getzlaf, the rest of the receiving corps isn't easy to predict. On the B.C. side, Yonus Davis (released after drug charges) and Jerome Messam (traded to Edmonton) leave some opportunities behind presumed starter Jamal Robertson.
— Toronto at Winnipeg (8 p.m. Eastern Thursday, TSN): The ongoing quarterback battle in Toronto is notable, even if it's looking like Cleo Lemon's likely to win. Beyond that, don't expect to see a sudden shift in the Argonauts' offensive direction; they're looking to be more efficient in the passing game, but still have a run-focused offence. Also keep an eye on their defensive line, where they've cut 2005 first-overall pick Miguel Robede and appear to be opting to start more Americans. For Winnipeg, this is a great chance to see top draft pick Henoc Muamba at linebacker performs, as well as receiver and fellow first-round pick Jade Etienne and their top supplemental draft pick, receiver Kito Poblah (seen at right trying to make a catch with Central Michigan in 2010).
— Calgary at Edmonton (9 p.m. Eastern Friday, TSN2): The Stampeders will be looking to turn in a more impressive performance than they did in the first round of pre-season games, where they fell 24-0 to the B.C. Lions. On the roster front, 2010 draft picks and offensive line prospects J'Michael Deane and John Bender will be interesting types to watch. The battle to replace departed all-star cornerbacks Dwight Anderson and Brandon Browner means the "virtual revolving door" at secondary could be an area to keep an eye on, too. For Edmonton, there's an intriguing battle at backup quarterback between Kerry Joseph, Matt Nichols and Eric Ward. It's also going to be notable to see how Edmonton's cast of newcomers is gelling.