The CFL Kickoff weekend is in the books. We saw big throws, big sacks, big plays and the leading candidate for play of the year all in four games!
June, July and August are the times where the most Americans will tune into the CFL and it’s always fun explaining to people how good their college stars are in the CFL and how the rouge works.
No fair catches allowed so all kicks are live. If the ball goes thru the end zone, it’s a point. If a player is tackled or kneels in the end zone after a punt it’s a point.
— Jefferson Steelflex (@PJG116) June 17, 2018
It would warm my heart to see the CFL trending on Twitter in the USA, but until then, I’ll just change my trends to Canada and consult with them. Football is back and its Canadian version is beautiful. Let’s talk about how beautiful Week 1 actually was.
1. Jeremiah Masoli Ain’t Going NOWHERE
I’ve been trying to tell people that Johnny Manziel is not gonna start straight out of the gate; Jeremiah Masoli has that spot locked down and he proved it on Saturday. 25 for 36, 344 yards and one rushing score was the stat-line he finished with.
Masoli threw one costly interception with two minutes left while driving the field which puts a big stain on what was a masterful game by Masoli. He took advantage of a new Calgary secondary as wide receivers: Jalen Saunders, Mike Jones and Luke Tasker gashed them for big yards.
The Ti-Cats badly need a run game though. With Alex Green out for six games, Mercer Timmis is their leading rusher and that is not good. Masoli looks great but TSN’s CFL Hall of Famer Milt Stegall brings up a good argument that if the Ti-Cats can’t pull out wins with Masoli, HC June Jones may be forced to start Johhny Manziel due to unruly fans.
While I am all for Manziel success, Masoli should only be replaced if his production tanks. And I don’t expect that to happen.
Bonus take: Bo Levi Mitchell had a rocky start but finished strong, Kamar Jorden is not playing with y’all this year and this Calgary D is going to be good as the season rolls on.
2. SACKatchewan Is Coming for the Grey Cup
Defense. Defense. Defense. The Roughriders put a pounding on Toronto all game from the first snap. Charleston Hughes pulled out his certification as the league’s best pass rusher with three sacks in the first half which gave him 102 sacks in his career. It was also a coming out party for LB Derrick Moncrief who led the team with eight tackles and was flying all over the field and CFL rookie corner Nick Marshall (Yes, Auburn Nick Marshall) who had a game sealing pick six for the Riders.
Zach Collaros also managed the game very well by going 18 for 25 for 203 yards and one TD. The run game was also working for the Riders as Jerome Messam ran for 72 yards on 21 carries and Tre Mason (Yes, Auburn Tre Mason) added 37 yards on 5 carries. HC Chris Jones prides his team on strong defense and a strong running game; don’t sleep on Duron Carter though. Ever. While the Wild, Wild West is tough to win every year, the Roughriders have the ability to ride all the way to the Grey Cup.
Bonus Take: Toronto needs to give James Wilder Jr. the ball in the running game; he may have been their leading receiver but 5 carries for 16 yards rushing is unacceptable.
3. Mike Reilly Is the #1 Player in the CFL
Yes the TSN rankings already said so, but the first game of the 2018 CFL season solidified it. The three (!!!) lightning delays did not faze the Eskimos at all as they were down 22-30 with 12 minutes left and Mike Reilly leads them to a come from behind 33-30 victory. 32 for 46, 408 yards (granted 101 yards came on 1 catch to Derel Walker) and one TD while leading the team in rushing with 43 yards and two TDs on the ground.
The man is Boobie Miles; he can do it all! Alright, he’s obviously not Boobie Miles, but Reilly has been one of the best quarterbacks in the league for the past five years and he has planted his bottom firmly in the king’s chair. Reilly also has some of the best weapons in the league around him: Duke Williams (Yes, Auburn Duke Williams), Derel Walker and Kenny Stafford all go up and get the deep balls that Reilly loves to throw.
Edmonton is also in that Wild, Wild West that is going to be so hard to get out of and Mike Reilly is the head cowboy trying to lead Edmonton to the big prize that they haven’t won since 2015.
Bonus Take: Rookie QB Chris Streveler looked good in his first game going 15/28 with 178 yards and three TDs. Matt Nichols is set to return in a few weeks, and while I don’t see him taking the job, let’s enjoy the rookie while we can.
4. Jonathon Jennings starts 2018 on the Correct Foot
After a bad 2017 season, Jonathon Jennings did very well in his first start against a mediocre Montreal defense. 20 for 24 with 183 yards and two TDs while leading the team in rushing with 57 yards; you can see why the league was excited when Jennings took over for Travis Lulay.
Jennings was incredibly efficient and did not make the same mistakes he made last season. Hopefully he can be consistent with this efficiency because he has the weapons to put up numbers: speedy Shaq Johnson and go getters Manny Arceneaux and Bryan Burnham are ready to take the league by storm and they need Jennings to do it. Odell Willis and the defense have also shown they are going to GATA this year as well. They need Jennings to lead them to the promised land.
Bonus Take: Montreal looked good when Drew Willy had time to throw. They need their OL to catch up to everyone else on the team for them to be successful.
5. NFL needs to take notes from the CFL Football Operations Twitter account
The CFL has found a new way to interact with fans by opening a Twitter account that explains every penalty and challenge made during a game.
While it is much easier for the CFL to do because only one game plays at a time, I am sure the NFL could find a way to explain calls that leave fans confused during games. The NFL already has the Call Center to rule on challenges during games, so how hard can it be to get a couple of people to watch the games and explain every penalty that happens? While it may never come to be for the NFL, the CFL is already thinking next level fan interaction that shows how much they care about their fans.
The CFL also allows teams to challenge pass interference calls; oh boy how many teams and fans would love that in the NFL is astounding. These are some things that could be discussed at commissioners meetings instead of how do we please the president of the United States. But I digress.
Week 2 starts Thursday: Saskatchewan Roughriders vs. Ottawa Redblacks, ESPN+