Last Thursday night, we saw the rejuvenation of the previously dormant Ottawa Rough Riders transitioned into the Ottawa Redblacks and, in the most simple of terms, it felt good .
I put little value in trying to make accurate evaluations by watching exhibition games, so this first regular season game spoke to the truth and reality of how good this football organization could be and how the future may unfold. My biggest observation is they looked confident and organized. To go on the road and put up 21 points says that, but even as the game progressed the Redblacks did not look or act like an expansion team .
The first quarter was awesome, but the next three quarters were not so awesome and that's to be expected. For Ottawa to really compete for 18 games, the young guys , about 20 on the present roster, have to play with maturity and as much polish as the old guys do. And the old guys have to remain young, athletically and enthusiastically, throughout the season. I saw that in bursts in different points of the game.
Nolan MacMillan, #66 out of the University of Iowa and the Redblacks' first-ever draft pick played like he had veteran experience in his first CFL game . As a right tackle, you never know what you have until the pads go on and Ottawa has a right tackle to depend on for years to follow - a young guy playing like an older one.
Henry Burris still has it. He moves well when he has to, displays confident energy and can make all the throws at 39, especially the deep wide side ou,t which is always open. For an old guy, and he is, Henry looked like a young guy last Thursday night.
For the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, their 36-28 over Ottawa on Thursday was a more impressive victory than their Week 1 win over Toronto, 45-21 . In that game, up 24-0, the pressure is much less then against Ottawa being down 14-0 at one point and 21-7 at another . Drew Willy basically won the game by putting a five-play drive together with five minutes to play in the fourth and by connecting with Aaron Kelly to extend the lead.
I am mildly surprised how calm and together Mike O'Shea looks on the sidelines. Maybe I shouldn't be given preparation reputation, but he looks like his ability to separate emotion from analytical thought is a natural quality. Punt returner Desmond Washington is a talent that I didn't notice until he scored a return TD. Now, I see it.
In BC, the most important person in the entire organization is the offensive line coach Dan Dorazio. Somehow, he has to get the best out of a group of five players up front that has two first-year starters on the left side and a second-year starter at centre. Dorazio has been coaching for over 40 years and 12 straight with BC . He is not only one of the best in CFL football, but one of the best in North America . His value to the organization is at an all-time high as BC is not going to win unless Kevin Glen gets quality time in the pocket. Youth in the secondary is a concern, as is youth in quarterback protection . For me, it is the Lions' biggest challenge to master over the next 16 games.
With Montreal, it is offensive coordinator Ryan Dinwiddie. Somehow, the Alouettes have to develop an explosive downfield passing game and he has to get that from Troy Smith . The seven-to-12-yard passes I saw over and over are not going to take Montreal to the Grey Cup come November 30th. They need "chunk" plays of 20 yards or more. I am a big fan of Smith, a guy who is bright, articulate and a winner and who played much better this week, but you sure notice the absence of Anthony Calvillo and his downfield throwing ability. The present combination of new offensive coordinator and new quarterback have to find that skill and develop it ASAP.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have one of the oddest quarterback dilemmas I have seen, maybe ever . All three - Zach Collaros, Dan LeFevour and Jeremiah Masoli - did some spectacular things in the 24-28 loss at Edmonton, but also the complete opposite at any given point during their personal playing time. This is a tough evaluation on who really is the best quarterback and, depending on Collaros's back health, who is the best among the three. Each has a different set of strengths and weaknesses and each can be special one play and anything but special the next. The Ticats are good, but not great and optimism is there that, as September turns to October, as a team they can be great.
If I were an Edmonton Eskimos season-ticket holder, I should be sensibly satisfied with the first two weeks. Two wins, yes, but the players are responding to the head coach and playing hard . I was was really impressed with Marcus Howard on one side and Odell Willis on the other as edge pass rushers . Any team that has to play catch-up fourth-quarter football will have urgency issues as one from one side and the other from the other side will create an urgency overload with any quarterback trying to pass play after play. Edmonton looks really good after two games.
Finally, trying to figure out the Argonauts' 48-15 win over the Roughriders is like trying to figure out the human brain . All your conclusions are speculation based on observation . How the Argos can look so bad one week and so good the next, I really don't know. And maybe even more so, how Saskatchewan can look completely dominant one week and borderline apathetic the next week is also like the human brain - a mystery . I am an immense believer that the most important preparation is that the player must perform the morning of the game and make the conscious effort to get yourself emotionally ready to play. This will increase your personal focus and determination to individually play not good football, but exceptional football . The Argos did it and had it, the Riders didn't and did not . What an amazing difference from one week to the next. Good for Calgary, as there will be not complacency in their Saturday game at Toronto. Tough for BC, as there is no way the Riders will not respond on the same night in the second game.
This all makes for interesting football as Week 3 begins.