In pro football, change is inevitable. Even if you win the championship in your league, the roster that hoists the Cup will not be the same roster that starts camp the next year.
Veterans retire, players are lost to free agency, or traded, and occasional household names lose their job in camp.
When an established, productive veteran departs, the fans are concerned, and the media points to that position as a real question mark to begin the season. This generally happens because we lean on known entities to try and predict the future. If Player A had a thousand yards receiving last year, well, then let's pencil him in for a thousand again this year. Now this is somewhat justified when you hear coaches continually telling all of us that it takes time for rookies to understand the game, whether it's the different rules if they are coming from another league, or the speed of the game if they are raw rookies.
However, change is not just about subtraction - it is also about addition, and when a spot on the team has been opened up due to the departure of a veteran, it creates an opportunity for the someone else.
This year right out of the gate there are some new names getting fans out of their seats in the CFL and it is exciting to see. In no particular order here are four of them that were listed on most depth charts at the bottom of the page coming out of training camps, but after two weeks have jumped off the page:
Chevon Walker, RB, Hamilton - Matt Dunigan sent out a Twitter question recently asking if anyone else thought that Walker was the fastest player in the league. It says in his bio on the Ticats website that in 2007 at the SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships while at the University of Florida he ran a 10.51 in the 100 metres, which is a blink of an eye behind Darvis Patton (10.03) of the U.S. who finished 8th in the men's final of the 100 metres at the 2008 Olympics.
Kory Sheets, RB, Saskatchewan - It was thought that the guy that was going to replace Wes Cates for the Riders was going to be Brandon West, that was until a relatively unknown Kory Sheets touched the ball in the pre-season. Sheets lost a football season to an Achilles injury in Miami and came from the NFL with zero fanfare. After two weeks he is tied with Chevon Walker for second in the CFL in rushing behind Andrew Harris in B.C. and has one more TD than both Harris and Walker.
Demon Washington, returner, Winnipeg - There are a few players in the league that have fans moving to the edge of their seats every time they touch the ball and the former Auburn Tiger is one of them. Again a guy who was just a name on a depth chart coming out of camp who has made a name for himself early in the season. After two weeks he is fourth in the league in all-purpose yards and has a 16.8 yard punt return average, the longest return on the season at 82 yards, and one touchdown.
Chris Mathews, WR, Winnipeg - GM Joe Mack did his homework this off-season, as Mathews is the second Bomber on this list. Bomber fans were concerned when Greg Carr signed as a free agent in Edmonton but Mack didn't seem worried and now we know why. Mathews ranks fifth in receiving after two games with 13 catches for 179 yards and two touchdowns. And it is not just his stats that are impressive early on, it is also that fact that he can fly and comes in at 6'5" and 230 pounds.
There are your top four newcomers with honourable mentions going to Toronto Argonauts receiver Dontrelle Inman, who had a big game against Calgary on the weekend, and Sam Hurl, a backup linebacker in Saskatchewan who is making a name for himself on the special teams and is currently leading the league in special teams tackles.
Now it is only two weeks so it is really too early to be looking at league rankings, and most importantly for all of these newcomers to the CFL, in order be considered a great player they are going to have to prove they can perform at that high level every week, and continue to put up numbers after every other team has some game film on them.
However, the next time we all panic when an established veteran moves on, remember that change can be as much about addition as it is about subtraction.