The best personnel play on the best teams and after four weeks of football it is pretty easy to accurately diagnose who has the highest quality roster.
1. Saskatchewan Roughriders
When you beat a team 37 to 0 you really make a statement of how good you are right now. That is what happened Sunday night in Regina and when the Riders play Hamilton again on Saturday it will probably happen again. Not necessarily 37 to 0 but as long as the Riders stay humble they could be 5-0 heading into the Bye week. There are many good stories of players playing well but how about Rob Bagg as a receiver and his two big-time touchdown pass receptions? When a player has an ACL injury it is a career threatening situation. Rob Bagg had two and what is so unique is he had one on each knee. The fact that the Riders did not give up on him says a lot about an organization that is on top of its game.
2. BC Lions
You knew the Lions would start winning and beating the Eskimos for the second time in two weeks brings them to 3-1 with extended time to get ready for the Argonauts. The Lions are an example of the "continuity wins" attitude. They draft players and sign players and keep them for their best years. And yes, they get rid of them pretty quick when their best years are behind them. Matt Norman at center and Kirby Fabien at guard have been the two most pleasant surprises so far this season and really the only surprises. Every other position has a status of experience and ability and after a tough start in Calgary the BC Lions are back as a West contender.
3. Calgary Stampeders
I think the best example of excellence in personnel management is the story of Brad Sinopoli, former quarterback and now effective receiver. Most of the time when a player can crack a starting roster at his original position, that's it. Not much of a future. You have to give compliments and credit to the organization for recognition of the possibility of an effective change and for Sinopoli himself for humbling his own ego and attitude and giving it a shot. It is not realistic to think Brad Sinopoli is going to catch 100 passes over a football season but he gives the Stampeders flexibility in the ratio which is as important to master as any aspect of football. Then how about quarterback Drew Tate, Kevin Glenn and now Bo Levi Mitchell? All three can play and play well and Calgary has the best depth of any team at the most important position.
4. Montreal Alouettes
That's right, Montreal. Their 1-3 record is not due to poor players it is due to an offensive staff that has not been able to re-ignite confidence with an entire offence. Montreal will start winning games, it is just a matter of time. But it will be a painful process of development to watch as July turns into August. Their best surprise player, easy, has been their starting free safety Mike Edem out of the University of Calgary. It allowed Montreal to move Kyries Hebert closer to the line of scrimmage and be involved more play after play. Montreal will turn this around because they have the players to do it.
The next four are all kind of lumped together but I will say...
5. Toronto Argonauts
The health of Ricky Ray will determine success or failure and from the outside looking in he should be okay as he was able to walk off the field after being hurt during a sack on Friday. Eight new players on defence is a lot to adjust to. Teams often complain if they have two players they need to educate. But logic says it will turn around for success as it did last year. The Argos have two names to watch out for: Janzen Jackson, first-year defensive back and Jamie Robinson first-year cornerback. They play side-by-side and if they develop with Matt Black as a free safety Toronto will continue its winning ways. I still think they need an impact receiver but then again when your quarterback goes 19-of-20 and could have gone 20-of-20 if not for a drop you know where your strength is. Not sure how this season is going to play out in Toronto.
Again, I can go three different ways here but I will say...
6. Edmonton Eskimos
Mike Reilly. Statistically not very good but he does have moments. The two offensive tackles are key - Thaddeus Coleman on the left and Cliff Louis on the right. If they can develop into solid players they will help the quarterback situation more than anything else. Both have immensity and fluidity at 6'8" and 300+ lbs. but have to become "every down" performers. I think Edmonton's best games will be in September and October and I hate saying this but July and August is a giant experiment. Edmonton is not a bad team, more of a complete unknown in many positions, starting at quarterback.
7. Hamilton Tiger-Cats
The biggest surprise for me has been Greg Ellingson. Nothing spectacular but very sound. 6'3", 197 lbs with a nice arm length, Ellingson can do this for years to come if he so desires. He is a great example of a guy who fits. Fits the league and style of play. Hamilton needs a cover linebacker and although improving a dominant pass rushing defensive end. But in what always makes football so interesting for me, they are not that far off. Most interesting player to me? Cornerback Raymond Brown. Big 6'3" cornerback from a good Kansas program and if he can be that big "match-up on the tallest receiver" player, it's a definite step forward for the Ticats.
8. Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Tough time. The need to stay healthy is so important because as starters the Bombers can compete with anybody but the depth is not there. There are 13 players on the injured reserve list for Winnipeg. Thirteen, and it is only Week 5. Without these names: Poblah, Matthews, Garrett, Douglas, Watson, Gilmore, Turner, Parker and my favourite left tackle, Tyson Pencer. If the Bombers had these players back they could best any given team on any given day. But without them it will be a long season at Investors Group Field.