This week is always one of the best weeks of the CFL season because it is the annual "reassess and move forward" evaluation of what has happened and what all teams hope to happen.
Once the Labour Day weekend is over the second season starts and the run for the Grey Cup heats up, even for the teams that seem so far away from the top.
For Montreal, the quarterback carousel started with Troy Smith, transitioned to Alex Brink and now it looks like Jonathan Crompton will get his shot. Crompton is a big kid for a quarterback and at six-foot-four and 225 pounds his physical size will enhance his durability. He throws hard with and his accuracy has been good, so far. It is very difficult to find a quarterback and win games but perhaps this third time is going to be the right time.
A lot of the other aspects of Alouettes football are already there but not at the most important position. I don't think Montreal can wait and hope for a player to emerge from another source other than their own program. To learn and master a playbook in the 11 weeks remaining is unrealistic; possible but not likely. So, for Crompton this is a phenomenal opportunity to establish himself and work on a career.
I honestly though Troy Smith was the guy, I was optimistic for Alex Brink. This time I will say: "Take it and make it happen" to Crompton. With two straight home games against Ottawa and Hamilton you can ease into a leadership role as compared to the tougher competition of Calgary and Edmonton. It is amazingly difficult to win games and find a quarterback at the same time but that is the challenge for Montreal for the rest of the season.
With Winnipeg the 24-16 win over Montreal was the fourth time Drew Willy and the Bombers' offence had to come from behind and win in the fourth quarter. At 6-3 they are right in the middle of everything and with the Riders home-and-away if they win two they will battle for first all year long. If they lose their next two games their playoffs will start on the road, in some capacity.
Game 2 of Week 9 just completed was Edmonton's 41-27 win over Toronto at home. The Argos had pass protection problems for the second week in a row. As a team, you protect Ricky Ray. He is going to work down the field consistently and surgically. If you don't, he can't. Ray is a good athlete but I would not say a great athlete. Without the element of time you can't expect him to "take a game over" athletically.
Edmonton is looking really good. I am most impressed with their depth at running back and receiver. When Chris Jones was in Toronto he had an influence on personnel. Now, in Edmonton I am sure he has more than an influence. Edmonton has done an exceptional job on the talent assessment test. When JC Sherritt is battling for playing time and when your third running back - Tyler Thomas from the National power, Bacone - comes in and stars it sure is impressive.
Ed Hervey and Chris Jones are working well together and their entire personnel department has performed. Matt Nichols has looked good and who would ever have anticipated Eddie Steele from University of Manitoba to be such an impact player?
Another team that is very good with personnel is Calgary. Beating the best is critical but beating the teams you should beat is just as important. I though Calgary just systematically wore Ottawa down. Quarter by quarter they became stronger and quarter by quarter the Redblacks faded. I hope the fans continue to support the Redblacks as they have done all summer. It is unlikely this team will go on an extended winning streak and dominate in the playoffs but I do see progression.
Henry Burris has to play better throwing the ball. A spectacular receiver needs to be found and a couple of defensive backs. As Montreal is trying win and trying to find a quarterback the Redblacks face a similar dilemma. As an organization have to be careful with the NFL cut situation. Too many changes will hurt their opportunity to win, not enough changes will also hurt. There will be tough evaluations over the next two weeks and for the team to improve efficiency, the decisions must be correct.
The final game of the week saw Saskatchewan beat B.C. 20-16. It was a very good game and, to be honest, we have not had enough of them. Here's another reason for a single nine-team league: Solomon Elimimian and John Chick are the two best defensive players in the league right now. If the CFL Awards happened tomorrow one of them would not even be considered and that is not right due to East-West representation. One nine-team league would not only give you the best teams with the best records but would also give you the most accurate representation of who is the best at their position.
Still, full compliments go to the Riders for their win. The first time the two teams played, B.C. ran for 184 yards but this time they only managed 58. The first time Andrew Harris ran for 138; this time only 11. Richie Hall as a defensive coordinator is very proud of his guys stepping up to the challenge of a good Lions team that features Harris, Stefan Logan and Tim Brown.
I will be very interested to see the decision to be made on Travis Lulay. He should be ready for sure in the next two weeks but how do you tell Kevin Glenn a change will happen? Glenn is one of the great people of the league but this must be difficult to swallow if Lulay takes over. Glenn does not have 10 years to play… at this point of his career it is year by year. No one ever said football was fair in any way.
Opening week, Labour Day weekend, Thanksgiving weekend and, of course, the playoffs are my favorite event weekends of CFL football. Hopefully each game becomes an event in its own way.