CFL Preview - Montreal (0-0) at Calgary (0-0)
From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor
DATE & TIME: Saturday, June 28, 3 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: After months of speculation, the Calgary Stampeders finally know
who will be their starting quarterback when they take on the Montreal
Alouettes in the 2014 season opener on Saturday afternoon at McMahon Stadium.
Head coach and general manager John Hufnagel made the decision on Monday to
pencil in quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell at the top of his depth chart, although
Hufnagel is less concerned with who starts than he is with which of his three
signal-callers (Drew Tate and Bryant Moniz being the others) makes the most
Moniz, a gunslinger from Hawaii who is new to the CFL, could factor in
somewhere down the line, but for now it will be Mitchell and Tate who will be
asked to shoulder the load on offense.
Aside from a disappointing ending, Calgary had the best of both worlds last
season as it ranked first in the league in scoring offense (30.5 ppg) and was
second-best in holding opponents down (22.9 ppg), which is more than enough
reason for Hufnagel and his crew to have high hopes heading into the 2014
campaign. However, there have been some changes on the roster that will
certainly shake things up a bit.
After two years as a key contributor to the offense, quarterback Kevin Glenn
was taken by the Ottawa RedBlacks in the 2013 CFL Expansion Draft and then
traded to the British Columbia Lions, which leaves Mitchell as the starter to
kick off the new season. Mitchell had his moments in 2013, posting a
quarterback rating of 111.2, but that was in limited duty. If nothing else,
Mitchell knows the system and has shown that he can operate it sufficiently.
The good news for Calgary is the presence of two top-flight slot backs in
Marquay McDaniel and Nik Lewis. One of seven players to finish with at least
1,000 receiving yards a year ago, McDaniel turned 76 catches into eight
Another huge positive for Calgary is the continued presence of running back
Jon Cornish. After struggling for playing time in his first four years with
the Stamps, Cornish has become one of the most productive players in the
league, so much so that he was named the CFL's Most Outstanding Player in
2013, and the Most Outstanding Canadian the last two seasons. Cornish ran for
a career-high 1,813 yards and 12 TDs, not to mention reeling in 42 passes for
344 yards and two more majors last year.
The defense for the Stamps will again take its cues from lineman Charleston
Hughes. Despite missing a couple of games in 2013, Hughes still finished with
a league-best 18 sacks and forced three fumbles. The West nominee for the
CFL's Most Outstanding Defensive Player, Hughes now has back-to-back seasons
with double-digit sacks, which means opponents should be giving him even more
attention this time around.
As for the Als, they are entering uncharted waters with regard to their
offense. Dating back to 1998, Montreal always knew that Anthony Calvillo would
be the man of record on the field. One of the most outstanding quarterbacks in
the history of the game, the three-time CFL Most Outstanding Player set career
marks for passing yards (79,816), touchdowns (455) and completions (5,892),
along with a litany of other chart-topping numbers, before announcing his
retirement in January.
At some point the ride had to end for Calvillo, but many hoped he would give
it once last go-around after suffering a season-ending injury in 2013.
Unfortunately, that isn't the case and it means the Als, who made the playoffs
with a record of only 8-10 before bowing to Hamilton by a mere three points
(19-16) in the East Division Semifinals last year, are now in search of a
The biggest name at that position currently is former Heisman Trophy winner
Troy Smith from Ohio State. Smith, who bounced around the NFL and even made a
stop in Omaha with the UFL's Nighthawks, signed on with Montreal last season
and in getting his feet wet, threw for 884 yards and nine touchdowns, but
finished with a rating of only 86.3.
Fellow quarterback Alex Brink last saw game action with Winnipeg in 2012 and
while he threw for eight touchdowns that season and ran for another seven, he
was his own worst enemy as he consistently put himself in a position to be
injured. Tanner Marsh made a minor splash in 2013 when he stepped in for
Calvillo, but the excitement was short-lived as he ended up tossing eight
INTs against only three TDs.
Hopefully, the return of S.J. Green, the league's second-leading receiver last
season, will make the transition to a new quarterback slightly smoother, but
not likely. The slot back has cranked out three straight 1,000-yard seasons,
and he tallied 13 TDs in 2013, but his numbers could easily shrink depending
on how strong the passing attack becomes.
The most intriguing name on the Montreal roster this season has to be that of
Chad Johnson, the one-time wideout who struck fear in the hearts of many
defensive backs in the NFL. A six-time Pro Bowl selection, Johnson played
himself out of the NFL with his questionable behavior both on and off the
field. Johnson is not the first former superstar seeking redemption in the
Great White North, but at 36 years of age you have to wonder what he has left
in the tank.
Montreal's defense was third from the bottom in terms of points allowed last
season, giving up 26.2 ppg, but the good news is that linebacker Chip Cox is
back and ready to level the opposition, just as he did in 2013. Not only was
Cox an all-star for the fourth time, he was also named the league's Most
Outstanding Defensive Player after setting the team record for tackles and
leading the CFL with 115 stops.
These two teams played just twice last year, suiting up in back-to-back weeks
in July, with the Stamps picking up wins both times. Calgary first tallied a
22-14 triumph at Montreal on July 12, and then eight days later claimed a
With respect to the series record between the programs, reaching back to 1961
and taking into consideration only regular season bouts, Calgary is slightly
ahead by a count of 35-32-1, capturing five of the last six meetings.
Both squads will be feeling their way around on offense this week, hoping to
identify the right quarterback to give them a solid opportunity for success
over the next several months, but it will be a work in progress, as will the
opening 60 minutes this weekend.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Calgary 27, Montreal 18
06/25 10:54:56 ET
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