There were strikes, threats, rejected CBAs, but alas we had kickoff on the 2022 CFL season. It’s no secret that the league needs to go after new fans, with the opening week TV ratings dropping 15% over the last two years, more games like the battle between Calgary and Montreal could go a long way in drawing attention to the game.
Now, for the breakdown. They say first impressions aren’t everything, but this is my article so this week they are. With four games in the book, here are the first impressions given off by the eight teams to have kicked off their year.
A perennial powerhouse, the Stampeders are looking to reassert their dominance over the Western conference after the Blue Bombers made the West look like child’s play last season. Calgary opened the season at home against Montreal with the face of the franchise chasing down history. Coming into this season, Bo Levi Mitchell needs 1661 passing yards to pass the great Henry Burris for first in franchise history, a mark he’s well on his way to after last Thursday, going 21 for 34 for 199 passing yards despite missing a couple of series with an injury. Mitchell also seems to have found a new favourite target in Richard Sindani who racked up 101 yards. Completing the package of the Stampeders’ threat level is their defense who, after a sleepy first half, turned on the jets when it mattered appearing in mid-season form.
You could argue that this is a make or break year for Alouettes’ starting QB Vernon Adams Jr, and I would be hard pressed to tell you you’re wrong. While, like most Montreal teams, the Als are prone to beating themselves, Adams has yet to prove that he and he alone can win a game for Montreal which would come in really handy when you’re trying to win a championship. This pivotal season may have started on the losing foot for Adams and company, but the quarterback shone brightly in his 2022 debut with 250 passing yards and a highlight reel hurdling touchdown. The two picks on his stat line speak more to the ferocity of the late game Calgary defence than anything else, but still show where the room for improvement is with regards to synchronicity in the Alouettes’ offence. Defensively, Montreal showed some inconsistencies that could be easily exploited as opposing offences hit their stride if not addressed soon.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
The reigning champs left it a little too close for comfort in Week 1, and that’s even after you consider that Zach Collaros wasn’t on the field to end the game. But you know what, that makes them even scarier. Winnipeg looked monstrous last season and made a habit out of beating teams one way: badly. What their 2022 opener showed is they’ve found a new way to win: scrappy. Backup quarterback Dru Brown engineered the winning drive that was capped off by a 25-yard field goal by Marc Liegghio with six seconds left on the clock. While there is an Andrew Harris sized hole in the Blue Bombers’ backfield, the team’s ability to gut out a win of this nature without one of the league’s best backs is a testament to their overall strength.
If you’re like me, keeping track of Ottawa’s starting QB over the years has become a task far too arduous for what it’s worth. This season it’s Jeremiah Masoli’s team, with the former Tiger Cat logging 380 yards in his debut for his new colours. Other than the new face under centre, the thing that stood out most about these 2022 Redblacks was their physicality. While on the road against the most prolific offence of 2o21, Ottawa laid out hit after hit after hit, making it clear that if they weren’t going to beat you, they weren’t scared to beat you up. New head coach Paul LaPolice acknowledged that his newly assembled team did have stuff to work on, but said he was encouraged by what he saw. This is a hard team to get a feel for because of how many new pieces are involved but if Week 1 is any indication, this Redblacks team knows no fear.
Teams facing Saskatchewan this year now know what to fear the most: that defensive line. The Canadian Green Monsters piled eight sacks on the Tiger Cats QB duo of Dane Evans and Matthew Shiltz and looked hungry for more. Add that to the fact that their offensive line allowed no sacks on Cody Fajardo proves that games against the heartbeat of the CFL will be a hard fought trench battle. As for their aerial attack, star pivot Fajardo went 22 for 32 for 311 yards and a touchdown after suffering a devastating blow from Simoni Lawrence. The more you watch the hit, the more you think there’s no way Fajardo could have passed concussion protocol but whose really to say. If those two factors weren’t enough to strike fear into upcoming opponents, the depth of receiver talent should do the trick. The Riders proved they can and will spread the ball around, with six receivers racking up double digit yardage. With every game that unfolded, the Western conference teams just seem to get scarier…
Hamilton Tiger Cats
For every ounce of impressive that Saskatchewan was in the trenches, Hamilton was underwhelming in the area. Across the line on both sides of the ball, there were glaring holes for the Tiger Cats that, namely on the offensive side, Dane Evans will really hope gets cleared up. Speaking of Evans, the newly minted starting QB spent the majority of his time on the field either running for his life or getting up off of his bum, with very little time spent making an impact offensively. The decision on which QB would stay in the Hammer was the talk of the town during the offseason but if Week 1 was any indication, it would be a hard sell to local fans that the right call was made. The slightest glimmer of hope was Hamilton’s defence who did make life as hard as they could (except on the line of scrimmage) for their opponents, and hey, defence wins championships, right?
It’s really hard to gather any first impression other than fear when you watch a team put up 59 points while hardly breaking a sweat, so congratulations BC, we all fear you. Next!
The Toronto Argonauts looked like a more competent football team in Week 1 and they spent it on their couches but that is how deplorable the effort from the Elks was. While Edmonton’s defence missing the memo that the season started was confusing, Chris Jones’ decision to bench his starting QB Nick Arbuckle a half into the season was dumbfounding. It wasn’t as if Arbuckle was the one letting the Lions run up the score, and while yes he wasn’t a shining star through two quarters, the message sent by not even giving him a chance to finish the game certainly caused some eyes to role for fans of the Green and Gold and has some saying “here we go again” which isn’t a great sign just four quarters into the season.
Week 2 of the 2022 CFL season kicks off this Thursday where we’ll get our first look at the Argos as they welcome Montreal to BMO Field. BC gets a week off after their beat down of the Elks who have to pick themselves up to face Saskatchewan. Hamilton will attempt to hit their stride against Calgary and Ottawa will get a second crack at the Blue Bombers in as many weeks.