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pyramid 08-22-2019 02:34 PM

Week 11 Notes
Will Ottawa be able to turn things around with their coaching strategy change? What is on the line for Chris Streveler and the Bombers for the rest of the season? Why didn't a healthy James Wilder Jr. dress for the Argos last week

Bombers president expects around 20,000 fans for first NFL game in Winnipeg

Wade Miller wants to make sure football fans enjoy Thursday's NFL pre-season game in Winnipeg between the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers, even if they can't afford to be in the stands.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea said Tuesday that he feels good about Andrew Harris' chances to play Friday night against the Edmonton Eskimos. Harris suffered a minor injury to his right arm/elbow area Monday at practice and had to leave early.

As was revealed on TSN Radio earlier this week, the BC Lions are for sale. David Braley has owned the team for 22 years, and has been an important figure in the league. Why the change now? What good can come of the sale?

The Argos have been a wreck on offence this season, averaging just 12.5 offensive points per game, roughly nine fewer than the eighth-place club in this all-important category.

Quarterbacks James Franklin and MacLeod Bethel-Thompson couldn’t get the job done last season under Marc Trestman and have been no more effective this year under head coach Cory Chamblin and offensive co-ordinator Jacques Chapdelaine.

With fans, commentators, and, presumably, owners Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, frustrated at the Argos' failure to solve the quarterback quandary, something had to be done.

With the Argos in tough against Winnipeg Thursday, the team is likely to head into its bye week winless and at least three games out of a playoff spot.

Enter Collaros, the veteran quarterback general manager Jim Popp tried to acquire via trade from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats during the second half of the 2017 season after he’d been benched in favour of Jeremiah Masoli. If that trade had happened, it would have been Collaros – not Franklin – who would have entered last season as the backup to Ricky Ray in Toronto and the heir to the No. 1 job.

Instead, Collaros’ rights were dealt to Saskatchewan after the season. He missed four regular- season games in 2018 with a head injury early in the year before being knocked out of the regular-season finale with another concussion.

After recovering during the off-season, Collaros returned to Saskatchewan one-year deal with a base pay of $300,000, plus play-time incentives, mitigating the Roughriders’ risk of another injury.

That turned out to be prudent, since his stat line for 2019 reads one carry for seven yards – a play that ended with a head hit from Simoni Lawrence that resulted in a two-game suspension and ended Collaros’ time in green and white.

Cleared by Saskatchewan doctors after passing baseline testing just this week, he will be eligible to practise with Toronto once they return from next week’s bye.

With a week of playbook study and another week of practice, Collaros could be ready to play by the Aug. 16 home game against Edmonton. But it’s more likely that he could start a week later when the Argos face the Alouettes in Moncton, N.B., which is also when Franklin is eligible to come off the six-game injured list.

Until then, the Argos will trot out Bethel-Thompson at least once more against the Blue Bombers on Thursday. If he struggles as he did a week ago against Edmonton, presumably the hook will be quick with third-year Dakota Prukop and rookie Michael O’Connor waiting in the wings. It’s not out of the question that those two could share all the reps against the Eskimos coming out of the bye, while Franklin continues to heal and Collaros gets up to speed.

All of which raises the question of what happens to Franklin and/or Bethel-Thompson if Collaros can stay healthy. It sure feels like the window is closing on their respective chances to be the guy for the Argonauts. Once you’ve had two chances to hold the starting quarterback job with a team, there is rarely a third.

Is there trade value for either of them in a league where quarterbacks are dropping by the minute? Perhaps.

There’s a lot of moving parts at the game’s most important position in the middle of a season, but this is reality in Argoland. It has been that way ever since the injury in Week 2 of 2018 that ended Ray’s career.

In a perfect world, Collaros will rediscover the health and consistency that, not all that long ago, made him the league’s highest-paid player. With success, he wouldn’t only save Toronto’s season and Popp’s job; he could also sign an extension to stay in the city where he already makes his full-time home.

pyramid 08-23-2019 09:30 AM

Since he debuted as the first rookie quarterback to start a season-opening game in more than 20 years last season, Winnipeg’s Chris Streveler has been one of the most intriguing players in the Canadian Football League.

A freak athlete, Streveler had begun his college career playing receiver at the University of Minnesota before transferring to South Dakota for his final two college seasons and being named a runner-up for the Walter Payton Award as the top player at the FBS level of NCAA football. (An award won by, among others, Dave Dickenson and Tony Romo.)

From the outset of his first training camp with Winnipeg, he appeared poised and confident, never looking overwhelmed at what was put before him. So there was no doubt to whom the Bombers would turn to when Nichols suffered a knee injury at training camp last season, forcing him to miss the season’s first three games.

In three starts, Streveler completed nearly 63 per cent of his passes, throwing six touchdown passes and rushing for two more while displaying his unique set of physical skills and carrying the ball 22 times for 193 yards.

And thus began the debate around the CFL about Streveler’s potential and just how ready he might be starting at quarterback.

Though Nichols returned four weeks into the season and remained healthy throughout, Blue Bombers offensive co-ordinator Paul LaPolice found ways to insert Streveler into games, whether gutting out tough yards with his legs or forcing teams to defend his ability to throw the ball as well.

But the question has always been, could Streveler handle being a starter week-in and week-out, throwing the ball 25 times a game and demonstrate the ability to rally his team from behind? Well, we’re about to find out, as the Bombers will turn to Streveler for at least the next four to six weeks while Nichols nurses an injury to his throwing arm.

While the Bombers have plenty on the line as they hope to maintain their spot atop the CFL’s West Division, there is lots on the line for Streveler as well.

As a pending free agent at the end of this season, Streveler has been under the watchful eye of teams across the CFL, especially those that might be in the market for a quarterback this coming off-season. By the time this season is over, every team in the CFL – including the Blue Bombers – will have a very good idea of what Streveler is and what he isn’t.

It’s already been assumed that Winnipeg won’t be able to keep both Streveler and Nichols beyond this season, as both players are on expiring contracts. It's been assumed that means parting with Streveler, as Nichols has been playing the best football of his life this season, throwing the ball efficiently while finding a touch for deep throws that has given the Blue Bombers' offence an added dimension this season. But is it possible that Streveler, who at age 24 is eight years younger than Nichols, could play well enough to make the Bombers think hard about which quarterback they should be hitching their wagon to?

That would seem like a stretch, but let’s just say it would be a very good problem for Winnipeg to be facing this off-season. At the very least, Streveler has a chance to end the debate over whether he’s ready to be a starting quarterback in 2020 and boost his value on the open market this off-season.

Meanwhile, in other Blue Bombers news, the hunt for a third-string quarterback continues. The fact is there just aren’t a lot of options out there for quarterbacks with recent CFL experience who could step-in and provide some depth. Brandon Bridge and Jeff Matthews were both in the league earlier this season but the most likely candidate may be Drew Willy, who was traded out of town to make room for Nichols in 2016. Willy played four games last season with Montreal, in a year beset by injuries. But with nearly 10,000 yards passing in his seven-year CFL career, he might be a preferable backup to Streveler over current No. 2 Sean McGuire, who has never thrown a pass in a CFL regular season game.

Lions for sale – finally

David Braley is finally ready to sell the B.C. Lions.

This is according to Lions president Rick Lelacheur, who revealed this week on TSN Radio 1040 Vancouver that the process of exploring potential buyers for the Lions has been underway since January.

Where it sits right now and what the timeline is for a sale, Lelacheur won’t say. But the fact he’s managed to get some of the interested parties an audience with commissioner Randy Ambrosie suggests we’re well down the path on this route.

All of which should be welcome news to everyone around the CFL.

Braley has long been recognized as an owner who has helped stabilize the CFL, going so far as to take a silent share in the Toronto Argonauts when the league was trying to convince Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon to buy the team out of bankruptcy in 2003.

And his love for the league knows no bounds.

But as someone who openly suggests the league should go back to having television blackouts, Braley has never been considered a visionary in the modern age of sports entertainment. And it’s been clear for a while that the Lions have needed a refresh in the Vancouver market, a point driven home when they failed to draw 20,000 fans for their season-opener and the debut of new quarterback Mike Reilly.

Back to the future in Ottawa

Everyone knew this would be a season of adjustment for the Ottawa Redblacks, who bid farewell to their starting quarterback, a primary receiver, left tackle, starting running back and offensive co-ordinator this past off-season.

On the coaching front, Ottawa opted to go with an offence by committee approach with receivers coach, Winston October, calling the plays. That seemed to work well early in the season, but with the Redblacks just 1-6 in their past seven games, something had to change.

Which brings us to Joe Paopao, the former CFL quarterback who has been a lifer as a coach in this country, working at both the CFL and university levels. This also includes a four-year stint as head coach of the Ottawa Renegades from 2002-05, during which the team never made the playoffs.

The hope is that having a former quarterback on the headset can improve things.

Posey makes big reception

Montreal Alouettes receiver DeVier Posey had a spectacular game Saturday against the Calgary Stampeders, hauling in 10 passes for 181 yards.

But that was nothing compared to the action that followed after he returned Sunday, the same day his wife, Kierra, was due to deliver their child.

Upon his return, Kierra told DeVier she believed it might be time for the delivery, and went to see the doctor, before being sent back home.

A few hours later, the urgency was real and DeVier ended-up delivering Nile Josiah Posey nine minutes before the paramedics arrived.

It was his best catch of the weekend.

Wilder to special teams

It was about this time two years ago that James Wilder Jr. took over the starting running back role with the Argonauts and ran his way to being named the CFL’s Outstanding Rookie of 2017. Before that, he had excelled on special teams for Toronto, which is part of what delayed his eventual move to the starting running back role.

After an off-season contract dispute, Wilder showed up in 2018 happy and highly motivated to continue the success he’d established the previous year. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out that way. In fact, Wilder has fewer yards along the ground since the start of the 2018 season than he did during that half-season as the feature back in 2017.

Not all of that is on him, as Toronto has made a consistent habit of falling behind during the first halves of games both this season and last, forcing the Argos to abandon the run-game and play catch-up.

However, a rib injury suffered last month, combined with missing two practices because he was late coming back from the bye week appears to have been enough for him to lose his starting job to Brandon Burks.

The Argos practised Wilder on special teams last week but scratched him, according to the team, when he said he didn’t feel ready to play.

Since the Argos use Chris Rainey as a returner and running back, they don’t need Wilder on the roster as a third running back. So getting on the game-day roster may require a return to the role in which he began his CFL career in 2017.

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