Tiger-Cats hope Evans can lead crew over remaining hurdle

For the primary time since 2015, a West crew didn’t cross over to the CFL East playoffs final 12 months – that means there was a level of enchancment for the latter division in 2021.

Nonetheless, it didn’t lead to a Gray Cup, with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers successful their second championship in a row over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats – marking the third consecutive triumph for the West Division.

Contemplating the short turnover within the CFL, it’s no shock that not one of the head coaches or beginning quarterbacks within the East Division have guided their groups to a Gray Cup title of their respective roles.

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The Ticats fell simply brief final 12 months, dropping 33-25 in time beyond regulation on house discipline within the Gray Cup recreation after getting blown out two years earlier by the identical Blue Bombers within the title tilt — the 2020 CFL season was cancelled due to COVID-19.

This 12 months, two of the 4 opening-day quarterbacks have modified, whereas all 4 head coaches return.

Right here’s a take a look at the East Division with groups listed so as of predicted end:

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Hamilton Tiger-Cats linebacker Simoni Lawrence. (CP Picture)

HAMILTON TIGER-CATS

Last season: 8-6, second in East Division, misplaced in Gray Cup

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Head coach: Orlondo Steinauer (23-9 in two seasons, two losses in Gray Cup)

Beginning quarterback: Dane Evans (Getting into fourth season in CFL, all with Hamilton)

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The thin

Whereas they’ve fallen one win wanting breaking the CFL’s longest Gray Cup drought the previous two seasons, the Ticats clearly have been trending in the precise path below Steinauer after posting dropping information the earlier three seasons.

Rumoured to be heading again to his house state to develop into defensive co-ordinator of the College of Washington throughout Gray Cup week final 12 months, the previous CFL star defensive again as a substitute stayed in his adopted house of Hamilton with the Ticats, including the title of president of soccer operations to his resume.

Evans turns into the clear-cut high quarterback after spending the final two seasons rotating with Jeremiah Masoli (who signed with Ottawa this low season).

Receiver Brandon Banks, the 2019 CFL most excellent participant, and high defensive lineman Ja’Gared Davis opted to go down the QEW and signal with the Toronto Argonauts this low season, however the Ticats preserve a robust core (led by vocal linebacker and fan favorite Simoni Lawrence) and must be thought-about the crew to beat within the East after capturing the previous two division titles.

Argos quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson. (CP Picture)

TORONTO ARGONAUTS

Final season: 9-5, first in East Division, misplaced in division remaining

Coach: Ryan Dinwiddie (9-5 in a single season, misplaced in division remaining)

Beginning quarterback: McLeod Bethel-Thompson (Getting into fifth season in CFL, all with Toronto)

The thin

After overhauling the roster and training workers heading into 2021, the Argos emerged as an improved outfit, however couldn’t maintain on to an enormous lead towards visiting Hamilton within the East remaining. Issues unravelled on the finish with a number of Argos gamers and now-fired govt John Murphy entering into an altercation with Ticats followers and Bethel-Thompson having a run-in with a cameraman.

The legendary Michael (Pinball) Clemons returns for his second full season as GM and once more has made main strikes – bringing in huge names like Banks, Davis and former Winnipeg Blue Bombers star operating again Andrew Harris.

Corey Mace comes over from Calgary, the place Dinwiddie used to educate, to develop into the defensive co-ordinator – a job held by three males final 12 months, lastly by Chris Jones, now the GM/coach in Edmonton.

Bethel-Thompson has had his ups and downs, however may be very efficient when he finds his rhythm. One problem, as typical, for the Argos will seemingly be an absence of home-field benefit, with the crew attracting among the smallest crowds within the CFL the previous few years.

stanback
Montreal Alouettes operating again William Stanback. (CP Picture)

MONTREAL ALOUETTES

Final season: 7-7, third in East Division, misplaced in East semifinal

Coach: Khari Jones (17-15 in two seasons, two losses in East semifinal)

Beginning quarterback: Vernon Adams Jr. (Getting into seventh season in CFL, sixth with Montreal)

The thin

Adams is again to steer the Als after struggling a season-ending shoulder damage final October. Now, he must to lift his recreation to the subsequent degree and put his identify into the MOP combine. Like Bethel-Thompson, Adams is able to huge issues.

Veteran Trevor Harris re-signed and is the backup, so the Als do have one other risk at QB if Adams falters.

The offence has a number of huge weapons, together with league-leading operating again William Stanback and receiver Eugene Lewis.

Jones wants to ensure his crew is extra disciplined this season as penalties loomed massive final 12 months – one of many causes his job standing wasn’t totally safe in the beginning of the low season as common supervisor Danny Maciocia weighed his choices. If there’s a sluggish begin or issues go south this season, the previous star quarterback will probably be on the recent seat.

After all, Maciocia’s work additionally needs to be evaluated with the crew not as busy as others in free company.

New proprietor Gary Stern purchased the crew in 2020 and rapidly named the previous College of Montreal head coach the GM, solely to see that season cancelled by the pandemic and his high quarterback exit early in 2021. There’s strain on the Als to make a Gray Cup run this 12 months.

Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. (CP Picture)

OTTAWA REDBLACKS

Final season: 3-11, Fourth in East Division, missed playoffs

Head coach: Paul LaPolice (19-39 in 4 seasons with Ottawa and Winnipeg, coming into second season with Redblacks)

Beginning quarterback: Jeremiah Masoli (Getting into ninth season in CFL, first with Ottawa)

The thin

The Redblacks fired their authentic GM, Marcel Desjardins, late final 12 months with the crew on the backside of the standings for a second 12 months in a row after making three Gray Cup appearances within the 4 years earlier than that.

After an in depth search, the Redblacks employed former Ticats govt Shawn Burke as GM. Burke rapidly made huge modifications, highlighted by a brand new QB in Masoli, who hopes to return to his kind from 2018 when he was the East’s high participant.

Masoli may have a bunch of latest weapons, together with ex-Saskatchewan operating again William Powell and former Blue Bombers receiver Darvin Adams.

Defensively, former Montreal linebacker Patrick Ranges is an enormous addition, however the crew had unhealthy luck when new standout defensive finish Kwaku Boateng suffered a doable season-ending decrease physique damage in camp.

One change Burke didn’t make is at head coach – so there’s strain on LaPolice, who led the Blue Bombers to the 2011 Gray Cup recreation in his first go-around as a head coach, to get the Redblacks again into the contender combine. The roster actually is best, however it could take a while for therefore many new items to jell.

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