10 CFL stories to watch in 2013 | Football | CBC Sports

CFL10 CFL stories to watch in 2013

Posted: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 | 11:54 AM

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Mike Reilly played efficiently in limited time with B.C., but how will he fare as Edmonton's starting QB? (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press) Mike Reilly played efficiently in limited time with B.C., but how will he fare as Edmonton's starting QB? (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

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Here are 10 things I'm interested in watching on the road to the 101st Grey Cup game.
Whether it's new players like Isaiah Sweeney, or those that have been around the league for a few years and are looking to finally make a name for themselves like Shawn Lemon, the talent depth in the CFL has never been better.

Here are 10 things I'm interested in watching on the road to the 101st Grey Cup game.

Will the Lions be better without Geroy Simon and Arland Bruce?

There is no question that both of these players will be missed, but when Courtney Taylor, Nick Moore and Ernest Jackson got playing last year time because of injuries, I knew that coach Wally Buono was going to have to make some tough decisions. Add Emmanuel Arcemeaux to the mix, and B.C. has one of the best young receiving corps in the CFL. But talent is one thing. Experience is another.

Is Kent Austin really good or just lucky?

After Saskatchewan went 9-9 in 2006, Kent Austin took over and led a young team to the  95th Grey Cup title. Immediately after receiving the Annis Stukus Trophy, he disappeared to the college ranks south of the border. Some may argue that Austin acquired a promising young team in 2007 built by Roy Shivers, but I'm looking forward to seeing if Austin is the type of coach that can build a winning organization anywhere. He has his work cut out for him as he takes over as the head coach and GM in Hamilton.

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Will new defensive coordinators Orlondo Steinauer and Noel Thorpe make their mark?

Both the Alouettes and Ticats have productive offences, but both play brutal defensive football. Thorpe, who takes over the defence in Montreal, and Steinauer (the new guy in Hamilton) are smart football minds who have the privilege of building a defensive unit with their signature on it. Defensive performance could determine who comes out of the East this season.

The team that Ed Hervey built

While playing, I had the chance to build a good relationship with Ed Hervey. I quickly came to appreciate his ability to see the difference between talent and hype when it came to football players. I'm interested to see if the two guys that the new Eskimos GM aggressively pursued in free agency, Mike Riley and Odell Willis, turn out to be the cornerstone players needed for Edmonton to turn the corner. Hervey obviously saw something in both of these players and I am curious to know if he's right.

Is Mike Reilly ready for prime time?

The Eskimos' new quarterback had limited playing time in his three years with the Lions, but he has a passer efficiency rating of 104.4, which means that he makes good decisions with the football. As a comparison, Henry Burris led the CFL with the same rating in 2012. Riley looks comfortable under centre, and is athletic enough to get himself out of trouble if needed. The key for Edmonton will be the performance of their revamped offensive line.

Will Drew Tate step up?

Completing only 43 per cent of his passes is not what Stampeders coach Dave Dickenson needed from Tate. It's not like Tate is trying to learn a new offense. Calgary has a ton of talent this season and could challenge for the Grey Cup if Tate shows up.

Gas in the tank?

Tough decisions were made by GMs this off-season to release talented veterans to make room for young players. I would like to see Geroy Simon show us that he can still be productive in Saskatchewan, but he may battle with the injury bug this season. The player that I believe will have the biggest impact will be cornerback Byron Parker in Montreal.

Safe at safety?

The Lions' J.R. LaRose will need to understand the balance between supporting coverage underneath and securing deep coverage. Big plays kill a team, and if he is not able to improve, we could see Korey Banks or Ryan Phillips move to safety for the Lions. The biggest loss for the Argos defence is Jordan Younger (retired). He will be replaced by Matt Black, who has never played the position. Defensive coordinator Chris Jones will need someone who can direct traffic.

Saskatchewan spending wisely?

When you're going to host the Grey Cup in your backyard, you get the green light to spend money to build a competitive team. Offensive coordinator George Cortez was the most significant acquisition made by GM Brendan Tamen this off-season. The Roughriders were a good football team in 2012 that lacked offensive creativity. How quickly this group of individuals comes together as a team will dictate if they are playing on their home field at the end of the year.

Tight race

Once again, the season is anyone's guess. I firmly believe success is determined by how well you can play along the line of scrimmage. Injuries helped a number of teams develop a depth of talent on their offensive line, but defensively there are a few teams that lack strength on the line.

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