Position-by-position report card for two competing Grey Cup teams
The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, November 28, 2009 5:31PM EST
CALGARY - The Montreal Alouettes were first in the East Division after compiling a league-best 15-3 record, while Saskatchewan finished atop the West Division for the first time since 1976 with a 10-7-1 mark.
Montreal advanced to its seventh Grey Cup appearance since 2000 with a 56-18 win over the B.C. Lions in the East Division final. The Roughriders are in their second CFL title game since '07 following a 27-17 win over Calgary in the West Division final.
Here's a post ion-by-position grading for both teams heading into the big game:
Quarterback: Anthony Calvillo, a 16-year veteran, is appearing in his seventh Grey Cup game. He was named the CFL's outstanding player for the second straight year and third time overall after leading the CFL with 26 touchdown passes against just six interceptions. Backup Adrian McPherson is very solid.
Receiver: A solid crew here, with Kerry Watkins (81 catches, 1,243 yards, eight TDs), Jamel Richardson (85 catches, 1,055 yards, nine TDs) and Ben Cahoon (89 catches, 1,031 yards, two TDs). Brian Bratton (58 catches, 613 yards, two TDs) is also a dependable performer.
Running back: Avon Cobourne is a big-play contributor. He rushed for 1,214 yards (5.4-yard average) and 13 TDs and also added 56 catches for 458 yards and two TDs. It Cobourne goes down, backup Brandon Whitaker (26 carries, 151 yards, 5.8-yard average per carry) is more than capable.
Offensive line: There's a reason why Montreal's offence is so potent. Pure and simple, Calvillo gets time to pass and Cobourne has running lanes to follow. Guard Scott Flory was named the CFL's top lineman for the second straight year and anchors a solid front wall. But the Alouettes did give up 35 sacks and both Flory and centre Bryan Chiu are both well into their 30s.
Defensive line: This unit featured one of the CFL's sacks leader in John Bowman (12) and the East Division's top defensive player nominee in Anwar Stewart. The Alouettes were second in the CFL in total sacks (42) but first in 21 of the league's 25 defensive categories. Enough said.
Linebackers: Chip Cox stepped up from the secondary and made an immediate impact, posting a team-high 81 tackles. Sophomore Shea Emery has a bright future while veteran Diamond Ferri is under-rated.
Secondary: First-year CFL defensive backs Billy Parker and Jerald Brown have fit nicely into this unit. Canadian Davis Sanchez and Mark Estelle are both experienced and there's a good 1-2 punch at safety with Etienne Boulay and Matthieu Proulx.
Special Teams: Kicker Damon Duval scored a CFL-record 242 points and posted a 44.8-yard punting average. Returner Larry Taylor was the CFL's top special-teams player. But Montreal did have some issues covering kicks.
Coach: Marc Trestman followed up a solid rookie campaign with an even better sophomore season, leading Montreal to a team-record 15 wins. Regarded as an offensive guru so it's no coincidence that Calvillo has excelled the last two seasons. Very cerebral head coach.
Quarterback: Darian Durant showed consistent improvement in his first full season as the club's starter. Durant was fourth overall in CFL passing with 4,348 yards and completed over 60 per cent of his passes. Durant is also a threat to run, rushing for 501 yards and averaging a sparkling 8.3 yards per attempt. He had 24 TD passes but also 21 interceptions, the most by a CFL starter. Has made 23 regular-season starts and just one in the playoffs.
Running back: The Roughriders were the only CFL team not to have a 1,000-yard rusher this season. Wes Cates finished the season with 932 yards rushing and averaged a solid 4.8 yards per carry despite missing two games while recovering from off-season shoulder surgery. The club has depth here with Hugh Charles and Johnny Quinn.
Offensive line: This unit is anchored by tackle Gene Makowsky and centre Jeremy O'Day, both CFL all-stars this year. Chris Best and Marc Parenteau have both been solid at guard, as has first-year tackle Joel Bell. Stability is a key element here as this will mark the 12th consecutive game Saskatchewan has gone with the same starting five up front but the Riders did give up 41 sacks, sixth-most in the league.
Receivers: Weston Dressler led the way with 62 catches and 941 yards despite suffering a season-ending broken leg and sprained ankle in a win over Toronto. But Canadians Andy Fantuz (67 catches, 882 yards, four TDs), Rob Bagg (59 catches, 807 yards, five TDs) and Chris Getzlaf (41 catches, 531 yards, six TDs) more than picked up the slack.
Defensive line: Two solid ends here with Stevie Baggs and John Chick. Baggs finished tied for the CFL sacks title with 12 while Chick added 11 in being named the league's top defensive player. Keith Shologan and Marcus Adams are the tackles, with Shologan having to fill the big shoes created by the retirement of stalwart lineman Scott Schultz.
Linebackers: A solid unit here, led by middle linebacker Rey Williams, who had 10 tackles and three sacks in the division final against Calgary. Sean Lucas had a team-high 81 tackles while Tad Kornegay has shown flashes of brilliance.
Secondary: Cornerback Omarr Morgan makes the first Grey Cup appearance of his 10-year CFL career. Halfback Eddie Davis, in the third championship of his stellar 15-year career, remains a solid player. Lance Frazier led the team with five interceptions.
Special Teams: Kick-returner Jason Armstead has been a nice addition with his knack for giving the Riders solid field position. He opened the second half of the West Division final with a key 75-yard kickoff return. Kicker Luca Congi is reliable (33-of-43 field goals, 76.7 per cent) while rookie Louie Sakoda has replaced injured veteran Jamie Boreham on punts and kickoffs.
Coach: The Riders raised eyebrows two years ago when they promoted Ken Miller to replace the departed Kent Austin. But all Miller has done is win, having compiled an overall 22-13-1 record and guiding Saskatchewan to consecutive playoff berths. Miller's laid-back demeanour and even-keel approach to the game has made him a popular figure to his players and fans alike. A class act.