A Signature Play for Each CFL Team
On Saturday evening I was enjoying my usual October mixture of hockey, baseball and football games while waiting on Saturday Night Live to start when something caught me eye.
Deep in the Pac-12 conference battle between the University of Southern California Trojans and University of Utah Utes there suddenly appeared a piece of home.
A Tiger-Cats logo was on my screen.
It took a couple seconds for my brain to recognize that 1) That was indeed the Hamilton Tiger-Cats logo and 2) I was still awake.
Once confirming both I spun back the TV time machine to watch the full sequence again and send out a quick video of the logo’s surprise cameo in the Los Angeles Coliseum to die hard Ticats and CFL fans everywhere
The Ticats logo was being used as a visual cue to call in an offensive play from the sideline. The practice is common now in the NCAA with all kinds of randomness appearing on the massive sideline cue cards in order to communicate formation, alignment, protection, routes and cadence all seamlessly.
After posting the video I immediately started getting questions revolving around “what does it mean” or “what play would a Tiger-Cats logo be”?
I try to be as finite and straight forward in my CFL coverage as possible but sometimes it’s nice to let your mind wander and these questions made me wonder, what would a play card similar to the one with a black and gold Ticats logo on it mean if each team had a play card?
So here we are, hoping to figure out a perfect play that embodies each CFL offence in an era of sideline cue cards.
Jeremiah Johnson (24) has been the steady productive and constant force many thought he would be this season if the Lions were going to be a contender. The quarterback situation did not unfold as many hoped it would with Jennings (10) struggling only to be replaced by Travis Lulay who would get injured leaving Head Coach Wally Buono with Jennings and a host of developmental quarterbacks.
It’s time to cut out the middle man and go direct snap to Johnson. This play signifies the BC offence this year. A group who struggled to pass protect at times leaving offensive coordinator Khari Jones to rely on Jeremiah and the ground game.
Mike Reilly (13) can straight up sling the rock, and he’s got the deep threat targets to be able to air it out including Duke Williams (81) who splashed onto the scene in Vancouver week one and Brandon Zylstra (83) who has been one of the CFL’s best all year long. Add in Adarius Bowman (4) and Derek Walker (87) and you get a potent down field passing attack when they’re on time and target.
To complement that threat of aerial assault the Eskimos were planning on John White leading the ground game. He was lost for the season, then Travon Van got dinged, on and on it went until CJ Gable (39) was acquired via trade.
Were the Eskimos logo to appear on a play card I believe it would symbolize a vertical passing play with the option to hand off a running back draw. One of those new-fangled RPO’s (run pass options) all the football nerdists keep telling you about. Give Reilly the chance to hit a home run and if the defence backs off hand it off to their new primary back Gable and watch him weave magic through the front seven defenders.
The Calgary Stampeders want to punch you in the mouth and tell you about it over and over again until you can no longer stand the punishment. While the Stampeders struggled to run the ball in Hamilton last Friday I still believe their identity to very much be based in the power run game. Their signature play should illustrate that.
Kamar Jorden (88) and Marquay McDaniel (16) seal the edges well the offensive line wedges the interior defensive front allowing Rob Cote (26) at fullback to motion across the formation and lead Messam (33) towards whatever unlucky should they both meet on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
Is Kevin Glenn (5) getting the snap or will Brandon Bridge (16)? Nobody knows until the ball leaves centre Brendon LaBatte’s finger tips, metaphorically.
Whoever receives the snap will have the option of a double swing pass - because those Riders sure love their swing passes - from a busy backfield featuring Canadian Kienan LaFrance (29) and new Rider Trent Richardson (33). If a defender takes either of those away there is always Duron Carter (89) on a jump ball, Naaman Roosevelt (82) on an under route which he’ll likely take to the house and veteran Rob Bagg (6) on a safe, sturdy, reliable hook route because, Canadian.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Stay with me here. For the Bombers their sideline play card could mean a free safety blitz with Taylor Loffler or a quick screen pass to Andrew Harris, but Head Coach Mike O’Shea’s team has made a point this season of delighting us all with trickery and imagination not recently remembered.
On this punting situation long snapper Chad Rempel (46) will start by perfectly executing a fumblerooski because O’Shea is old school like that and probably bet one of his buddies from North Bay that a play born in the leather helmet era of pro football could still work under the right circumstances.
The right guard of the punt formation Thomas Miles (52) then picks up the loose ball only to lateral to backup quarterback Dan LeFevour (13) who is of course in on the punt team because why the hell not, you are Winnipeg after all.
LeFevour runs a speed option with punt team personal protector and special teams ace Mike Miller (24) who subsequently takes the option pitch and boots the ball across the field to an open space vacated by a return man who chased Derek Jones (0) and Julian Feoli-Gudino (83) across the formation thinking they wanted to receive a pass.
All the while Justin Medlock has wandered off to the left and down the sideline while staying onside and picking up Miller’s kick before strolling into the end zone as O’Shea completes special teams piece de resistance.
If any or all of this actually happens you all owe me a beer at the Grey Cup in Ottawa.
Since June Jones arrived in Hamilton the offence has experienced an overhaul with different motions, route concepts and formations all part of the upheaval.
The key to Jones offensive philosophy is quarterback and receiver getting on the same page, reading coverage together to select the right option on routes with various possible end results.
For Hamilton’s signature play I made.. a mess of option routes paired with a home run shot on a scissors concept between Luke Tasker (17) and Shamawd Chambers (7) since the Ticats downfield passing has become much more noticeable after Labour Day when Jones and Masoli got their first start together.
The Argonauts signature play was easily the easiest to design. So many staples of what makes the Argos, the Argos are predictable but their execution and timely use of variation make them one of the contenders in the East division playoffs.
James Wilder Jr. (32) crosses QB Ricky Ray’s (15) face while cult hero fullback Declan Cross (38) flies to the flats. All of this is a mirage to distract you from the fact that SJ Green (19) is running past everyone and making circus catches. If that isn’t available then DeVier Posey will be happy to receive a trademark Ricky Ray corner route which predictably will land in his Adidas gloves softer than a feather pillow still wrapped in factory protective plastic.
Should any of these options fall through stud rookie Jimmy Ralph - who I believe was the steal of the 2017 CFL draft - will be wide open on a safe, smart, reliable check down because, again, Canadian.
William Powell (29) has really peaked at the right time this season. With his run threat REDBLACKS offensive coordinator Jamie Elizondo fakes a stretch run to the field before QB Trevor Harris (7) flips his hips back to the boundary to find Greg Ellingson (82) on a stutter screen and go.
If for some reason that gets taken away Harris can check it down to the always dangerous Diontae Spencer (85) or find Brad Sinopoli (88) running all kinds of weird spacing and timing routes over the middle.
The Montreal Alouettes have struggled to find an identity on offence this season but if their logo appeared on a sideline card I’m willing to bet it would signal a run of some creativity.
Here J-C Beaulieu motions around the backfield before calling the right wing home. As the snap is taken QB Darian Durant (4) shows a speed option before shovelling the ball back inside underneath to Beaulieu for the touchdown.
All of this is subject to be nullified if Nik Lewis screams loud enough to get Durant’s attention at which point the veteran slotback will make a catch three yards down field before running through four tacklers and hurdling someone.
There are still three weeks left for teams to carve out new strengths and tendencies to use in the playoffs. A period which could see teams making up things on the fly to force future playoff opponents to prepare for a ghost which will never appear in game when it matters most. If you have a signature play idea for any team send it to me on twitter @TSN_Marsh.