Top 10 things to watch for at Grey Cup
By KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency
|Nik Lewis of the Calgary Stampeders. (BOB FRID/QMI Agency)
The top 10 things to watch for at the 2012 Grey Cup:
1. Nik Lewis
It could be argued that Lewis is more valuable to the Stampeders than running back Jon Cornish. Whenever Calgary needs a first down, it turns to the veteran slotback from Mineral Wells, Tex. Lewis moved the chains a league-leading 34 times this season with catches on second down. Chad Owens, in comparison, did it only 19 times.
2. The long out
When Stamps quarterback Kevin Glenn was just starting out in the pro game, the Illinois State product often would throw long, looping passes out to the flat, trying to find the wide receiver on the wide side of the field. Quite often, a defensive back would jump the route and then cruise to the end zone with the ball. Glenn did it again in last week's West Final, but it didn't cost him.
3. Jalil Carter
The Argonauts cornerback, who wears No. 19, will be playing in place of the injured Pat Watkins, who is out with a high ankle sprain. Carter had a strong showing in last week's East Final against the Montreal Alouettes, but he will often be up against the hottest receiver in the league on Sunday in Stampeders wideout Maurice Price. So don't be surprised to see Calgary testing Carter, who spent all but four weeks on the practice roster this season.
One thing to watch during the game introductions and in the first quarter is how jacked up the players are. Which team is handling the emotion and pressure of the situation better? Whose players aren't taking bad penalties early on, including offside and procedure infractions? The team that is more calm will have a bit of an advantage, because it's tiring when you get too fired up.
5. The punters
Sounds boring, I know, but Argos head coach Scott Milanovich said Saturday that field position is one of the two most important keys for his team, with turnovers being the other. A big part of field position is the power of the punters: Calgary's Rob Maver and Toronto's Noel Prefontaine. This will be Maver's first Grey Cup, so watch to see how nervous the young man from Brampton, Ont., is in the early going.
6. Brandon Isaac
The Toronto linebacker is going to be geeked up to face his former team. The last time he faced the Stamps, in August, he delivered a cheap shot on Jon Cornish away from the play that got him fined. He also delivered head shots on quarterbacks Buck Pierce of Winnipeg and Darian Durant of Saskatchewan. He'll need to make sure he stays away from the undisciplined play on Sunday.
7. The defensive ends
There are some GMs in this league who believe the two most important positions on a CFL team are quarterback and defensive end. And whichever team gets the most pressure on the quarterback Sunday could very well be the winner. Calgary's Charleston Hughes (39) and Anwar Stewart (97) will be hunting Ricky Ray, while Toronto's Ricky Foley (95) and Ron Flemons (99) will be the primary pass rushers trying to sack Kevin Glenn. Ray is less fleet of foot than Glenn, so Hughes and Stewart are the ones to watch.
8. Juwan Simpson
The Calgary middle linebacker, who wears No. 12, didn't play in last week's West Final against the B.C. Lions due to an ankle injury, which means there's a good chance he's further away from 100% than the rest of Sunday's battered combatants will be. Saskatchewan running back Kory Sheets had his way with Simpson two weeks ago. Argos running back Chad Kackert will be looking to do the same, possibly with passes out of the backfield.
9. Toronto's defence
Argos defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones likes to do some funky stuff, like going with only two down linemen or sending the linebackers on a blitz. He is also known to lose his aggressiveness when it comes to play calling if his defensive dozen gets torched a couple of times. Watch to see if the Boatmen keep the pressure on even if they get beat early.
10. The start
If the Stamps get up early they will be in good shape, and they have been getting up early a lot. Calgary outscored opponents 144-58 in the first quarter this season, while Toronto was outscored 117-115 in the opening frame. Since 2006 the Argos are 7-61 when trailing at the half but only 41-13 when leading. Calgary is 56-10-1 when leading at the half and 16-35-1 when down since 2006.