Argos new beasts of East

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:13 AM ET

The CFL East Division is no longer so easy to predict.

For the last several years, the Montreal Alouettes were the undisputed champs, while everyone kept wondering when the Toronto Argonauts would knock them off their perch.

In the bottom half of the loop, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Ottawa Renegades would scrap it out for the third and final playoff spot.

The times, they are a changin'.

The Argos are coming off the high of winning the 2004 Grey Cup, while the Alouettes lost a couple of premier players in CFL and NFL free agency.

The Tiger-Cats, meanwhile, appear to be out of the depths of despair that were created when they posted a 1-17 season just two seasons ago.

The Renegades, however, seem to be the uncontested bottom feeders. Hey, every division has one. More people will be watching how the Gliebermans do the second time around than the product on the field.

Without further adieu, here's a quick look at the CFL's East Division:

TORONTO ARGONAUTS

(10-7-1, second, won Grey Cup)

CONFIRMED: The Argos didn't tinker with their lineup too much during the off-season, and why would they? They won the Grey Cup.

QB Damon Allen is back for his 21st CFL season, with Michael Bishop serving as his backup. The receiving corps, with Tony Miles and Arland Bruce III, is solid once again, and everyone figures RB John Avery will return to excellent form after an injury-plagued 2004.

The Argos also recruited RB Hakim Hill, who is showing signs of big promise.

The real star of this team -- its defence -- is basically the same as last year's.

CAUSE FOR CONCERN: It's hard to question a team that won the Grey Cup and didn't make many changes, but unless Avery gets going -- or Hill fills the void -- the Argos won't be an offensive juggernaut.

CONUNDRUM: Can Damon Allen keep it going after all these years? And if not, is Bishop, after his Arena League season, going to be healthy enough to pick up the slack?

PREDICTION: First.

MONTREAL ALOUETTES

(14-4, first, lost East final)

CONFIRMED: QB Anthony Calvillo, who threw for more than 6,000 yards last season, returns behind an offensive line that is the CFL's benchmark.

Mr. Reliable, SB Ben Cahoon, is back, and the defensive front seven, led by 2004 CFL defensive player of the year DE Anwar Stewart, remains top-notch.

They acquired SB Terry Vaughn from Edmonton, but he will begin the season on the injured list.

CAUSE FOR CONCERN: In their never-ending quest to find a No. 1 tailback, the Als are expected to use three this season -- Jonas Lewis, Michael Jenkins and Robert Edwards. Lewis won the job in training camp but expect Jenkins to steal it soon.

Meanwhile, their receiving corps was hit hard by the free-agent departure of Jeremaine Copeland and the NFL defection of Thyron Anderson.

Their secondary, which has been overhauled, could come into question.

CONUNDRUM: How much will the loss of Copeland and Anderson hurt, and what happens if Calvillo gets hurt like he did in last year's East final?

PREDICTION: Second.

HAMILTON TIGER-CATS

(9-8-1, third, lost East semifinal)

CONFIRMED: QB Danny McManus continues to be the top tiger in Steeltown.

His receiving corps improved in the off-season with the signing of free agent Chris Brazzell, and he still has Craig Yeast, an all-purpose yards star, D.J. Flick and Archie Amerson among his targets.

And, oh yeah, they still have 2004 CFL rushing leader Troy Davis in the backfield.

The Tabbies possess a young defence that will only get better with time.

CAUSE FOR CONCERN: Their defensive line lost DEs Joe Montford (traded to Edmonton) and Tim Cheatwood (signed in the NFL).

University of Manitoba product Jamie Boreham won the placekicking job once again, but he still must prove he's CFL worthy.

CONUNDRUM: Same as Toronto's: How much gas does their aging quarterback have left in the tank?

PREDICTION: Third.

OTTAWA RENEGADES

(5-13, fourth, missed playoffs)

CONFIRMED: Not much. The Gliebermans are back in control, but not after a long and unsettled off-season which prevented the team from focusing on its roster.

QB Kerry Joseph is back at the helm after an injury-plagued 2004 campaign, RB Josh Ranek is as tough as they come and electrifying kick returner Jason Armstead is back in the fold.

WRs Yo Murphy and Frank Cutolo give the Renegades a semblance of optimism for the passing game.

CAUSE FOR CONCERN: Everywhere else.

The offensive line was overhauled, the secondary has many questions marks, and the team is still trying to figure out who its middle linebacker is going to be.

Kicker Matt Kellett, acquired from Montreal, still has an eye problem that plagued him when he was with the Alouettes.

CONUNDRUM: Just how bad is this Renegades team going to be?

PREDICTION: Fourth.


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