How the 2015 season played out:
From the beginning of the 2015 CFL season to the end of it, no team in the league was as consistent as the Edmonton Eskimos. Through the first 11 weeks the Eskimos went 6-4, but after September 7 they didn’t lose a single game. Mike Reilly was an absolute standout at quarterback with 2,449 yards and a 65% completion percentage. He and head coach Chris Jones were a steady, ever calming presence that never wavered as the team went all the way to the Grey Cup. Despite even going down early in the final, they just kept plugging away until they were eventually the 2015 Grey Cup champions – defeating the upstart Ottawa Redblacks 26-20 for the franchise’s 14th Grey Cup Championship.
Additions and Subtractions
Edmonton obviously hasn’t felt the need to make many major changes to a championship squad, but they did make an interesting sign on defence in Joel Figeuroa, who had spent the previous three-years with a great defensive squad in Hamilton. He will fit in nicely alongside other great Edmonton defenders like J.C. Sherrit.
The biggest non-player loss came on December 7, only eight days after leading his team to a Grey Cup, head coach Chris Jones left the Eskimos to go coach the Saskatchewan Roughriders. His replacement is former Eskimos QB Jason Maas, who had been coaching around the league but most recently with the Ottawa Redblacks, who the Eskimos had ironically enough just defeated in the Grey Cup.
Edmonton was lucky not to lose many key players from the Grey Cup squad to free agency. The biggest losses in this off-season came in as running back Kendial Lawrence and receiver Shamawd Chambers who have both joined the Saskatchewan Roughriders, reuniting with head coach Chris Jones.
2016 Season Thoughts
It will be incredibly interesting to see how this team responds to Chris Jones’ sudden departure, and how Jason Maas will handle his first pro head coaching gig. This team is more than built to repeat their Grey Cup glory – after having had the third best offense and the best defense in the CFL last year, so look for those trends to continue or be close to that rate at this coming season.
Mike Reilly is really coming into his own as a quarterback and has a chance to establish himself as one of the top QB’s in the CFL with another solid season and maybe, just maybe, the CFL’s first repeat champions since the Montreal Alouettes won back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010.