Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Former CFLers are Going Camping

Former Alouettes' receiver Duron Carter will be trying his luck in the NFL with Indianapolis. (Photo: Brian Spurlock)

A different group of CFL players try their luck down south every off-season. This year, nine former CFL players from 2014 are going camping in the NFL.
Brett Jones (Giants), Delvin Breaux (Saints), Brian Peters and Jalil Carter (Vikings), Matt O'Donnell (Bengals), Ian Wild and Shawn Lemon (Steelers) and, finally, Duron Carter and Ben Heenan (Colts) all earned invites to main training camp with their respective teams.
But they aren't all expected to make it past training camp, of course. Only a select few make the final roster, and even fewer become a starter at some point in their career. And then there's the rarest bunch, and they are the Cameron Wake's and the Brandon Browner's, who go from CFL stars to NFL Pro Bowlers.  
As it stands right now, there's only three players that almost certainly won't be back in the CFL any time soon: Breaux, Jones and Duron Carter. While nobody's spot is guaranteed, the remaining six will need an outstanding training camp in order to make the 53-man roster or the practice squad.
For his inspiring story on his comeback from a broken neck, Breaux is already well-known to the more passionate fans of his hometown New Orleans Saints. But they're also aware of his talent, and some are already going as far as calling him one of team's biggest finds in recent history.
The former Tiger-Cat has a great chance of not only making New Orleans' final roster, but starting in week one as well. The Saints had Breaux start at nickel cornerback in mini-camp as they like his size at 6'1", ball skills and quick hips. In that case, Breaux would be the third or fourth cornerback on the depth chart, seeing significant playing time while covering slot receivers. An All-Star at boundary-corner in the CFL, Breaux joined a poor Saints' secondary in 2014 and is a lock to make the 53-man roster.
While he isn't a lock to make the team like Breaux, Brett Jones has a good chance of sticking around with the New York Giants for awhile. The Giants have plenty of question marks regarding the interior of their offensive line, and while they have plenty of potential starting candidates, the door is still wide open for players like Jones to step up. With Weston Richburg expected to take over the team's starting centre role, expect the CFL's 2014 Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman award winner to battle with Dallas Reynolds for back-up duties while also seeing time as a reserve guard.
Jones, a native of Weyburn, Saskatchewan, has been praised by Giants' coaches for his work ethic and high football I.Q. New York's offensive line had a season to forget last year, putting the 2013 Stampeders' second round pick in a great opportunity to tag along with the Big Blue. Jones might have a long NFL career ahead of him.
And last, but certainly not least, to much fanfare from Colts Nation, former Montreal Alouettes' wide receiver Duron Carter will be with the Indianapolis Colts for training camp. The son of Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter, Duron is slated as the fifth receiver on Indianapolis' depth chart, which is impressive given that it's one of the deepest receiving corps' in the NFL. Carter is a physical freak with undeniable talent, as shown by his CFL pedigree that includes 1,939 receiving yards with 12 touchdowns in two seasons.

Carter can contribute to this team as a red-zone target behind veteran Andre Johnson and also on special-teams as a returner, where he got some looks during mini-camp. He has little competition for the fifth spot at receiver and could even move up to no. four, where he'll battle for reps with 2015 first round draft pick Philip Dorsett.

Carter could have been in the NFL already if it weren't for some off-field issues, but if he's left those issues in the past, he'll have found a place to stay in Indianapolis.

The future's much more cloudy for the remaining bunch of former CFL players looking for employment down south. With a good pre-season, I thought former Stampeder Shawn Lemon had a chance to stick around in Pittsburgh due to his versatility at outside linebacker, however he'll open up training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list, further affecting his marginal chances of making the team.

The chances of Jalil Carter, John Chiles or Brian Peters of making it past the first round of cuts aren't very promising either, while I'm almost certain current Steelers' safety Ian Wild will be back in Winnipeg with the Blue Bombers for the Banjo Bowl. Offensive linemen Matt O'Donnell and Ben Heenan have a good opportunity with their new clubs, but I won't be surprised if either are cut before September.

If this is the case, Labour Day weekend could include an in-season free agent frenzy.

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