What does McCluster bring to the Argos?

The Toronto Argonauts have signed former NFL Pro-Bowler Dexter McCluster.

McCluster spent his most notable years in Kansas City where he’d triple down as a versatile change-of-pace running-back, slot or wide receiver, and a dynamo as a kick returner.

This signing continues the flow of players north from the NFL this off-season. With the arrival of Johnny Manziel, Tre Mason, and the on-going buzz surrounding Terrell Owens potential trip to the CFL, the spotlight around the league is expanding to the south.

Rivals Related: The Manziel Effect

Still only 29 years old, McCluster has had a year off (last season) because of injury, but with that comes a year without taking hits. There’s no doubt that where he excels is in the open field and his ability to make players miss – something that should be highlighted with the larger fields up here.

Contrary to the Ricky Williams signing, McCluster has always been an exciting player to watch and still looks to have a lot left in the tank to showcase here in Toronto. He can move around the field and play in virtually any situation.

While Manziel is still a very young player with a lot of room to grow and still not yet in the prime of his career, the success of Jeremiah Masoli has limited Johnny’s ability to have any sort of impact for now. As for McCluster, he’ll have ample opportunity to showcase his stuff, in what I can only assume is a platform to pave the way for an NFL return.

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Manziel and Masoli – Who Starts?

With more eyes that expected for preseason action, the Manziel effect was in full force for the Ticats this year. But, the regular season is now upon us and the excitement of first glimpses of Johnny Manziel in the black and gold are over, it’s time for the real work to begin. It all starts with one golden question: Who starts for Hamilton?

Texas fans, Cleveland fans, and migrant NFL fans look away, because this job was never meant to be given to Manziel. Tiger Cats head coach June Jones is right to not just roll over and hand the scrambling, talented, QB the keys to the castle just yet. It is Jeremiah Masoli who earned the job, kept the job, and will start come the weekend for the Tabbies.

Why is it Masoli’s job? Well when he took over last season the Hamilton Tiger Cats were 0-8 and the season was effectively finished for them. A change was needed and Masoli and Jones represented that. The tandem worked magnificently together and made a respectable season out of a disastrous one in a quick turn around.

That disastrous season started 0-8. Zach Collaros was the quarterback and while struggling often with injury, he was always touted as a top class talent and showed it in previous years. However in 2017 he couldn’t seem to manage games in a way that would see out wins, or capitalize on opportunities presented to him. His coach Kent Austin was relieved of his coaching duties and Jones took over on August 24th. Jones never looked back, seeing out the rest of the season with a 6-4 record on the back of his newly promoted starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.

Masoli had shown his offensive prowess the previous season filling in for the injured Collaros. He threw for 2695 yards and 15 touchdowns in ten games in 2016 and surpassed this in 2017 with 3177 yards and 15 touchdowns, reducing his interceptions from 12 to 5. Masoli is a talented QB and it is his job to lose as it stands for the 2018 season. The bond between Jones and Masoli should be extremely strong and will take a lot for the head coach to drop his QB for Manziel.

Manziel has done his best to force the hand of Jones in his decision on his starting QB. Manziel contributed to a Hamilton win over Montreal, as the Ticats scored 30 unanswered points to steal the game away from the Alouettes. Manziel finished the game 12-20 with 88 passing yards, added 19 rushing yards, and threw a very nice touchdown pass rolling to his right on a three-yard throw. Masoli rested, which is good and bad news for Manziel – good because he had more time to shine, bad because it pretty much solidified Masoli as the week one starter against Calgary come June 16th.

This is probably disheartening news for onlookers and passive, if not non-existent, CFL fans who were tuning in this season to see Johnny Football light up the Canadian League. He will be reduced to a clipboard player for the start of the season, as he should be, but not all hope is lost for Money Manziel.

It is a shame that these two can’t both be starting because they both have that fiery attitude that smaller, scrambling QB’s tend to have. They are quick, explosive, and keep plays alive with their feet. Just last season Masoli carried the ball 70 times for 446 yards and 4 TDs! Their style of play, while not mirroring each other exactly, is similar and you’ll see some related style of play between them.

With injuries popping up all over the league QB vacancies are a realistic situation for Manziel to monitor. As well, Manziel and the Ticats management team know he has elite talent and a ton of potential. This should keep Masoli on a tight leash, which will either see him off with the increased pressure, or keep him motivated by knowing he can’t slip up.

As it stands now the biggest winner is the Hamilton Ticats and the CFL. From a team that started 0-8 last season to one that boasts two immensely talented QB’s vying for the starting job, Hamilton is poised to have the collective eyes of the CFL fans and media upon them this season, not to mention Manziel trackers from Texas to Cleveland who will want to see some money signs being flashed.

The Manziel Effect

Don’t look now, but a few more ex-NFL players have joined the CFL after Johnny Manziel and I don’t think it’s a coincidence. One thing that needs to be accepted by a lot of die hard CFL supporters too, it isn’t bad for the league or the game either.

So who are these players migrating in the path of Johnny Football?

Lorenzo Taliaferro

The ex-Raven running back out of Baltimore is joining up in Hamilton with Manziel in hopes of revitalizing his professional status. A career committee running back, Taliaferro was buried in Baltimore when they couldn’t seem to find a starting running back after the Ray Rice arrest and suspension. Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, Kyle Juszczyk – all are names sure to give Taliaferro nightmares, splitting and stealing opportunities from the young back in Baltimore.

His career season was 2014. In 13 games he rushed for four touchdowns but just 293 yards that season, with a avg yards per carry of 4.3. Not excpetional but stats that show just how much of a committee back he was. At 26 years old Taliaferro still has a lot to give, and will bring with him three years of NFL experience. Hamilton will get a back with something to prove, and a companion for Manziel who knows the NFL struggle.

Tre Mason

The Saskatchewan Roughriders are adding former third round pick from the then St. Louis Rams, Tre Mason. Loads of potential and only 24 Mason’s issues were never really on the field, but more discipline issues that slammed his promising career short. For Mason it appears that the lifestyle of a celebrity athlete overwhelmed him mentally and eventually led to issues with the law.

His career fell off a cliff with mental health issues related to his lifestyle, and after being cut by the Rams no other team wanted to take a shot on him. In his rookie years in 2014 Mason rushed for 765 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 2 100+ yard games. His production significantly dropped in his second year as the issues with his personal life started to compound and effect his play.

What Mason will get in Saskatchewan is the exact opposite of a lavish, highroller lifestyle. The prairies lack a lot of Big City accouterments and will isolate him from a lot of distraction allowing him to focus on his game. This move looks good for both sides really – Mason gets the chance to focus in on his game again and the Riders have an opportunity to catch lightning in a bottle with a dynamic back who has hopefully grown up.

The CFL offers a lot more than just a career rehabilitation track for ex-NFL players but as far as it goes now, its a symbiotic relationship. Stars will pull the ever coveted American viewership, and the league’s different rule set will allow for some stars to flourish. Will the pilgrimage continue for ex-NFLers? As long as Mason, Talaiferro, and Manziel look good I would imagine we’ll see some more big names North of the boarder!

Alright, I Guess I’m Watching the CFL Now

It is official, Johnny Manziel is a Hamilton Tiger Cat, and I am officially a CFL fan! Come back SZN is on, and I am excited.

Originally broken by his now partners at Barstool Sports, Manziel has signed his 2-year contract with the Ticats and will report to training camp ahead of the 2018 season.

So, what has Money Manziel been up to since his last start on December 27th 2014 ( a loss at Kansas City)? Becoming a better person, and actually getting some reps in despite not being professionally employed.

The former Heisman trophy winner came to terms with his lifestyle issues and how they contributed to his downfall in the NFL. His reaction is actually kinda admirable too; go straight edge. No drinking and no drugs, and more importantly no negative people in his life anymore. The former playboy earned a reputation for himself as a party guy who put more stock in his social life than he did his professional life, but has looked internally to change that perception.

The result of Manziel caring more about partying that football this was a young NFL QB who was late for practise, didn’t show up for team meetings, and was a flop on the field. As much as Manziel was his own worst enemy, the Cleveland Browns also contributed to their late first round draft pick’s eventual failure. No structure from his accounts, and no mentor for him to learn from, Manziel and the Browns were a bad match.

In a perfect world Johnny Football would have gone somewhere like Green Bay or San Diego. He needed a team with a strong franchise quarterback like Rodgers or Rivers, in a peripheral town (I’ve heard San Diego isn’t great…sorry) where football could be the focus.

Now, Manziel is married and has a substance and chemical free mind. Impressive from the mid-20’s wanna be QB!

The reinvestment in himself followed the reconstruction, and Manziel was off to the Spring League this year. CFL and NFL scouts were in attendance and Manziel didn’t disappoint, looking comfortable and able to scramble like he always has been.

Performance aside, Manziel professionally started backing himself – I present to you comebackszn.store/ Manziel’s apparel store to sell merchandise supporting his journey back to the NFL. Much better than focusing on the parties and lifestyle expectations of a rich, young professional athlete, Manziel clearly believes in himself and has turned that belief into a brand so you can prove you do too.

It was always a belief that Johnny Football would have to take his talents north of the border before he could have a shot at reestablishing himself in the NFL. With Hamilton controlling his CFL rights it was likely that if he was going to make a professional football comeback, it would be through the Hammer.

The result of this is basically all positive. Sure, some people will say that he is going to upstage his teammates, and that he isn’t what the Canadian game needs – a pocket passer. But, on the contrary I can tell you that this will drive ratings up just to see the Heisman winner. Whether it will be to root for him or against him, people will be watching him play this season with me included.

I have never been excited for a CFL season, and I have not even watched the league since September of 2013. It has been a five year lay off from Canadian football but Johnny Manziel is bringing me back. And I doubt i’ll be the only younger person who is re-tuning in, or watching for the first time.

Oski-wee-wee, Oski-wah-wah
Holy Mackinaw,
Johnny, Eat ’em raw!