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Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Henry Burris passes during first half CFL pre-season action in Hamilton on Wednesday June 13 , 2012. (Chris Young/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Henry Burris passes during first half CFL pre-season action in Hamilton on Wednesday June 13 , 2012. (Chris Young/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

CFL preview

CFL East Division at a glance Add to ...

Hamilton Tiger-Cats

2011: Third place in East Division (8-10), before stunning Montreal in the first round of the playoffs. Lost to Winnipeg in East final.

Biggest change: Henry Burris lost the starter’s job in Calgary but will be the main man for new head coach George Cortez (former quarterbacks coach of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills and long-time CFL assistant). First-year receivers coach Jeremaine Copeland had a depth of talent to work with in camp, with Canadians Andy Fantuz, Samuel Giguère and Dave Stala complementing 2011 CFL rookie of the year Chris Williams and Bakari Grant.

Biggest question: Can the offensive line give Burris enough time to find his receivers or will he forget he’s 37 and run the ball? Running backs Avon Cobourne and Chevon Walker provide the ground game.

Predicted 2012 finish: First in the East.

Montreal Alouettes

2011: Second in the East at 10-8, but bowed out quickly in playoffs.

Biggest change: The Als will have to endure a younger defence. Safety Matthieu Proulx and defensive tackle Eric Wilson retired. The Als cut more than 20 players from camp early and – with last week’s release of veteran safety Étienne Boulay, rush end Anwar Stewart and linebacker Diamond Ferri – have poked holes in the defence that lost 52-44 to Hamilton in the East semi-final. They have a new defensive co-ordinator (Jeff Reinebold, head coach in Winnipeg in 1997-98) and a variety of new players.

Biggest question: The offence is still basically the same, but how long will it be until the calendar creeps up on quarterback Anthony Calvillo? He still has a strong arm – he completed seven of 10 passes in a short preseason appearance against Toronto – but the cancer survivor turns 40 this summer.

Predicted 2012 finish: Third in the East.

Toronto Argonauts

2011: Fourth in East at 6-12. Missed the playoffs.

Biggest change: Head coach Scott Milanovich comes over from Montreal, where he was the offensive co-ordinator. The Argos have new quarterbacks – two-time Grey Cup champ Ricky Ray (Edmonton) and long-time backup Jarious Jackson (B.C.) – and an all-Canadian offensive line. New defensive boss Chris Jones has his work cut out for him. The most porous defence in the East gave up more than 100 points more than the team scored last year.

Biggest question: The Argos won both their exhibition games, but the quarterbacks saw limited duty and didn’t get into a rhythm. Pending the return of receiver Jason Barnes, will there be enough touches for running backs Cory Boyd and Chad Kackert? On a punch-less team, Kackert had 57 carries for 349 yards and four touchdowns while backing up CFL all-star Boyd in 2011.

Predicted 2012 finish: Second in the East.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers

2011: First place (10-8). Was the East’s representative in the Grey Cup (won by the B.C. Lions).

Biggest change: Offensive and defensive lines are facing a makeover. The retirement of eight-year centre Ibrahim (Obby) Khan and defensive tackle Doug Brown, plus the free-agent departure of all-star offensive guard Brendon LaBatte and the CFL’s co-leader in sacks, Odell Willis, to Saskatchewan, has left head coach Paul LaPolice to cobble together new combinations.

Biggest question: Buck Pierce is the CFL’s most-resilient quarterback, but, in his eighth year, can he quickly adapt to a new offensive line? He’ll have to scramble a lot – last year he ran 51 times for 324 yards – and he’s had some 23 injuries in his career. Pierce ranked seventh among CFL quarterbacks last season with a modest 3,348 yards (261 completions) – about 2,000 fewer than league leader Calvillo.

Predicted 2012 finish: Fourth in the East.


Editor's Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Étienne Boulay. This version has been corrected.

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