It's the start of a new era in Edmonton as the franchise formerly known as the Eskimos becomes the Elks. After managing only eight wins in 2019, they'll be looking to make their presence known in a crowded West Division this season. Here's a look at what to expect.
Of course, the big change for the Elks comes on the sidelines with Jamie Elizondo replacing Jason Maas as head coach. Elizondo will also serve as the team's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach as he looks to reignite an offense led by veteran QB Trevor Harris. Elizondo already has a good relationship with Harris from their years together in Ottawa.
The Elks offense is well-positioned to put up big numbers this season with one of the league's best wide receiving corps' featuring Derel Walker, Greg Ellingson and Armanti Edwards, with the latter coming over from the Argos to add another level to this passing game.
Replacing C.J. Gable at running back will be no easy feat but James Wilder is an experienced back capable of shouldering the load. He'll only be asked to do enough to keep opposing defenses honest and relieve some of the pressure on Harris. I certainly don't expect the Elks ground game to be among the league's best.
Defensively, the Elks will have a new man in charge in coordinator Noel Thorpe. Again, there's plenty of continuity there as Thorpe worked with Elizondo the last two seasons in Ottawa. Standout defensive tackle Almando Sewell will need to replaced after he bolted for Montreal. There's plenty of returning talent, however, and pass-rusher Kwaku Boateng is a star in the making after serving as Edmonton's nominee for most outstanding defensive player in 2019.
Edmonton has just one returning starter in the secondary, but that's not necessarily a bad thing as it brought in a number of key free agent acquisitions to bolster its pass defense. All indications are that the new-look secondary has been making life extremely difficult on the offense during training camp. If the new faces on defense can mesh in short order, the Elks could turn out to be one of the league's biggest surprises in 2021.
Most books have the Elks priced around 9-1 to win the Grey Cup.