CFL

CFL Awards Season 2018 – the ‘MOP’ race is on

The reigning CFL MOP will be watching from the sidelines for awards season this year as the Esks & Mike Reilly sit out the playoffs. Last year few would have argued with Reilly winning the award. 2017 player awards

With one week to go in the regular season, there doesn’t appear to be as clear-cut a candidate to win the award. Personally I would lean towards the best chance in a while for a defensive nominee here but I’m willing to listen to the case for anyone else!

During ‘awards season’ the CFL hands out a number of player honours including,  Most Outstanding Player, Most Outstanding Canadian Player, Most Outstanding Defensive Player, Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman, Most Outstanding Rookie, and Most Outstanding Special Teams Player.

This year the rookie category looks a sure-fire thing for Ottawa’s field goal kicking machine Lewis Ward to pick up. The rest however is a little less certain. Lewis Ward- record breaker

On Wednesday the CFL announced each team’s nominees in each of these categories as voted for by CFL head coaches and football reporters of Canada. So with our focus on the ‘main’ player award, – the MOP, here is each team’s candidate:

BC Lions

Ty Long –  It’s pretty unusual for a special teams player to be put forward for the overall awards. A fact only reinforced by the CFL running an article on that very thing: A kicker for MOP??

Acting as a dual kicker/punter Long has put points on the board and had a large impact on field position for his team. (The latter being an important facet in a Wally Buono coached team looking to play ‘complementary football’).

His bare stats are that he is 43 of 49 on field goals. 2 of those kicks being walk off winners. He has put up 159 of his teams points this season. Added to this he has 112 punts averaging 48.7 net yards.

Calgary Stampeders

Bo Levi Mitchell – Stands at 4,000+ yards passing for the fourth year in a row. He needs 154 yards in the Stamps’ final regular-season game to surpass 5,000-yards for only the second time in his seven year CFL career.

Mitchell has completed 336 of 553 passes for 4,846 yards and leads the league with 34 touchdowns. He also has five 300-yard games including a 491-yard performance that represents a single-game high for all CFL quarterbacks in 2018.

The Stamps receiver corps has been decimated by injury over the last few weeks. There’s little doubt that has affected Mitchell and the Stamps passing game. It will be interesting to see how they perform trying to take the West Division title in the last game of the year in BC.

Edmonton Eskimos

Mike Reilly – A few short weeks ago there were discussions about if it was even worth looking past Reilly for the MOP award. For some the fact that the Esks won’t be in the playoffs will be a huge blow to Reilly’s chances.

After 17 games, Reilly has completed 389-586 passes (66.4%) for 5,242 yards, (most in the league), and 29 touchdowns with 17 interceptions. He also has rushed 111 times for 554 yards with 13 touchdowns. The combined 42 touchdowns he has been part of is also first in the league.

Reilly was named CFL Player of the Month for June and August. He has also been CFL Player of the Week in Weeks 1, 7, 10 and 18.

Saskatchewan Roughriders

Willie Jefferson – A strength of the Riders team has been their D.  At the heart of much of that has been Willie Jefferson.

This is the first time in his career he has been nominated as Most Outstanding Player. The team has also nominated him for Most Outstanding Defensive Player (another first for Jefferson).

He started all 18 regular-season games at defensive end. Has 34 defensive tackles, six tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He also has 10 quarterback sacks, (a career high), two pick six interceptions, one of which was returned 97 yards and one 49 yards.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Adam Bighill – Bighill joined the Bombers as a free agent in May and has been sensational for them throughout the season.

Like Jefferson for the Riders, Bighill has also seen the Bombers nominate him for Most Outstanding Defensive Player. Unlike Jefferson, this is Bighill’s third MOP nomination and fourth team defensive-player nomination, (all previously with the B.C. Lions).

He has 104 tackles, a league-best four forced fumbles, four sacks, eight tackles for a loss, a fumble recovery and two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown. He is tied at this point with Calgary’s Alex Singleton for the CFL lead with 126 defensive plays.

Winnipeg has won five consecutive games heading into the final week of the regular season. Adam Bighill has had plenty to do with that streak.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Jeremiah Masoli – Has started all 17 games for the Tiger-Cats this season. He has gone 378 of 572 (66.1%) for 5,209 yards, with 28 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. He has also rushed 63 times for 473 yards and two touchdowns.

With one week of the season remaining Masoli is ranked first in the CFL in quarterback rating (81.0), second in in passing yards (5,209), third in passing touchdowns (28) and fourth in pass efficiency (98.3).

Masoli set a new club record this year with 12 games of 300 or more passing yards. This also ties for fourth-most 300 yard games in a single season in league history.

Masoli was named CFL Player of the Month for June and September. He has also been CFL Player of the Week in Weeks 2, 3 and 12.

Ottawa REDBLACKS

Trevor Harris – Harris has started 17 games for the REDBLACKS so far this year. He has gone 431 of 615 (70.8%) for 5116 yards with 22 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He has also rushed 27 times for 117 yards.

Harris has led Ottawa to the Eastern Final as well as being the first team to win the East with a winning record since the REDBLACKS themselves did it in 2015.

When it came time to play for the East under pressure in Hamilton Harris delivered. He went 23-of-30 passing and threw three touchdowns.

Often this year, Harris’s teammates have been in the limelight. Lewis Ward has set the pro football record (ongoing) for most consecutive filed goals, and Brad Sinopoli has broken the single season catch mark for a Canadian. It is clear with this nomination though, that Ottawa believe Harris is the glue holding the rest together.

Montreal Alouettes

Henoc Muamba –  The middle linebacker is the Als’ award nominee in three categories — outstanding player, defence and top Canadian. Muamba was a unanimous selection in all three.

Muamba leads the Als and the East Division with 100 tackles. He also has registered five sacks and 11 tackles for losses, while forcing a fumble and recovering one. As well as that he has one interception. Montreal may have had another down year, but Muamba hasn’t disappointed.

He has been here before. Whilst with Winnipeg, Muamba was their outstanding defensive player in 2013 and the team’s outstanding Canadian in 2012 and 2013. Further, he was the Roughriders’ nominee as outstanding Canadian in 2017.

Toronto Argonauts

S.J. Green – This is not how the Argos saw 2018 going. Using the rallying cry ‘pull together’ for fans and team alike to start the season they cannot have envisioned being 4-13 at this stage. Especially as they are only one year removed from a Grey Cup triumph. Argos win the Grey Cup

To this point he has 76 Receptions, good for 981 Yards, and 4 touchdowns. He’ll probably go over 1000 yards receiving in the season finale against Ottawa.

You sense though the team nominated him less for the numbers than for his leadership. Green always gives a 100 per cent and is a veteran presence in the locker room. A locker room that despite a poor season hasn’t fallen apart and started appointing blame publicly as can so often happen in sport.

I doubt Green will win the league MOP award. It’s a nice gesture by the Argos though to publicly honour the 12 year CFL veteran with his first ever MOP nomination.

Who will it be?

All of which leads to one inevitable question. Who will be the MOP? Doubtless fans of different teams will have their own favourites. Others will make arguments for particular players. Should a defensive player win for only the second time? Should it be a quarterback, the so-called ‘most important position in team sports’? Can it ever be a special teams player?

The East and West Division winners for the 2018 Shaw CFL Awards will be announced on Thursday, November 8.  It will be a 2 horse race for the MOP from that point, so everything will be a lot clearer and it will be fascinating to see how that plays out.

 

Banner image from bluebombers.com

Article written by:

Chris Lawton joined the NFLGirlUK.com team in 2017 and has been writing about the CFL ever since. He originally started following the NFL with the 'first wave' of fans when it was shown on Channel 4 in the 1980's. He has been a keen supporter of the Miami Dolphins since 1983. Chris first encountered the CFL in 2016 and instantly fell in love with the Canadian game. He has been writing about the CFL from the inception of Ninety-Nine Yards. You can find him on twitter as @CFLfanUK

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