Given my body of work this week, I’m hoping this won’t be seen as the usual homer indignation but Richard Leonard just got hosed for the East Division Most Outstanding Rookie.
With all due respect to Toronto Argonauts running back James Wilder Jr., who had a tremendous season, is in the playoffs and looks like he is going to be great player in this league, Leonard had the better year. Numbers don’t always tell the tale, but let’s start there anyway.
Wilder played in 15 games this season and made just 10 starts, registering 122 carries for 872 yards, good enough for second in the East and fifth in the CFL. He added 51 catches for another 533 yards and scored five TDs. His combined yardage total was third on his team.
Meanwhile, Leonard, started 18 games at both cornerback and halfback, tied for the CFL lead in pass knock downs (13) and fumble recoveries (3), was second in interceptions (7) and 11th overall in defensive tackles (72). He also returned one of his fumble recoveries 84 yards for a touchdown after a blocked kick in Week 1 against Toronto
So played in more games, made more starts and had comparatively better numbers (yes, I know it’s apples to oranges, but still.) Yes, the Ticat defence was, um, not good during their 0-8 start but that was hardly on Leonard, who was their best player on more than a few awful nights.
Now, I realize that players on teams that win games and make the playoffs often receive more recognition than players on losing teams. Defensive players, especially outside the big names, often struggle for recognition. The media made hay of Wilder’s NFL pedigree – did you hear his Dad is former Tampa Bay Buccaneer James Wilder? – while Leonard is still an unknown, despite a pretty cool back story.
It’s not particularly surprising, but Ticats were shut out of the East Division award winners. The only other guy I would have made an argument for is offensive lineman Ryan Bomben, who was dominant this season. Another Argonaut, centre Sean McEwan, received that honour, despite the fact I’m not sure he’s the best lineman on his own team (right tackle Chris Van Zeyl would have gotten my vote.)
Anyway, it’s too bad for Leonard, who deserved better.