With six wins and three losses heading into the annual Labour Day showdown with the Argos, it has been a good first half of the season for the black and gold. Dominating wins, smothering defense and an all-world offense have led the Ticats to tops in their division at the midway point for the first time in over a decade and a half.
Hamilton looks like the team to beat in the East and are the odds-on favourite to represent the division in the Grey Cup for a third consecutive season. The hiccup last week notwithstanding, the Ticats have had a wonderful first nine games and look poised to continue to make noise in the CFL’s second half.
A lot of individual players have contributed to Hamilton’s first-place start, but here is who I would pick as the team’s most outstanding players 10 weeks into the CFL season:
Most Outstanding Player
No reason to beat around the bush, Zach Collaros has not only been Hamilton’s MOP, but is quite possibly the league’s MOP at the midway point of the season. Collaros leads the league in passing yards, is second in touchdown passes, second in passer rating and second in completion percentage. He has played marvellously during the first half of the season and is the runaway recipient for MOP at this point.
Most Outstanding Defensive Player
There are so many players that could be picked here. Is it Emanuel Davis and his three interception-return touchdowns? How about someone on the superlative defensive line? Pick a name and you wouldn’t be wrong, but my selection is Simoni Lawrence. The man we call HOV not only leads by example on the field, but is not afraid to take leadership off it as well. He is a playmaker on defense, leading the team with 37 tackles, while also picking up three sacks, one interception and one fumble. He is all over the field, and he is the team’s vocal leader. There have been a lot of players worthy of recognition on this defense, but right now the guy who deserves the lion’s (or should that be tiger’s) share is Simoni Lawrence.
Most Outstanding Canadian
Much like MOP, top Canadian is a no-brainer: defensive lineman Ted Laurent. Perhaps the best Canadian player in the league right now, Laurent has been a wreaking ball since the first snap of the season. The mammoth Ole Miss product has three sacks on the season and has been the anchor in the middle of one of the league’s best rushing defenses. He has also contributed mightily the many of the 3rd-and-1 or goal-to-go stops the Ticats already have this season. There are few Nationals right now playing better than the belly-rubbing beast.
Most Outstanding Rookie
The Ticats have gotten some decent production from first-year players, but none have done more than receiver Terrence Toliver. He has hauled in 34 catches for 499 yards and four touchdowns. He has become a favourite target of Zach Collaros, and has become one of the team’s primary deep threats this season. If his second half is as good as his first, 70 catches, 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns are not out of the question. The sky is the limit for Toliver, and he has been Hamilton’s best rookie in 2015.
Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman
You could probably give this to any of the five linemen since the line has been exceptional almost all season. The addition of Ryan Bomben has been a boon to the unit, as has the return of Peter Dyakowski, while Hamilton’s young American tackles — Jake Olson, Jeremy Lewis and Joel Figueroa — have all played well when called upon. But right now, the guy who I think has done the best job is centre Mike Filer. Filer had the unenviable task of taking over for fan favourite Marwan Hage when the latter was left exposed in the Ottawa expansion draft in 2013 and subsequently retired. Filer made his mistakes and was castigated by many for not being as good as Hage right away. But since an, at times, rough first season as a starter, Filer has become a stalwart in the middle of the offensive line. Grasping the nuances of the centre position is tough for most players, and after less than two seasons as a starter, Filer has turned into one of the best.
Most Outstanding Special Teams Player
Three return touchdowns, many more called back due to penalty, and a threat to score every time he touches the football. ’Nuff said.