My 3DownNation colleague Ian Busby recently posited his selections for the Calgary Stampeders’ mid-season player awards. Inspired by his piece, I decided to list which Blue Bomber players I’d like to see recognized if the season were to end today.
Bass has been a revelation for a Blue Bomber linebacking corps that was desperate for an upgrade following a miserable 2014 season. Currently ranked fifth in the CFL with forty-eight tackles, Bass is quickly fostering a reputation as one of the league’s toughest customers. Bass’ three sacks rank third among CFL linebackers, while his impressive athleticism allows him excel in pass coverage. An honourable mention for this award goes to former Calgary Dino Sukh Chungh who has started all nine games for the Bombers at right guard. It should also be noted that weak-side cornerback Johnny Adams is ineligible for this award as he dressed for a handful of games with the Buffalo Bills in 2013.
Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman: Stanley Bryant
Winnipeg’s offensive line has been a disappointment this season, to say the least. Though many of the Bombers’ protection issues are scheme-related, the club needs to be getting more production from its five hogs up front. Bryant wins this award almost by default, as none of his fellow linemen have stepped up to earn the award in 2015. By my count, Bryant has allowed just two sacks this season — one in week one versus Saskatchewan John Chick and most recently to Calgary’s Brandon Boudreaux. Of all six awards listed here, this one is the most wide open heading into the second half of the CFL season.
As poorly as Hajrullahu has performed on converts this season (64 percent), his field goal percentage (84.2) and punting average (44.9 percent) have steadily improved as the season has progressed. One of the CFL’s two Canadians who handle all three kicking duties, Hajrullahu provides his team with added ratio flexibility that allows the Bomber coaching staff to maximize their talent and depth in other areas of the roster. Back-up cornerback Derek Jones also deserves a nod here as a guy who’s contributed nine special teams tackles and a blocked punt this season.
Most Outstanding Defensive Player: Jamaal Westerman
Westerman has been spectacular since signing with the blue and gold in May after a six-year NFL career. Tied for the league lead in sacks (7) and tackles among defensive linemen (32), Westerman has been an impact player in all nine of Winnipeg’s games this season as both a pass rusher and run stopper. It’s also worth noting that Westerman doesn’t have the advantage of playing alongside dominant players on the defensive line — excluding Westerman, Winnipeg’s defensive linemen have recorded just three sacks in 2015. Honourable mentions go to veteran strong-side linebacker Chris Randle and the aforementioned Khalil Bass and Johnny Adams.
Most Outstanding Canadian: Jamaal Westerman
Of the six major player award categories, Westerman wins this one by the largest margin. Rory Kohlert, Winnipeg’s leading Canadian receiver, has recorded just sixteen receptions for 194 yards on the season, while the club’s thirty-one sacks allowed all but eliminates the candidacy the team’s national offensive linemen. Matt Bucknor has been steady at field-side cornerback, notching twenty-five tackles and an interception, while Jake Thomas and Derek Jones have excelled in rotational roles. Still, this award is Westerman’s — it may only be mid-season, but you can engrave that sucker now.
Most Outstanding Player: Jamaal Westerman
As you can see, the latter half of my awards list is quite redundant. On pace for 4,300 passing yards, twenty-four touchdowns, and just nine interceptions, this award would have been Drew Willy’s had he managed to avoid injury. However, as it stands, Westerman has been by far the team’s best player through nine regular season games. Barring a shocking turn of events — 800 second-half receiving yards from Nick Moore or another seven interceptions from Johnny Adams — Westerman will be taking home three team awards at season’s end.
John Hodge, Blue Bomber Talk