The Riders have now reached the mid-point of their schedule, a little later than most thanks to already having two weeks off. With that in mind, now is a good time to look at potential team nominees for the most outstanding player awards and grade the team’s overall performance.
Most Outstanding Player
There’s no award that generates more discussion in the CFL than the Most Outsanding Player and for good reason. Some tend to confuse it with most valuable player, but in my opinion, outstanding refers to the player who’s level of play on the field was above and beyond everyone else.
Front runner: Right now, the nod goes to quarterback Kevin Glenn. The veteran pivot is having a resurgence this year in Saskatchewan as the Detroit native is on pace to pass for over 5,000 yards and nearly 40 touchdowns. Not only has Glenn put up the numbers this year, after a few of his vintage interceptions early on, he hasn’t been prone to that major error during the team’s winning streak. The Riders are on pace to have three 1,000 yard receivers this season.
Honourable mention: Willie Jefferson. The defensive end has been a beast along the line all season and is the straw the stirs the drink defensively.
Most Outstanding Canadian
This award feels wide open for the most part of the Riders as the team’s Canadians have contributed but no one has really stood out.
Front runner: Henoc Muamba, the linebacker leads the team in defensive tackles with 39. Muamba has added six special teams tackles for good measure.
Honourable mention: Eddie Steele. The defensive tackle doesn’t have a pile of numbers but has provided a steady force in the middle of the defensive line.
Most Outstanding Defensive Player
Is there really a question here? Maybe. This discussion has become a little more interesting in the last three weeks.
Front Runner: Willie Jefferson. The defensive end leads the Riders in defensive plays and that’s just what can be measured. Jefferson is two back of the CFL sack lead with 5 quarterback take downs but he’s also been credited with 20 quarterback pressures, second only to Edmonton’s Odell Willis. Add another five pass knockdowns and a blocked punt and Jefferson has basically done it all for the Riders.
Honourable mention: Ed Gainey. The defensive back had a slow start to the season but has exploded onto the scene over the last month. Gainey now leads the league with six interceptions.
Most Outstanding Special Teams Player
Often overlooked, special teams can make the difference between winning and losing a close game.
Front Runner: Tyler Crapigna. The kicker is well on his way to another nomination. Crapigna has connected on 82 per cent of his kicks and remains steady.
Honourable Mention: Denzel Radford. The Canadian receiver leads the team with 11 special teams tackles. As a team the Riders have returned kicks well but have done so with a variety of players.
Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman
The most important part of any football team finally gets their due for the Riders, it’s the return to the top for a familiar face.
Front Runner: Brendon LaBatte. The Weyburn native has put a tough, injury filled 2016 season behind him. LaBatte is not only playing well again but he also hasn’t missed a beat since taking over at centre for the injured Dan Clark.
Honourable Mention: Peter Dyakowski. The former Ti-Cat has become an important part of the Riders line in 2017 filling in for the retired Chris Best as younger players like Dariusz Bladek develop.
Offence – B: A slow start keeps this grade from being higher. Glenn is on pace for over 5,000 yards and the team could have three 1,000 yard receivers. I would still like to see more out of the running game.
Defence – B+: Like the offence, the first few games of the season drag this grade down a little bit, there was simply too many big plays allowed to overlook. If Jefferson remains healthy, no reason this defence can’t build upon what they’ve done the last month and finish with a much higher grade.
Special Teams – A: the steadiest unit all year. Crapigna and Josh Bartel are kicking well. The return game is strong no matter who is back there and the cover units have kept opposing returners at bay.
Coaching – B: Chris Jones and company have still made some interesting decisions at times, such as changing the quarterback in the middle of a successful drive or rushing three way too often. Overall, this grade should rise should the Riders keep playing as they are. Jones does get credit for adjustments made from early in the season. He’s also letting the players be themselves , as we’ve seen in celebrations, which is important.
Management – B-: This team seems poised to be good for the rest of this season and perhaps next. However, they are still too interested in bigish name washed up NFLers and already established CFLers. Focus should be on finding diamonds in the rough down south and developing through the Canadian draft. That will make the team consistently good for years to come.