Opinion: it’s ridiculous that the Calgary Stampeders’ offensive line was ignored by all-star voters

Photo: Bob Butrym/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Editor’s note: hours following the publication of this article, the CFL retracted its all-star list and distributed a new one, citing tabulation errors. The new all-star list can be found here.

The CFL’s divisional all-star teams were announced on Wednesday and I was absolutely shocked when I saw the selections.

The Calgary Stampeders had six players listed, none of whom play along the offensive line. Not one. Zilch. Zero.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers had three and the B.C. Lions had the other two. A quick look at the statistics makes it clear that voters got it wrong when casting their ballots.

The Stampeders led the league in rushing with an average of 135.3 yards per game and 6.4 yards per carry. They recorded 2,436 yards on 376 attempts and had the league’s leading rusher as Ka’Deem Carey ran 164 times for 1,088 yards and ten touchdowns.

All of Calgary’s ball carriers had success this season. Peyton Logan was often the backup behind Carey and he averaged 6.3 yards per carry. Dedrick Mills started four games while Carey was out of the lineup and rushed for an average of 6.9 yards. That’s a testament to Calgary’s offensive line.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers had the league’s second-best rushing attack, averaging 113.5 yards per game and 5.0 yards per carry for a total of 2,043 yards on 406 attempts. This means the Blue Bombers, the team that ran the ball more than any other in the league this past season, had 30 more attempts and still ended up with 397 fewer yards.

Meanwhile, the Lions managed 5.2 yards per carry for 1,794 yards on the year, an average of 99.6 per game.

It’s ridiculous that voters didn’t feel compelled to recognize the blockers who led the way for Calgary’s rushing attack. Holes don’t open themselves — offensive linemen do.

Run blocking isn’t the only job offensive linemen have, so you might suspect that it was poor pass blocking that led voters to pass on the Stampeders. It’d be a reasonable assumption, but you’d be dead wrong.

Calgary gave up the fewest sacks in the league this season, giving up an average of fewer than one per game. The team allowed 17 sacks on 575 dropbacks, which is one sack allowed for every 33.8 pass attempts.

Dropbacks include pass attempts, sacks, and “escape runs,” which is when the quarterback drops back before running the ball.

The Stampeders were also second in the league for fewest quarterback scrambles for positive yardage, as they only took off 11 times all year. This means Calgary’s sack total wasn’t flattered by mobile quarterbacks capable of making pass-rushers miss. The offensive line is just that good at setting the pocket.

The team with the most all-stars along the offensive line — Winnipeg — gave up 29 sacks on 537 dropbacks this season, which is one for every 18.6 attempts. They also block for Zach Collaros, the West Division’s candidate for Most Outstanding Player who is known for his Houdini-like escape abilities.

Frequently during games, commentators and fans would marvel at how Collaros escaped from pressure to get passes away. He rarely ran over the line of scrimmage, but he certainly flattered his blockers at times by escaping pressure.

B.C. gave up 39 sacks on the year, an average of one sack every 16.7 dropbacks — more than twice the rate of the Stampeders. The team also fielded two of the league’s most mobile quarterbacks in Nathan Rourke and Vernon Adams Jr.

This means that Calgary’s offensive line was the best in the league at run blocking and pass blocking. For that, they were recognized with zero all-star selections. That’s ridiculous. For clarity, I am not a voter due to a glut of reporters in the Calgary market.

I’d argue that more members of the Stampeders should have been recognized with all-star selections.

Malik Henry caught 62 passes for 1,023 yards and eight touchdowns despite playing only 13 games. That’s 63 more yards and three more touchdowns than Saskatchewan’s all-star Kian Schaffer-Baker, who pulled in just six more catches despite playing five more games. Lucky Whitehead was also named an all-star for the Lions despite having fewer receiving yards and fewer touchdowns than Henry. That just doesn’t seem right.

Calgary had the league’s third-highest-scoring offence and had only one all-star on that side of the ball. Again, that’s just wrong.

It’s embarrassing for the CFL that voters, which include head coaches and an equal number of reporters in each market, continue to whiff on these selections. We need to do better.

Ryan Ballantine is a lifelong Stamps fan and host of the Horsemen Radio Podcast. He has been covering the team since 2008.