3DownNation CFL awards: the best and worst of Week 1

Photo: Mike Still/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

3DownNation has launched a new weekly feature that will recognize players, position groups, coaches, games, and individual performances throughout the 2023 season.

There are 10 total categories, all of which are pretty self-explanatory. The only one that might need a brief explanation is breakout player of the week, which will be awarded to a first or second-year player that has previously flown under the radar.

These awards are selected by a panel of 3DownNation contributors and will be presented weekly throughout the 2023 season. Enjoy.

Offensive player of the week: QB Zach Collaros, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The veteran passer showed why he’s the league’s two-time reigning Most Outstanding Player, lighting up Hamilton’s defence for 354 yards and three touchdowns. Collaros immediately rekindled his chemistry with Nic Demski, completing six passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns to the Winnipeg native, while Dalton Schoen and Drew Wolitarsky also showed flashes. Collaros should only get more dangerous once Kenny Lawler returns.

Honourable mention: REC Dominique Rhymes, B.C. Lions

Photo: Mike Still/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Defensive player of the week: DL Willie Jefferson, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The five-time West Division all-star can run hot and cold at times but when he’s on his game, no defensive player in the CFL is more dominant. With fellow edge-rusher Jackson Jeffcoat out for most of the game due to injury, Jefferson made three tackles, two sacks, two knockdowns, and one forced fumble against Hamilton, spoiling Bo Levi Mitchell’s much-anticipated debut under centre.

Honourable mention: DB Garry Peters, B.C. Lions

Special teams player of the week: DB Zach Lindley, Montreal Alouettes

The former eighth-round pick was the lynchpin of Montreal’s physical cover teams on Saturday, recording a sensational five special teams tackles. The Alouettes completely shut down former award-winning return specialist DeVonte Dedmon, who averaged only 7.3 yards over seven punt returns, while Chandler Worthy ripped off an impressive 64-yard punt return for Montreal.

Honourable mention: LB Carthell Flowers-Lloyd, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Photo: Matt Ross/3DownNation

Breakout player of the week: REC Austin Mack, Montreal Alouettes

The Alouettes desperately needed one of their young receivers to step up with Greg Ellingson and Tyson Philpot on the six-game injured list and Mack answered the call. The Ohio State product made four receptions for 120 yards, including a 61-yard bomb that set-up the team’s only touchdown of the game. Montreal’s second-leading receiver was running back William Stanback, so expect Cody Fajardo to keep targeting Mack heavily.

Honourable mention: RB Taquan Mizzell, B.C. Lions

Offensive line of the week: B.C. Lions

B.C. was the only team that didn’t allow a sack this past week, though one was called back because of a penalty. There were plenty of rushing lanes for Taquan Mizzell, who finished his first CFL game with 12 carries for 81 yards and three catches for 12 yards. What kept Winnipeg out of the top spot here was a failed short yardage play that saw rookie quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome get stuffed on third-and-goal.

Honourable mention: Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Photo courtesy: B.C. Lions

Coach of the week: DC Ryan Phillips, B.C. Lions

Jake Maier was supposed to take the next step this season now that he’s the undisputed starter in Calgary but B.C.’s defence made him look like a confused rookie. The third-year passer threw for only 154 yards with one touchdown and one interception, while Calgary’s often-dominant running attack was unusually quiet. The Lions’ defensive backs were all over opposing receivers, while the team’s front-seven got home for three sacks.

Honourable mention: OC Buck Pierce, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Best play of the week: REC Eugene Lewis, Edmonton Elks

It didn’t take long for Eugene Lewis to make the highlight reel in Edmonton as he caught a 102-yard touchdown pass from Taylor Cornelius midway through the first half. The perennial all-star reached over six-foot-three defensive back Jeremy Clark to pluck the ball out of his hands and jogged the rest of the way to pay dirt. It was easily the highlight of the night as it accounted for more than half of Edmonton’s total passing yards.

Honourable mention: Saskatchewan’s goal line stand

Photo courtesy: Steven Chang/B.C. Lions

Worst play of the week: DB T.J. Lee, B.C. Lions

Veteran defensive back T.J. Lee intercepted Jake Maier late in the third quarter of B.C.’s 25-15 victory over the Calgary Stampeders. Instead of returning the pick himself, Lee tried to lateral the ball to fellow defensive back Garry Peters, who failed to secure it before it was knocked out of bounds by Malik Henry, giving Calgary possession. Defences are supposed to generate turnovers, not commit them. Call it “co-lateral” damage.

Honourable mention: Jake Ceresna somersaults into an official

Best game of the week: Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Winnipeg Blue Bombers

This contest appeared to be over by halftime but the Ticats made things interesting late, converting three takeaways into 20 points to make it a one-score game. The game featured far more big plays than any of the other games this past week, while Bo Levi Mitchell’s debut with Hamilton brought some extra drama. The only thing that would have made it better is if he were able to go shot for shot with Zach Collaros.

Honourable mention: Saskatchewan Roughriders at Edmonton Elks

Photo: Montreal Alouettes

Worst game of the week: Ottawa Redblacks at Montreal Alouettes

This was a low-scoring affair full of missed throws, drops, runs that went nowhere, and punts. Lots and lots of punts. The game’s only touchdown was scored in the first three minutes, so if you tuned in late, you were out of luck. Though the action on the field left a lot to be desired, the atmosphere at Percival Molson Stadium was good as a relatively large crowd was treated to a live performance from Our Lady Peace.

Honourable mention: B.C. Lions at Calgary Stampeders