3DownNation CFL awards: the best and worst of Week 21

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

The final week of the CFL regular season has come and gone as the Toronto Argonauts matched history, the Ottawa Redblacks capped another disappointing year, the Calgary Stampeders squandered the momentum from a big win over B.C., the Winnipeg Blue Bombers kept rolling, and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Montreal Alouettes squared off in a preview of the East Semi-Final.

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 Dru Brown, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The snow and cold didn’t phase the third-year passer, who threw for 278 yards and two touchdowns to help his team beat the Calgary Stampeders in their regular season finale. The performance was so good that it sparked further conversation about where the pending free agent will end up next year as he appears ready to become a starter elsewhere in the CFL. The performance also helped Brown set a new league record for the most single-season touchdown passes with zero interceptions, throwing nine.

Honourable mention: REC Justin Hardy, Ottawa Redblacks

Defensive player of the week: SAM Adarius Pickett, Toronto Argonauts

The veteran defender recorded eight defensive tackles, one sack, and one pass knockdown in his team’s 27-22 victory over the Ottawa Redblacks, which tied a CFL record for regular season wins. Pickett was recently named Toronto’s nominee for Most Outstanding Defensive Player and appears to be the front-runner for the award at the divisional level. This is the second time the 27-year-old has won this weekly recognition from 3DownNation.

Honourable mention: LB Jameer Thurman, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Photo: Neil Noonan/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Special teams player of the week: K Sergio Castillo, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The veteran placekicker overcame harsh weather conditions to finish a perfect five-for-five on his field goal attempts, which included three kicks from beyond 40 yards and one kick beyond 50 yards. The 32-year-old also made all three of his convert attempts and averaged 61.8 yards yards on four kickoffs. Castillo finished the season with a 90.2 percent field goal accuracy rate, which ranked third league-wide and set a new team record.

Honourable mention: KR James Letcher Jr., Montreal Alouettes

Breakout player of the week: DB Benjie Franklin, Toronto Argonauts

The former Tarleton State standout signed with Toronto six weeks ago and was promoted to the active roster mere hours before the game as Jamie Harry didn’t play due to tightness he felt in warmup. Franklin recorded four tackles and one interception in his CFL debut, picking off a pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage by Jonathan Jones after making a nice adjustment on the ball.

Honourable mention: REC Cole Tucker, Calgary Stampeders

Offensive line of the week: Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The unit of Drew Richmond, Geoff Gray, Chris Kolankowski, Patrick Neufeld, and Jermarcus Hardrick helped Johnny Augustine, Brady Oliveira, Greg McCrae, and Dakota Prukop rush for 159 yards and one touchdown, while only allowing one sack. The sack came when Julian Howsare beat Richmond with a speed move to the outside and the blocker was too slow to recover. With that one blemish aside, it was another very good outing for this unit.

Honourable mention: Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Photo: Neil Noonan/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Coach of the week: HC Mike O’Shea, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Blue Bombers rested 10 of their regular starters and rotated out virtually all of their veterans by halftime and still won by 23 points on the road. Calgary was clearly playing to win as they rested only three starters and kept many of their veterans in until the final whistle, yet this game wasn’t remotely close. Winnipeg appears locked and loaded after learning their lesson following last year’s upset loss in the Grey Cup.

Honourable mention: HC Ryan Dinwiddie, Toronto Argonauts

Best play of the week: REC Rasheed Bailey, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The veteran caught a tipped pass in traffic and dodged four would-be tacklers en route to a 68-yard touchdown, which he capped by diving into the end zone. Bailey has often been overshadowed by Kenny Lawler, Dalton Schoen, and Nic Demski over the past two seasons and it was nice to see him make a highlight-reel play in the final game of the regular season. It was his sixth score of the year and one of the best touchdowns recorded by any player in the CFL this season.

Honourable mention: DB Mason Pierce, Toronto Argonauts

Worst play of the week: KR Tyreik McAllister, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

The rookie returner got off to a terrible start on Saturday as he fumbled the opening kickoff following a fairly innocuous hit from Marc-Antoine Dequoy, which the Alouettes converted into a touchdown within the first minute of the game. McAllister also had a costly drop in the red zone in the game, though the Charleston product helped make up for the miscues with a 122-yard missed field goal return touchdown.

Honourable mention: Calgary’s failed third-down gamble

Best game of the week: Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Montreal Alouettes

This was a sloppily-played game but it featured six lead changes, which is four more than the week’s other two games combined. Hamilton and Montreal will meet again in the East Semi-Final on Saturday and the anticipation for the game was palpable as both teams played hard until the final whistle. Tyreik McAllister and James Letcher Jr. were standouts on special teams as both speedsters cashed long returns for touchdowns.

Honourable mention: Toronto Argonauts at Ottawa Redblacks

Worst game of the week: Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Calgary Stampeders

Rasheed Bailey made a sensational touchdown catch but it was one of very few memorable plays from this game as the Stampeders failed to get anything going through the air. Jake Maier and Tommy Stevens combined for eight completions and 119 passing yards, so don’t be surprised if Calgary tries to win the West Semi-Final against B.C. by prioritizing the run game, which has been the team’s bread and butter for the last few seasons.

Honourable mention: Toronto Argonauts at Ottawa Redblacks