Riders' defence shuts down desperate Eskimos
With four weeks left in the regular season, the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player race is coming into focus. The recent struggles on offence for the Edmonton Eskimos may have opened the door for someone to dethrone last year’s MOP, quarterback Mike Reilly.
A look at the candidates after Week 17 of the regular season:
Mike Reilly, QB, Edmonton Eskimos
The Eskimos currently sit at the bottom of the West Division and outside the playoff picture with a 7-8 record, hurting Reilly’s chances of repeating as the league’s Most Outstanding Player. But the 33-year-old still has a very strong statistical case for the league’s top individual honour.
Reilly leads the league in passing yards with 4,605 and is second in touchdowns with 27. He’s also the top rushing quarterback and Top 10 in the league with 447 yards on the ground, while his 12 rushing touchdowns, mostly from goal-line sneaks, are tied for tops in the league.
Knocks on Reilly’s case are the Eskimos’ below-.500 record and his league-leading 17 interceptions.
Bo Levi Mitchell, QB, Calgary Stampeders
Two years after falling just short of the single-season record for wins in a season of 16, the Stampeders have a shot to tie the record mark this year. And Mitchell, who won the Most Outstanding Player award that 2016 season, is in the picture again this year.
Mitchell is ranked just fourth in the league in passing yards with 4,136 but leads the league in touchdown passes with 29. He can’t boast Reilly’s rushing numbers, but has thrown five fewer interceptions and leads all starting quarterbacks with a 101.3 efficiency rating.
Jeremiah Masoli, QB, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Masoli carried his strong second half of the season last year into a potentially MOP-worthy campaign in 2018. In his first full season as the Ticats’ starting QB, Masoli is among the leaders in all major statistical categories for quarterbacks.
The 30-year-old is second in passing yards (4,286), second in efficiency (100.3), third in touchdown passes (21), and second in rushing yards (430). One year after missing the playoffs, Masoli and the Ticats clinched a home playoff date heading into Week 18.
William Powell, RB, Ottawa Redblacks
While Trevor Harris could make a case to be included with the above listed quarterbacks, he may not even get the nod as his own team’s Most Outstanding Player with the season Powell is having out of the backfield.
Powell leads the league in ground yards with 1,236 and is third among backs with more than 100 touches in average yards per carry with 5.6. The 30-year-old also has six touchdowns on the ground and has so far added 319 yards and two touchdowns as a receiver.
Andrew Harris, RB, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Prior to the season, Harris stated his goal was 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving. While there’s little chance he’ll reach that mark catching the ball, he’s still had a tremendous season so far for the Bombers.
Through 15 games Harris 1,233 rushing yards, second behind only Powell, and 404 receiving yards. Harris’ current stats projected over a full 18-game schedule would give him 1,965 offensive yards, which would be a career-best and just shy of the celebrated 2,000-yard mark.
D’haquille (Duke) Williams, WR, Edmonton Eskimos
Williams is just the latest Eskimos receiver to put up huge numbers and make a name for himself in the CFL. In a season where the Eskimos lost Brandon Zylstra to the NFL and released Adarius Bowman, Williams stepped up and leads the league in receiving yards with 1,415, and receiving touchdowns with 10.
With Derel Walker still nursing a knee injury, Williams’ lead for the receiving crown – currently 258 yards over the Redblacks’ Brad Sinopoli, should be safe with a month left on the schedule.
Brandon Banks, WR, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Like Masoli, Banks has carried over his torrid pace in the second half of last year into this season. The All-Star kick returner turned All-Star wide receiver is third in the league in receiving yards with 1,112, and second in receiving touchdowns with nine, despite missing two games to injury.
Banks’ MOP case will be hurt by the two games he spent on the sideline nursing a groin injury, and he may not even earn the Ticats’ nominee for the award with Masoli to consider as well.
Charleston Hughes, DE, Saskatchewan Roughriders
The last defensive player to win the Most Outstanding Player award was BC Lions linebacker Solomon Elimimian in 2014, but when a future Hall of Famer is on pace to match his career high of 18 sacks, he deserves consideration for the award.
Hughes is proving he still has some gas left in the tank after being jettisoned by the Calgary Stampeders, recording a league-leading 15 sacks in 15 games for the Roughriders.
Lewis Ward, K, Ottawa Redblacks
Special teams players garner even less MOP consideration than defensive players, with Chad Owens’ 2012 MOP win based off joint offensive and special teams contributions the only time a specialist has received the award, but Ward is having a season for the record books.
The Redblacks’ rookie kicked a CFL record 40th-straight field goal in the team’s Week 17 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Ward has missed just one of his 44 field goals all season, a 97.7 per cent success rate, which gives him a chance of breaking the single-season success rate of 94.7 per cent, set by Stampeders kicker Rene Paredes in 2013, as well.