The playoffs begin next week, which means time to think about the regular season awards. The previous two years, a single team completely dominated the hardware, the Ottawa Redblacks in 2015 and the Calgary Stampeders last year. Of course it’s an incredible honour to capture one of these individual trophies, but those two organizations, who were favourites to win the Grey Cup, ultimately lost in the big dance. This year there’s a bit more diversity when it comes to teams’ players likely to take the awards. Here are the 2017 CFL Awards projections.
2017 CFL Awards Projections
Most Outstanding Player: Mike Reilly, Eskimos Quarterback
Mike Reilly is the biggest reason why the Eskimos are in the playoffs and still have a chance to host a playoff game. Right now he sits first in passing yards (5,536), net yards (6,724), touchdown tosses (30), game-winning drives (6), completions of over 20 plus yards (44) and rushing scores (9). Yes, you read that correctly – a quarterback sits tied for first in rushing touchdowns with nine. That’s a perfect example of why the 32-year-old should be MOP.
He’s out their every snap, even in short yardage situations when most teams throw out their second- or third-string pivots. Reilly is on pace to throw for the most yards in the last 13 seasons. The CFL’s toughest player continues to show why his fellow players voted for him. The amount of shots he takes is frequent, but he always gets up. Reilly faced the most pressures so far with 129 and only been sacked 29 times. That means the Central Washington product taken a couple shots after releasing the football. Last week’s victory over the Stamps displayed just that.
The best indicator of the most outstanding player is their ability to deliver in critical situation. When the Eskimos are down by a score and have a chance to win late in the fourth quarter, nobody is more reliable than Reilly.
All things point to Reilly hoisting his first MOP award.
Coach of the Year: Jason Maas, Eskimos Head Coach
This award usually goes to the coach with the best record in a season. If that format was followed Stamps Dave Dickenson would win for the second straight year. This season Jason Maas went through a ton and get recognized for his efforts.
The Eskimos experienced the most injuries on both sides of the ball. For instances, six different running backs started behind Reilly throughout 2017. Even though Edmonton’s season is very similar to a roller coaster, they’re heading into the playoffs with confidence, especially if they beat the Roughriders on the road. Plus the defense that struggled to stop anything through the air will mostly likely end first against the pass.
Maas deserves this award.
Most Outstanding Defensive Player: Ed Gainey, Roughriders Defensive Back
Chris Jones specialty is defense. Every landing spot during his career he’s improved that unit. It’s no different now in his second campaign in Saskatchewan. Ed Gainey‘s performance this season has been nothing short of spectacular.
He leads the league in interceptions with 10, four of which came in a game against the B.C. Lions to set a franchise record. The 27-year-old put up multi interception games three times this season. Gainey is usually lined up at the safety position and covers a ton of ground. When the ball goes his way, the Appalachian State product makes an impact or creates a turnover. It’s getting to a point quarterbacks aren’t even looking his way because of the fear of throwing a pick. His presence cuts the field almost in half for the opposing offense to throw to.
He can also hit with the best of them. Gainey is near the top in tackles among safeties and sits third on the Roughriders. The two ahead of him are linebackers.
If Gainey names get called, it would mark only the second time a defensive back won the award. The first being his current teammate Jovan Johnson back in 2011 with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Most Outstanding Canadian: Alex Singleton, Stampeders Linebacker
It’s hard not to give it to Alex Singleton considering what he’s accomplished this season. He currently sits second in tackles, only behind Solomon Elimimian. The Montana State product broke the record for most consecutive games with 10 or more tackles. He set a new record for tackles by a Canadian and on his way to setting a franchise record for tackles in a single season.
He’s doing this in his only second season up north. The Stampeders defence sits first in the majority of categories and Singleton is the anchor of the unit at the young age of 23.
Most Outstanding Rookie: James Wilder Jr., Argonauts Running Back
The biggest story in the second half of the season, hands down, is James Wilder Jr. He’s only started seven games but he’s run for 736 yards and added 432 receiving yards. Wilder is averaging over seven yards a carry, which is impressive. Since week 13 he’s put up the most rushing yards per game at 112.8. The next closest is Redblack William Powell at 102.
Wilder has transformed the Argonauts offense from the predictable unit it was earlier. Like any rookie, it took a while to figure out the different rules and playing styles, but once the everything came together nothing has stopped the 25-year-old. The Florida State product and former national champion continues to be a thorn in defensive coordinators’ sides. He’s fast enough to outrun and outmaneuver defences’ front seven, plus is too big – standing at 6’5″ and 232 pounds – for defensive backs to take down alone.
There are so many reasons why Wilder is simply special and should win this award.
Most Outstanding Special Teams Player: Roy Finch, Stampeders Running Back
The race for this year’s most outstanding special teams player is very close. An easy way to pinpoint the best candidate is answering this question: who’s been the most dominant? Roy Finch is the first name to pop up. His blazing speed and agility make him very difficult to contain.
When the ball is in his hands there’s a good chance he’ll score. So far he’s run three punts back to the house. The 26-year-old leads the CFL in punt return yards with over 1,100, and his 26-yard per kick return also is best among players with at least 20 attempts. The Oklahoma product tallied these numbers while missing the first two game for violating the league drug policy, and he sat out the previous four weeks with an injury.
Finch missed a total of six games and still leads the league in a multiple return categories. That’s enough proof to give him the nod for this CFL award.
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