Edmonton Eskimos running back Shakir Bell is a Rookie on the rise.
Recently named the CFL Top Performer for week four, Bell ran the ball 18 times for 144 yards. While he didn’t score a touchdown, he was dangerous every time he carried the ball. His longest run was a 29-yard rumble against an Ottawa defense that did a good job keeping running back yardage to a minimum up to that point.
With his debut performance, he’s already proven capable of filling the void by starter John White, who went down in training camp with a torn achilles and is gone for the season. It’s only one game, but his performance last week was better than four of the five current rushing leaders in their own first games.
Topping the CFL rushing leader list is Saskatchewan’s Jerome Messam. He’s on pace for another 1,000-plus season, but it took him quite a while to get where he is today. Messam’s rookie debut didn’t amount to much: one attempt for no yards way back in 2010 as a member of the BC Lions. He finished the year with four-yard average on 23 carries for 92 yards and two touchdowns.
The number two spot belongs to Calgary’s Jon Cornish. A strong performance in week four padded the stats, pulling him to within a single yard of Messam for the lead. Cornish’s first start back in 2007 had him for a single carry for 12 yards and no touchdowns. At season’s end, Cornish had only two carries for 30 yards, and no scores.
Montreal’s Tyrell Sutton is currently third with 280 yards. Sutton’s debut came against the Argonauts in 2013; a single attempt for five yards and no touchdowns. His year ended with 55 carries for 342 yards and three touchdowns
A total of 264 yards places Saskatchewan’s Anthony Allen in fourth place. Allen was the best of the bunch as a rookie in 2014. He ran the ball 27 times for 158 yards and one touchdown. His longest run was 19 yards. Allen finished the year with 930 yards on 169 carries for five touchdowns.
Closing out the top five rushing leaders this season is Winnipeg’s Paris Cotton. Having replaced current Eskimo Chad Simpson in 2014, Cotton’s rookie start wasn’t great. One carry for one yard. At the end of the year, Cotton had 361 yards on 66 carries and three touchdowns.
It’s an impressive group, but of the entire lot, only one player (Allen) had better rushing numbers in his CFL debut than the Eskimos’ Shakir Bell.
And with Chad Simpson out of the lineup due to an injury, there’s no reason why Bell can’t remain in the lineup as the starter as the Eskimos hope to build offensive momentum with their four-game home stand.
Bell is a rookie on the rise and worth watching.
He had the debut to prove it.