Sunday, July 26, 2015

10 Thoughts I Have From Week Five

We're five weeks into the 2015 CFL season and it's still almost impossible to seperate each team from another. Four teams have three wins while another four have two wins, and we've learned that everyone is capable of beating everyone. Parity- or mediocrity- was the story of the week once again.

1. How can you hate the 'New CFL'?
The league has been under much scrutiny for their recent rule changes, but the on-field product in week five should silence a lot of critics. Penalties continue to decrease, as I said they would, and Friday night's doubleheader included the best consecutive games the CFL's had in years. And those fans who claimed the new rules take away the integrity of the game and a defender's ability to defend should stop, as week five displayed plenty of good defensive plays and pass break-ups (see Ottawa's 'DBlock', who officially registered seven, though there were more). The adjustment period for defensive backs is seemingly taking less time than expected and, as a result, defences are holding their own. Nearly every game is close this season and so many have come down to the wire. Are you not entertained?

2. DBlock is the league's top secondary
Before the season started, I claimed Ottawa's defensive backs could really breakout in 2015. They proved to be a serviceable unit in the team's inaugural season despite having every starter but Jovon Johnson play as a CFL rookie and have since taken a giant step of progression in year two. After three impressive performances against three rather lacklustre passing offences, 'Dblock' made me look smart against one of the league's best receiving corps in Calgary's, holding Bo Levi Mitchell to a mere 56% completion rate, one passing touchdown and several coverage sacks.

3. Chris Williams is back
After his performance Friday night, I think we can officially say Chris Williams is still the same exciting player he was back in his Tiger-Cats days. Up until week five, Williams was having a rather quiet season despite being in the top-5 for receiving yards and on-pace to equal his career-best single-season receiving total. But he exploded against Calgary, catching seven passes for 162 yards, with a large chunk coming on a huge 84-yard catch-and-score after toasting cornerback Buddy Jackson. This was the type of game I was used to seeing from Chris Williams in 2012 and it's good to see him finally proving to be worth every penny the Redblacks are paying him.

4. Adam Bighill is the early season MODP favourite
It's still early, but Adam Bighill has been the league's top defensive player thus far, in my opinion. Bighill has a league-leading 36 tackles in four games (on pace for 162 tackles) and has been extremely versatile in an unconventional role in BC's defence, lining up all over the field and occasionally even playing defensive back as a 230-pound linebacker. Bighill is having a monster season and has impressed me more than any other defensive player this year.

5. Mike O'Shea can learn from Chris Jones
Chris Jones will pull his backup quarterback, Matt Nichols, for a lack of production despite him completing 68% of his passes and the Eskimos winning. Mike O'Shea, meanwhile, will continue to play his back-up quarterback, Brian Brohm, despite him only completing 47% of his passes with two interceptions. Brohm, who has never thrown a touchdown pass at the professional level, has done nothing in his career for his coach to display such faith and confidence in him. O'Shea is either extremely stubborn or delusional, as the Bombers will never win a game with Brohm at the helm.

6. Marcel Bellefeuille is the league's worst OC
Marcel Bellefeuille has taken over the title as the league's worst offensive coordinator, which was previously held by former Redblacks' OC Mike Gibson. Bellefeuille's Blue Bomber offence has scored just fifteen points in twelve quarters against the Edmonton Eskimos' aggressive defence, which is beyond unacceptable. Bellefeuille's inability to assemble any sort of a game plan for a blitz-heavy defence like Edmonton's or Hamilton's is both sad and embarrassing, however his biggest issue is as simple as his general scheme itself, which is both vanilla and predictable. It seriously seems as though the Bombers' offence rotates through five different formations with five pass plays and five run plays each and every week. I understand why GM Kyle Walters kept Bellefeuille after his poor season last year, but he'll have no reason not to can the former head coach after 2015.

7. The Eskimos can beat any team with that defence
Even with an average offence, the Eskimos are still legitimate Grey Cup contenders with the league's best defence that's allowed a league-low 58 points and 313.8 yards per game. The Eskimos can beat any team with Chris Jones' blitz-happy defence, and they'll be unstoppable if the offence gains some more traction. This is a defence that hasn't allowed a regular season offensive touchdown at home since week 12 last year, which, in case you didn't know, is simply unbelievable. And while they are full of talent, all credit should go to Chris Jones and his scheme, whom very few teams have solved before.

8. Gable completely changes Ti-Cats' offence
Hamilton's offence was unrecognizable on Sunday, and that can be attributed to the play of CJ Gable and his skill-set. Hamilton ran the ball a season-high 24 times- 20 carries for Gable- and the former USC Trojan finally supplied this team with production on the ground in his season debut, rushing for 135 yards. Gable made Saskatchewan respect Hamilton's run-game and was also effective in the passing-attack, gaining 29 yards on three receptions. Gable was back in his 2013 form and proved tonight that he's the x-factor in this offence.

9. Saskatchewan's season is over
With that 31-21 loss to Hamilton, the Roughriders' season is over. While, mathematically, they're not done, I can't see this 0-5 team even coming close to making the playoffs now. The Riders were granted four of their first five games at home to start the season and did not take advantage, while they're also decimated by injuries and may have lost Kevin Glenn for a week or two in Sunday's tilt. And what about that terrible defence, which has given Riders' fans zero reasons to believe they'll ever figure it out, especially if Corey Chamblin keeps calling the shots? Is it May yet? The Riders are on the clock.

10. Players of the week
I only had nine thoughts this week, so instead I'll use the tenth spot to award my players of the week.

The CFL went away with their traditional Player of the Week awards to the dismay of many. As someone who favorited the old way more, I'll be continuing to do things old-fashioned and name my own Players of the Week- plus the top offensive lineman- at the end of each weekly recap.

Offensive Player of the Week goes to Henry Burris, who completed 28 of 43 passes for 389 yards and three touchdowns. He led the Redblacks to a huge upset win over the Stampeders and did a great job finding his targets after a shaky start.

There were plenty of candidates for Defensive Player of the Week, but Stampeders' defensive end Charleston Hughes takes it after his hat-trick sack-game against Ottawa. Hughes also had five tackles and a forced fumble, which is more than enough to best Adam Bighill, Jovon Johnson, Rico Murray and Jamaal Westerman for the title.

It was hard to not award Andrew Harris for the third time this season, but Winnipeg defensive end Jamaal Westerman did just enough to edge Harris' three-touchdown performance and earn my vote for Canadian Player of the Week. Westerman had his finest game with the Blue 'n Gold, recording nine tackles and a sack. The Eskimos had no answer for the former NFLer, who played a huge role in the Bombers stopping Edmonton's run-game.

Eskimos kicker/punter Grant Shaw had a great game in terrible conditions, punting 10 times with an average of 41 yards, pinning the Bombers deep numerous times. Shaw also hit his lone field goal attempt of the night from 35 yards out and was perfect on extra-points. Shaw's perfect game sees him earn Special Team's Player of the Week.

Centre Mike Filer and Hamilton's offensive line finally got an opportunity this week to flex their muscles in the run-game and did not disappoint. I like to signal out one great performance from an offensive lineman each week, and Filer, who had to communicate the signals in front of a rowdy crowd at Mosaic Stadium, did an excellent job. This week's top hog was Mike Filer.

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