TORONTO — Only one defensive player has ever won MOP in the CFL, but there’s a chance that could change in 2017.
While no clear front-runner has emerged for the league’s most prestigious individual award, three defensive players are in contention: Solomon Elimimian, Alex Singleton and, now, Ed Gainey.
Gainey recorded his third multi-interception game of the season on Friday night at Tim Hortons Field, picking Ticats quarterback Jeremiah Masoli off twice. He has eight interceptions this season over the span of 11 games, leaving him on pace for 13.
The Riders defensive back isn’t the only defensive player turning heads. Singleton had 11 more tackles vs. the Lions, while Elimimian had 10 tackles as the two leading tacklers went head-to-head. Both players are on pace to pass JC Sherritt for the second-most tackles in one season (130).
There’s a lot of time between now and November, but for now, we look at some of the top candidates around the league to win Most Outstanding Player:
Solomon Elimimian is on pace for the second-highest tackle total of his career (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)
Week 13: 10 tackles vs. CGY
Best Game:15 tackles (July 6 vs. MTL)
Key Statistics (Overall): 90 tackles (2nd)
Solomon Elimimian would need 53 tackles over his final six games (8.8 per game) to match the all-time record 143 that he set in 2014. The eight-year veteran is the only defensive-only player ever to win MOP for his efforts that year, and he’s very much in the running again three years later.
The Eskimos lost their fifth consecutive game on Saturday, yet quarterback Mike Reilly continues to play well. Reilly leads the CFL in passing yards and is ranked second in QUAR with a score of 84.1 out of 100.
Bo Levi Mitchell’s MOP odds could spark a really interesting debate come November. On one hand, he continues to lead the Stampeders to wins on a weekly basis, while remaining the league’s all-time leader in winning percentage among quarterbacks. On the other, the numbers are fairly run of the mill when compared to other starting QBs this season.
Jerome Messam continues to be the workhorse in the Stamps’ offence, dominating the field in rushing attempts, yards and touchdowns as the league’s top rusher in 2017. His injury in Week 13 raises some concerns following his departure from the game vs. the BC Lions.
After three straight games with double-digit tackles, Alex Singleton is alone at the top of the tackles list for 2017. He’s on pace to eclipse JC Sherritt for the second-most tackles in a single season (130) and has an outside shot to catch Solomon Elimimian’s all-time clip of 143.
After missing Week 13 with a bruised throwing hand, Kevin Glenn hopes to return in time for a clash with the CFL-leading Stampeders. The 38-year-old has been as good as any quarterback in the CFL, compiling a 21-10 QB-INT ratio and a QB rating of 106.0 — No. 1 among current starters.
Duron Carter’s touchdown streak came to an end vs. Hamilton as he was forced to leave with an ankle injury. Carter’s health could put his MOP hopes on thin ice, although his league-leading eight touchdown receptions along with his presence on the Riders keep him relevant, for now.
Not to be forgotten in the Riders’ explosive offence, Naaman Roosevelt picked up where he left off before a season-ending injury last year. Roosevelt would be a No. 1 option in just about any offence, creating a formidable duo with Duron Carter — arguably the CFL’s best at the moment.
Best Game: 2 tackles, 4 INT, 1 TD (Aug. 13 vs. BC)
Key Statistics (Overall): 8 INT (1st)
With his third multi-pick game of the season vs. the Ticats, Ed Gainey is on pace for 13 interceptions this season as he continues to lead one of the CFL’s most opportunistic defences. If Gainey continues to force turnvoers at this rate, he’s impossible to ignore in the MOP race.
Matt Nichols is leading the CFL in the new metric to measure quarterbacks, QUAR, but perhaps his success this season can be put in a simpler stat: wins. All Nichols has done is win since becoming Winnipeg’s starting quarterback, as the 8-3 Bombers are in contention for the highly-competitive West Division.
The Bombers have gotten exactly what they envisioned when they signed hometown running back Andrew Harris before the 2016 season: a workhorse who can just about do it all. Balancing 656 rushing yards with 588 receiving yards, Harris has a chance to become the first player in CFL history to go over the 1,000-yard mark both catching the ball and running it.
Contrary to popular belief, durability has not been an issue for 37-year-old Ricky Ray, who’s thrown the second-most passes in the league (448) and probably taken the most hits. Ray has never won Most Outstanding Player but the CFL’s active all-time passing leader has a chance if he can put together a solid six-game stretch to end the season.
One of the CFL’s most remarkable comeback stories continues as S.J. Green just keeps dominating opposing defences. Since being told he may never play again last season, Green needed only 11 games to go over the 1,000-yard plateau in his first season with the Argos while leading the CFL in targets and ranking second in yards and third in receptions.
While he leads the CFL in yards and is second in touchdowns, the biggest thing to note about Greg Ellingson is the 14 catches of 30 or more yards. While Ellingson has 14 of those big plays, the closest any other receiver comes is 10. That’s a significant margin as Ellingson remains the most productive pass-catcher in the CFL.