Berg vs. Ferg is back for 2019 as columnists Pat Steinberg and Marshall Ferguson debate over some of the league’s most contentious storylines. This week’s question: Who is the breakout player to watch in the second half of the season?
TORONTO — One of the top storylines so far in 2019 has been the emergence of new stars across the Canadian Football League.
With Mark’s Labour Day Weekend come and gone and the second half well under way, who are some of the top breakout candidates for the coming months?
The autumn months are when stars are truly born, as the playoff pursuit and ultimately the chase for the 107th Grey Cup take centre stage. There’s a handful of candidates that could take a big step forward as the weather gets colder and points in the standings are harder to come by.
In Winnipeg, Chris Streveler and Nic Demski are two younger players that will need to rise to the challenge if the Bombers are going to hang on to win the West.
For the Argos, Rodney Smith continues to put up numbers as he becomes a favourite target of second-year quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson.
And in Montreal, where the Alouettes are closing in on hosting a playoff game in 2019, first-year receiver Quan Bray is setting his sights on a 1,000-yard receiving season.
Who’s the player to watch in the second half? Steinberg and Ferguson debate in the latest Berg vs. Ferg.
BERG VS. FERG: LAST TIME’S RESULTS
Last time, Berg and Ferg debated over storylines for Mark’s LD Weekend.
The Montreal Alouettes have an offence full of talented playmakers, which includes a really impressive trio of receivers. Perhaps flying under the radar most is newcomer Quan Bray. He’s been a bargain play all season in CFL Fantasy; he cost you just over $4,000 ahead of Montreal’s week 13 win over BC and provided great value (3 REC, 24 YDS, 1 TD).
As the Als continue staking their claim for a home playoff date, you can expect to hear Bray’s name more and more in the second half of the 2019 season.
Bray is already a favorite target of Montreal quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., and that is starting to translate into points on the board. Upon making his Alouettes debut in Week 4, Bray had just one touchdown catch in his first six games. In Montreal’s last two games, though, Bray has a pair of TD receptions, including a 34-yard strike in Week 11 vs. Toronto. He seems to look more dangerous each passing week.
This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, though. Entering Week 13, Bray was averaging more than seven targets per game, which shows you how much Adams trusts him. Bray is a speedy, diminutive receiver that can stretch the field, which is why he was a highly touted undrafted prospect coming out of Auburn in 2015. After bouncing around the NFL and the now-defunct AAF, Bray finally found a home and a fit with the Als and hasn’t looked back.
A lot of the attention, and the salary values in CFL Fantasy, in Montreal skew towards the bigger name playmakers in that offence. Players like William Stanback, Eugene Lewis, and DeVier Posey have captured larger headlines than Bray has this season. I don’t expect that to be the case much longer, though, because this player is poised for a huge second half of the season. With how the Alouettes are trending, it’s just another positive story already full of them in 2019.
FERG (10-7): WITH NICHOLS OUT, DEMSKI’S IMPORTANCE GROWS
When most people think of a breakout player to watch, it is someone who hasn’t produced yet. Maybe someone off the roster entirely right now who is ready to step into the bright lights of a starting position and make an impact through the second half of the season as the three-week sprint called ‘the playoffs’ rapidly approaches.
For me, a breakout player is more often the guy who has a role already but will be asked to do more in the near future, which could push their stardom to new heights.
No player better fits that description in 2019 than Nic Demski of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
With Andrew Harris down I fully expected Demski to get more love in the Bombers offence. It didn’t really happen the way I thought it would, but I have a hard time believing with or without Harris in the lineup Demski is not becoming a more appealing target every day for Chris Streveler as it appears he’ll be the quarterback for a while.
In Demski the Bombers have a quick slot receiver with return game ability who can handle the ball like a running back when asked to.
That’s a lot of variable skill sets, any of which he can access on any given play. In a run heavy offence that the Bombers are currently employing, Demski becomes equally dangerous off play action and in the edge running game where he can take an end around or jet sweep to the house.
With all those factors in play, Demski is primed to break out in the second half of 2019. If he does, the Bombers will be much better off for it.
DON’T SIT ON THE FENCE!
While both sides are pretty convincing, someone’s got to take it. Whose argument convinced you the most?
You can vote for this week’s winner both on CFL.ca and Twitter. Meanwhile, continue the conversation by tweeting @Fan960Steinberg and @TSN_Marsh.
The winner will be revealed in the following week’s Berg vs. Ferg.
Which player is primed to break out in the second half?