The Canadian Press
While the 2022 season is very much still in its infancy, those who watch most, if not all, of the games can see identities taking shape from coast-to-coast.
The Riders and Stampeders run game is rising above the rest, Rourke’s weekly announcement that his accuracy and playmaking are here to stay and of course Collaros turning little known Dalton Schoen into a Greg Ellingson clone are just a few that come to mind through these eyes.
While hardware gifting season is thankfully months away, it’s never too early to take a look at who has taken the early lead in my mind for a 2022 All Star nod.
QB – Nathan Rourke, BC Lions
The ball placement, quick release and athletic ability have all been on display with some bumps in the road that have given the fans the chance to see how he responds to adversity that really never appeared in his first two outings.
Bo Levi Mitchell looks like his usual dangerous self and Collaros keeps winning but for my money on a throw-to-throw basis, Rourke has been the best so far this season.
RB – Jamal Morrow, Saskatchewan Roughriders
Despite sharing the backfield with Frankie Hickson, Saskatchewan’s Jamal Morrow has more touches than Calgary’s Ka’Deem Carey but a lower yards per carry average and fewer touchdowns than Carey. How do you separate the two?
Based more on eyes than numbers, I lean towards Carey thanks to his consistent violence running the football and refusal to be stopped, but Morrow catching 17 of 18 targets and averaging 10.7 yards per catch tips the scales for me here.
REC – Dominique Rhymes, BC Lions
REC – Greg Ellingson and Dalton Schoen, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
REC – Malik Henry, Calgary Stampeders
REC – Kian Schaffer-Baker, Saskatchewan Roughriders
Rhymes has been as good as any receiver across the entire CFL to start this year, holding court with the likes of Ellingson and Dalton Schoen, whose statistics through Winnipeg’s 5-0 start are eerily similar.
In Calgary Kamar Jorden and Reggie Begelton have been strangely quiet, but that is opening opportunities for Luther Hakunavanhu, Richard Sindani and Malik Henry, who led all CFL receivers with 388 receiving yards entering Week 6.
Finally, while the Riders run game has been the story, their best receiver has been Kian Schaffer-Baker who has caught 25 of 30 targets and reached the end zone three times already this season. He’s definitely deserving one of these coveted five receiver All-Star spots.
Centre – Sean McEwen, Calgary Stampeders
Sean McEwan is solid, steady and a great communicator. There is no great mystery to what makes McEwen a great CFL centre and that has shone through to start this season.
Guard – Patrick Neufeld, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Guard – Logan Ferland, Saskatchewan Roughriders
While the Riders and Bombers offensive lines feel like they’re doing less road grading than past years, they’re still moving people up front and carving out distinct identities as run based teams, especially on first down.
The key to both clubs is their guards with Logan Ferland getting the slight nod over Evan Johnson in Regina for me, thanks to his superior physicality, and Neufeld earning the nod via his senior leadership and ability to work a defender’s hips away from the running lane.
Tackle – Derek Dennis, Calgary Stampeders
Tackle – Stanley Bryant, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
BC Lions left tackle Joel Figueroa certainly has a case to be made here as the Lions enter Week 6 with a CFL-low three sacks, but that line as a whole has solidified whereas Stanley Bryant is a one man wall with new starter Geoff Gray alongside while Calgary’s Derek Dennis can block down and get to the second level of a defence with the best of them thanks to his unique size and athleticism combination.
Defensive End – Pete Robertson, Saskatchewan Roughriders
Defensive End – Willie Jefferson, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
I really like what Elks end Thomas Costigan has shown in his last few games, he remains on my watch list for the season, but Pete Robertson has been utterly dominant before his foot injury and Willie Jefferson continues to make life difficult with a couple of sacks, an interception returned for touchdown, knockdowns and general quarterback annoyance.
Defensive Tackle – Anthony Lanier, Saskatchewan Roughriders
Defensive Tackle – Michael Wakefield, Montreal Alouettes
Mike Rose consistently influences defences but based on production Montreal’s Michael Wakefield has been as active as any interior defensive lineman this season – despite getting ejected in Saskatchewan – and Anthony Lanier leads the CFL’s interior lineman with four sacks behind only teammate Pete Robertson, who holds the league lead with seven.
Linebacker – Larry Dean, Saskatchewan Roughriders
Linebacker – Cameron Judge, Calgary Stampeders
Winnipeg’s Adam Bighill continues to make plays which won’t show up on the stat sheet as teams increasingly try to scheme avoiding his incredible knack for getting in the backfield, but Cameron Judge’s production is off the charts right now, and how can you not love seeing Larry Dean back on his feet leading the CFL in tackles after an Achilles injury cancelled his 2021 season!?
Cover Linebacker – Derrick Moncrief, Saskatchewan Roughriders
Titus Wall has been a revelation in Calgary, but three interceptions at cover linebacker for Moncrief is special, tying him for the CFL lead with three defensive backs. Add in 11 defensive tackles and one on special teams you get an All-Star caliber start to 2022.
Cornerback – Money Hunter, Ottawa REDBLACKS
Cornerback – Nick Marshall, Saskatchewan Roughriders
In an off-season where the REDBLACKS searched out ball hawks in free agency and the draft no player has been better money spent than Hunter. I’ve been fortunate to call most of his games so far this season and he’s maintained the ability to stay honest and not allow double moves over the top while always willing to jump a route.
In Saskatchewan Nick Marshall remains one of the best at forcing quarterback errors and making opponents pay by taking it all the way back for six.
Halfback – Nick Taylor, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Halfback – T.J. Lee, BC Lions
Taylor has quickly become one of the best at being in the right place at the right time with a great feel for the game and Defensive Coordinator Richie Hall’s system while TJ Lee already has 14 tackles, two interceptions and a fumble recovery to his name by mid-July.
Safety – Marc-Antoine Dequoy, Montreal Alouettes
While I like BC’s Quincy Mauger and Hamilton’s Tunde Adeleke continuing to make plays, there is a feeling right from Week 1 in Calgary that nobody on that Alouettes defence is making more plays – and high degree of difficulty plays – than Marc-Antoine Dequoy. If the ball has been snapped he’s either near it, or will be very soon.
Kicker – Rene Parades, Calgary Stampeders
Let’s not complicate this. He’s helped comebacks, hit game winners and maintains an elite success rate. Rene is simply one of the best to ever do it.
Punter – Stefan Flintoft, BC Lions
Elks punter Matt Mengel has hit some absolute bombs with accuracy this year and Ottawa’s Richie Leone leads the CFL in punting average, but Flintoft’s average is less than a yard different and he has not scored a single so far this season. With some bigger kicks and continued accuracy he could lock up an All-Star spot in 2022, not that he appears to be punting nearly as much as others around the league.