Mid-Season All-Stars: Who makes the list?
TORONTO — We have passed the midway point of the 2022 CFL regular season, and it certainly feels like it has flown by. The season has been filled with plenty of exciting finishes, highlight-reel plays and All-Star worthy performances from coast-to-coast.
The conversation surrounding CFL All-Stars has begun to heat up, and there are plenty of deserving candidates at each position across the league.
On this week’s episode of the Waggle Donnovan Bennett and Henoc Muamba discussed who would be the candidates at each position to win mid-season All-Star awards.
QUARTERBACK, NATHAN ROURKE (BC LIONS)
Before his injury Rourke led the league in all major passing statistic as he compiled 3,281 passing yards, 25 passing touchdowns, and quarterback efficiency rating of 125.1 all while averaging 10.5 yards per pass.
“Sadly, it doesn’t mean anything for us to give him this award,” said Muamba of Rourke. “But I truly believe that he probably has been the best quarterback up to this point in the CFL.”
Muamba said the thing that impressed him most about the young quarterback, was his ability to progress and learn at such a rapid pace.
“I was pleased with the progression he was able to experience, the growth he was able to show everybody,” said Muamba. “Him getting to third and fourth reads and throwing tighter throws, and riskier passes down the field. The things he’s been doing and leading his team to the record they have up to this point, I think is tremendous.”
However, Muamba was quick to acknowledge that Winnipeg Collaros is a very close second choice.
RUNNING BACK, ANDREW HARRIS (TORONTO ARGONAUTS)
Toronto Argonauts’ running back Andrew Harris is another player who was having an admirable season and had it cut short due to injury. Similar to Rourke, the Toronto back suffered a torn pectoral muscle that required surgery, likely forcing him to miss the regular season.
Harris became the first Canadian running back, and the sixth player all-time to record 10,000 career rushing yards with a 143 yard performance against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Week 7.
“When you look at what he does in pass protections, catching the ball out of the back field and the numbers he forces you to put in the box, for half of the season I think he was still the most impactful running back in the CFL,” said Bennett.
Muamba was quick to agree with his co-host, saying that the impact of Harris goes beyond what fans see on gameday.
“This is beyond the play he’s show on the field,” said Muamba. “Beyond the brilliance and excitement that he brings to the game week in and week out. And at the age he’s been doing it, I think that story also plays a huge role.”
WIDE RECEIVER, EUGENE LEWIS (MONTREAL ALOUETTES)
Montreal Alouettes pass-catcher Eugene Lewis was the selection at wide receiver for the hypothetical mid-season All-Star award.
Lewis is currently second in total receiving yards with 849 and has an impressive 248 yards after catch, he has also reeled in three touchdowns this season and boasts six catches of 30 yards or longer through the first 12 weeks of play.
“It’s hard to hard to argue with that,” said Muamba. “The numbers show, you know exactly that he’s one of the best right now and he’s consistent day in and day out.”
OFFENSIVE LINE, CHRIS KOLANKOWSKI (WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS)
The bets offensive line units depend on teamwork, communication and consistency in order to keep their quarterback standing upright. However, every unit needs a leader and that’s exactly was centre Chris Kolankowski provides for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
“What they’ve been able to do, running the ball better as of late without Andrew Harris and keeping Collaros relatively clean,” said Bennett. “I’m giving this to the Winnipeg offensive line as a whole, but he’s making the calls.”
“I can agree with you, I concur,” said Muamba. “I think there’s various offensive lineman that do a good job, but to me as an offensive line you have to do it as a team, and the way that Winnipeg does it, together and consistently is definitely the direction you have to go towards.”
DEFENSIVE LINE, WILLIE JEFFERSON (WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS)
Blue Bombers defensive lineman Willie Jefferson has been one of the most reverend pass-rushers across the country since entering the league. The 2019 Most Outstanding Defensive player has continued that trend into 2022, making him the mid-season All-Star selection at defensive line.
“You have to put him up there,” said Muamba. “I don’t go in the offensive meetings, but I will say this, I’m 100 per cent, I’ll even say 105 per cent sure that every team that plays against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, every offence identifies where Willie Jefferson lines up, where he is and what he’s about to do.”
However, Muamba was quick to give recognition to Ottawa REDBLACKS defensive lineman Lorenzo Mauldin IV, who is currently tied for the league lead in sacks, with eight.
“A close second, would have to be Mauldin out there in Ottawa” said Muamba. “He’s a guy that’s been doing an amazing job.”
LINEBACKER, WYNTON MCMANIS (TORONTO ARGONAUTS)
Toronto Argonauts linebacker Wynton McManis has been making plays since the very first game of the season for his new team. McManis leads the league with 69 defensive tackles, while also adding three sacks and who could forget his game sealing interceptions against Saskatchewan at this year’s Touchdown Atlantic.
“I was going to fight very hard if you chose anybody else, but him” said Muamba. “Wynton has been a breathe of fresh air, he’s probably one of the better linebackers that I’ve lined up next too over my career. Beyond just his play that he shows on the field, he’s a guy that is extremely hardworking, he’s a student of the game.”
DEFENSIVE BACK, WINSTONE ROSE (WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS)
Winnipeg defensive back Winston Rose has been shutdown corner for the entire first half of this season. Beyond his 40 tackles, the Bombers cornerback has two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown and has a forced fumble and fumble recovery.
“Winston Rose has been doing a really good job of being super consistent for that defence over there,” said Muamba. “He’s a DB that most quarterbacks have to know where he is before they let the ball go out of their hands. He’s a dangerous guy and a big-time playmaker.”
KICK RETURNER, CHANDLER WORTHY (MONTREAL ALOUETTES)
Montreal Alouettes returner Chandler Worthy has exploded onto the scene this season, and has more than shown off his athleticism and blinding speed.
Worthy has 648 kick return yards and has scored twice already this season, the Alouettes playmaker has also returned 24 punts for 305 yards and an average of almost 13 yards per return.
“He’s one of the coolest guys you’ll ever meet, one of the coolest guys,” said Muamba. “Doesn’t matter what the situation is, whether it’s an exciting play or a terrible situation he’s is going to be even keel, and I love the way he plays the game.”
KICKER, RENE PAREDES (CALGARY STAMPEDERS)
Calgary Stampeders kicker Rene Paredes has been an example of consistency for seemingly his entire career. Something that has not waivered as the veteran kicker is now in his eleventh CFL season.
Paredes leads the league in field goal percentage, making 91.7 per cent of his kicks, missing on just three of his 36 kicks to start the year.
“The man has got ice in his veins, you’ve got to give it to him,” said Muamba. “He’s been doing a greta job all season long. I don’t know how many field goals he’s missed, but I can tell you and guarantee you it’s very few. He’s definitely the guy that’s at the top of the list for me as well.”