August 28, 2023

MMQB: Mid-season All-Star picks

The Canadian Press

Now that every CFL team has hit the midway mark of their individual seasons, let’s continue the theme from last week’s article. After selecting our midseason award winners a week ago, this week expands the field to our midseason All-Star team, which was ridiculously hard to choose.

Maybe things will get a little clearer between now and November, but I had a hard time narrowing it down in most categories. In fact, I range from slightly rattled to genuinely upset about some of the names we don’t have on this list. But that’s what goes along with picks like this and remember…this is just one person making selections.

Let’s dive in!

» Strong fan support powers CFL at mid-season
» Elks see a season of possibilities after home win
The CFL mourns the passing of longtime coach Rich Stubler
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Position Player Team
Quarterback Chad Kelly Toronto Argonauts
Running back Brady Oliveira Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Receiver Austin Mack Montreal Alouettes
Reggie Begelton Calgary Stampeders
Dalton Schoen Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Keon Hatcher BC Lions
Nic Demski Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Offensive tackle Jarell Broxton BC Lions
Dejon Allen Toronto Argonauts
Offensive guard Ryan Hunter Toronto Argonauts
Brandon Revenberg Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Centre Chris Kolankowski Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Mack has been an absolute revelation in Montreal and perhaps the league’s most consistent receiver in 2023. The Ohio State product has four games with more than 100 receiving yards, but perhaps more impressive is the fact Mack has only had one outing this year under 50 yards.

And then there’s Begelton, who solidified his spot by going for 203 yards on nine receptions and a pair of touchdowns in Calgary’s shootout loss in Toronto on Friday night. With 13 more targets over the weekend, Begelton now leads the CFL with 80, while his 54 receptions puts him near the top of the league as well.

And it can’t come as a surprise to see multiple members of the Argos make the cut at offensive line. By blanking the Stamps on Friday, Toronto has allowed just 10 sacks in 10 games this season, which remains the league’s best total by a significant margin. Both Allen and Hunter have been huge parts of that.

Position Player Team
Defensive end Mathieu Betts BC Lions
Willie Jefferson Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Defensive tackle Mike Rose Calgary Stampeders
Dewayne Hendrix Toronto Argonauts
Linebacker Micah Awe Calgary Stampeders
Larry Dean Saskatchewan Roughriders
Cover linebacker Titus Wall Calgary Stampeders
Cornerback Garry Peters BC Lions
Demerio Houston Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Halfback Robertson Daniel Toronto Argonauts
Deatrick Nichols Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Safety Royce Metchie Toronto Argonauts

Two of the hardest mid-season decisions came on the defensive side of the ball. On the heels of his three-sack outing over the weekend, Toronto’s Folarin Orimolade just missed the grade at defensive end. But Jefferson’s eight sacks, 10 pass knockdowns and two forced fumbles couldn’t be ignored. As for Betts, he’s now up to a league leading 12 sacks on the season.

The other agonizing decision was leaving both Toronto’s Wynton McManis and BC’s Boseko Lokombo off at linebacker. But I’ve really appreciated the work done by Dean since moving back to his familiar spot at middle linebacker this season. Dean is among the league leaders in defensive tackles and defensive plays and just edged out some extremely tough competition.

One uncontested lock was Daniel, as the Argos’ boundary halfback is putting up numbers we rarely see at defensive back. Along with his four interceptions, Daniel is one of the league leaders in overall defensive plays and defensive tackles. Daniel’s range and versatility has helped Toronto immensely en route to an 8-1 start.

Position Player Team
Kicker Sean Whyte BC Lions
Punter Cody Grace Calgary Stampeders
Returner Javon Leake Toronto Argonauts

Early in the season, much of the buzz when talking about elite returners was focused on Janarion Grant in Winnipeg and Saskatchewan’s Mario Alford. Quietly at first and now very emphatically, Leake has put himself at the front of the pack.

Leake turned out another monster game in Friday’s win for the Argos, including an electric 86-yard punt return touchdown in the fourth quarter to break a 31-31 tie. Leake leads all returners with four touchdowns and his 742 punt returns yards is also the league’s best total.

Quick hits

Props to every pundit (ahem, except me) for calling Edmonton’s first home win since 2019. Well done. First off, I’m glad that storyline is finally behind us. But perhaps more important is how it sets up a crucial two-game set between the Elks and Stampeders starting with this weekend’s OK Tire Labour Day Weekend at McMahon Stadium. The Alberta rivals are now separated by just one win in the West Division standings.

Tre Ford has been great since taking over at quarterback in Edmonton. With his stellar outing Sunday against Ottawa, Ford is up to 680 yards passing and four touchdowns in three starts; he’s added 184 more yards and two additional touchdowns on the ground. But perhaps the most encouraging sign was Eugene Lewis’s night. The Elks’ free agent splash caught three passes for 112 yards and a touchdown in his second game back since missing six with injury.

Finally, thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Rich Stubler. The longtime defensive coordinator passed away at the age of 74 over the weekend and leaves behind one of the greatest defensive resumes in league history. Stubler was synonymous with stifling defensive units over a career that saw him serve on a CFL coaching staff in five different decades.

Starting with Hamilton in 1983 and finishing with a stint in Toronto in 2021, Stubler also spent time with Edmonton, BC, Calgary, and Montreal and established himself as one of the CFL’s most respected defensive minds. Stubler’s longevity speaks as loud as his five Grey Cup titles as a defensive coordinator.

Rest in peace to a CFL legend.

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