With the 18 game regular season in the books, it’s time for me to reveal my own 2015 CFL All-Star teams. Yesterday, we started out East. Let’s get to the West.
Quarterback: Bo Levi Mitchell, Calgary Stampeders
(17 games, 65.9% passing, 4,551 YDS, 26 TD, 13 INT, 96.8 QBR)
Though he may not have lived up to the sky-high expectations some people had for Mitchell after he was named Grey Cup MVP, the native of Katy, Texas still had a solid season. Mitchell is arguably the most accurate passer in the league and managed to stay healthy and produce despite a parade of injuries to his offensive lineman.
Running back: Jerome Messam, Calgary Stampeders
(15 games, 135 carries, 1,006 YDS, 2 TD, 6.1 YPC; 53 REC, 497 YDS)
Had Messam not been grossly underutilized in Saskatchewan, he would have easily ran away with the rushing title, and the Riders may have had a few more wins. The most dominant running back in 2015, Messam’s 6.1 yards-per-carry lead all starting ‘backs.
Running back: Andrew Harris, BC Lions
(18 games, 222 carries, 1,039 yards, 7 TD, 4.7 YPC; 53 REC, 484 YDS, 2 TD)
After a dominant month of July that had Harris looking like the front-runner for M.O.P., Harris and his offensive line really cooled down. But it was still his best season in a few years, and he’s still the most important piece for the Lions’ success.
Receiver: Eric Rogers, Calgary Stampeders
(17 games, 87 REC, 1,448 YDS, 10 TD, 16.6 YDS/REC, 85.2 YDS/G)
After putting on a show in the 2014 Grey Cup playoffs, Rogers followed up with an amazing 2015 campaign (essentially his first true season), proving that he’s the best receiver in the Canadian Football League. With the perfect combination of size, speed and hands, it’s still yet to be proven that Rogers can indeed be shutdown.
Receiver: Adarius Bowman, Edmonton Eskimos
(17 games, 93 REC, 1,304 YDS, 7 TD, 14.0 YDS/REC, 76.7 YDS/G)
If only Adarius Bowman had a more reliable pair of hands, he’d probably be in the NFL. While he did drop far too many passes, in typical Adarius Bowman fashion, he still finished with 93 catches and second in the CFL with 1,304 yards. He’s a frustrating talent, for sure. But man, is he ever talented.
Receiver: Derel Walker, Edmonton Eskimos
(12 games, 89 REC, 1,110 YDS, 6 TD, 12.5 YDS/REC, 92.5 YDS/G)
After spending the first eight weeks on the practice roster, Walker exploded onto the scene, recording an absurd 31 catches for 472 yards in THREE games. And he never really slowed down either. Walker is the only other receiver on the same level as Eric Rogers. His 92.5 average yards-per-game lead all receivers.
Receiver: Emmanuel Arceneaux, BC Lions
(17 games, 76 REC, 1,151 YDS, 9 TD, 15.1 YDS/REC, 67.7 YDS/G)
After a rather sluggish and poor start compared to every other top-notch receiver, Arceneaux exploded once QB Jonathon Jennings took over the offence. He seemed inspired and determined, and it showed. No defensive back could cover Arceneaux down the sidelines.
Offensive Tackle: Jovon Olafioye, BC Lions
BC had arguably the best offensive line in the CFL for the first 1/3rd of the season, then they really trailed off. Everyone but the two-time CFL Most Outstanding Lineman award winner, Jovon Olafioye, that is.
Offensive Guard: Brendan Labatte, Saskatchewan Roughriders
Albeit far too many penalties against, Labatte was the lone Rider offensive lineman to have a good season. Sure, it wasn’t his best year, but Labatte is still the best run-blocking guard in the league, by far.
Centre: Pierre Lavertu, Calgary Stampeders
Lavertu managed to hold down Calgary’s offensive line when everyone around him was dropping like flies. Surrounded by backups (and sometimes their backups), Lavertu played through injuries and, as far as I’m concerned, was their best blocker. He’s no Brett Jones, but he’s pretty darn good himself.
Offensive Guard: Spencer Wilson, Calgary Stampeders
Wasn’t easy, but Wilson made his way onto my list. While he was a little shaky around midseason, all in all, Wilson still had a solid season at guard for the Stampeders.
Offensive Tackle: D’Anthony Batiste, Edmonton Eskimos
A very, very underrated right tackle, Batiste was the most consistent figure along Edmonton’s offensive line that had virtually no continuity from week-to-week.
Defensive Tackle: Micah Johnson, Calgary Stampeders
(11 games, 32 tackles, 6 sacks 1)
Despite being limited to 11 games, Johnson still managed to lead all West Division defensive tackles with six sacks. He’s a big piece of Calgary’s defense and moves very well for a man of his size.
Defensive Tackle: Michael Brooks, BC Lions
(15 games, 51 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 FF)
Though he seemed to be a streaky player at times, Brooks, who has a Super Bowl ring with Seattle from 2014, has the potential to be the best defensive tackle in the league. He amassed an incredible 51 tackles in his first season in the CFL. Yes, you read that right.
Defensive End: Jamaal Westerman, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
(17 games, 61 tackles, 17 sacks, 1 FF)
In his first CFL season, Westerman emerged as the best and most complete defensive end in the league. He lead all defensive lineman with 61 tackles, and did all this with virtually no help along Winnipeg’s D-Line. Westerman’s relentless motor- matched with a large arsenal of pass-rushing moves and unmatched run-stop ability- is why he’s the real deal.
Defensive End: Charleston Hughes, Calgary Stampeders
(14 games, 39 tackles, 10 sacks, 2 FF)
As a pure pass-rusher, Hughes has a large arsenal of moves he can beat an offensive tackle with. He was a force to be reckoned with when healthy, amassing 10 sacks and two forced fumbles in only 14 games.
Linebacker: Adam Bighill, BC Lions
(17 games, 117 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 INT)
Lining up all over the field and doing so many different jobs, Bighill proved he’s the most versatile inside LB in the league this season. In his best season since 2012, Bighill took off when MLB Soloman Elimimian suffered a torn achilles. Bighill is equally as valuable as his teammate, the 2014 CFL’s Most Outstanding Player.
Linebacker: Khalil Bass, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
(17 games, 102 tackles, 5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF)
While his counterpart, Jeff Knox Jr., had more tackles, he was playing on the team with the league’s worst run defense (see Simmons, Jasper), and so many of his tackles came 7-plus yards downfield. Bass is the more complete linebacker and excels in both pass coverage and blitzing the quarterback. Oh, and he’s also a very, very hard hitter; just ask Chad Kackert.
Linebacker: Dexter McCoil, Edmonton Eskimos
(18 games, 76 tackles, 3 INT, 2 sacks, 1 FF)
While 76 tackles aren’t incredibly high for the 2015 season, McCoil was, after all, playing with the league’s best defense with so much talent around him. McCoil is still a ball hawk (there were at least 2 or 3 more interceptions he should’ve had) and could certainly play safety if he was needed. With back to back All-Star seasons, the Tulsa alum is on his way to CFL stardom (or to an NFL try-out).
Cornerback: Johnny Adams, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
(17 games, 65 tackles, 6 INT)
A typical Michigan State DB through and through, Adams is very aggressive and very smart. As far as I’m concerned, he was the best shutdown DB in the league after the opening half of the season. One performance that sticks out was his week four game against BC, where in a battle on the boundary, he held Manny Arceneaux to zero catches. Adams is on his way back to the NFL.
Halfback: Aaron Grymes, Edmonton Eskimos
(15 games, 43 tackles, 1 sack, 4 INT)
There’s a reason Quarterbacks rarely target Aaron Grymes’ receiver. He’s that good, and the best half in the CFL. Enough said.
Halfback: Ryan Phillips, BC Lions
(14 games, 29 tackles, 6 INT)
Like fine wine, Phillips just keeps getting better with age. Despite missing four games and being surrounded by a not-so-good secondary, Phillips had his best season in a handful of years. Strictly as a cover-DB, Phillips was as good as Grymes.
Cornerback: John Ojo, Edmonton Eskimos
(18 games, 43 tackles, 5 INT)
Don’t worry, I thought long and hard before putting a wide-side corner on this list. Ojo simply was a dominant player in his rookie year, and there’s no doubt he’d also still be an All-Star had he played boundary corner, too- even ahead of Pat Watkins, who was beat for more touchdowns this season than he’s ever been. Size, speed, strength, ball skills; Ojo has it all.
Safety: Joshua Bell, Calgary Stampeders
(16 games, 47 games, 1 INT)
With star safeties Tyron Brackenridge and Maurice Leggett being moved to linebacker, Bell was almost the default choice, as he didn’t have as good a season as most thought he’d have. Despite the Stamps often running cover three defense, Bell was still beat over the top too many teams. But he did make many key plays, and is a far better All-Star selection than Marco Brouillette out east.
Special Teams: Bo Lokombo, BC Lions
(24 special-teams tackles)
Kicker: Rene Parades, Calgary Stampeders
(41/47 FG, 89.7%, long of 51; 26/30 PAT)
Punter: Rob Maver, Calgary Stampeders
(134 punts, 45.7 AVG)
Coffin. Corner. Master.