With the 2016 season one week from wrapping up, it’s time to start looking back on the year that was. In the spirit of review, Last Word on Canadian Football will take a look at who we feel would win the Most Outstanding Player award for each team in the CFL. To make it more interesting we have excluded quarterbacks from the MOP candidacy to highlight other positions. Next week will feature the candidates for the West Division teams while this week will cover the East Division MOP Candidates.
East Division MOP Candidates.
Toronto Argonauts – Brandon Whitaker (892 Rushing Yards, 527 Receiving Yards, 6 Total Touchdowns)
Despite a season that has been mired in poor effort and bad performances on the field, fans of the Toronto Argonauts can still take pride in the exploits of the relentless Brandon Whitaker. While Whitaker started the season slowly behind an offensive line that added several new pieces in the off-season, the 31-year -old running back never stopped churning his legs. On pace to finish the season as the Argos leader in rushing, scoring, and receptions, Whitaker is the engine that powers the Toronto offence. With a major overhaul coming this off-season for the Boatmen, the team would be wise to consider holding on to Whitaker, who is still among the best at his position and a ferocious pass blocker.
Runner-ups: Shawn Lemon, Kenny Shaw, Lirim Hajrullahu
Montreal Alouettes – Bear Woods (123 Tackles, 5 Sacks, 2 Interceptions)
After bursting his way onto the CFL scene with the Montreal Alouettes in 2014 with an impressive 89-tackle, 7-sack season, Bear Woods missed most of last season with an injury. Woods bounced back with a dominant statistical year that has seen him play every game and nearly every down on defence.
A power tackler that is just as comfortable rushing the passer as he is slamming running backs to the turf, Woods has also shown a talent for pass coverage with three career picks. The Als defence has been one of the few bright spots for the struggling franchise as of late, and it should remain so into the future with the hungry Woods roaming the middle of the field.
Runner-ups: Nik Lewis, Jovon Johnson, John Bowman
Ottawa Redblacks – Chris Williams (77 Catches, 1246 Yards, 10 Touchdowns)
On an Ottawa Redblacks offence loaded with high-powered weapons (See: Ernest Jackson, Brad Sinopoli, Greg Ellingson) how do you select an MOP? After much deliberation the award has to go to Chris Williams who, despite missing the last four games with a season-ending injury, can finish the year second in yards and tied for touchdowns for the Redblacks.
Arguably the best receiver in the CFL, Williams was a huge reason for the Redblacks explosive start to 2016. Never posting less than 1,000 yards in a season and a threat to score anytime he touches the ball, Williams will be sorely missed as the Redblacks try to make it back the Grey Cup. Look for Williams to come back even better as a fixture on the Redblacks for years to come.
Runner-ups: Zach Evans, Damaso Munoz , SirVincent Rogers
Hamilton Tiger-Cats – John Chick (38 Tackles, 14 Sacks, 4 Forced Fumbles)
A long-time terror for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, defensive end John Chick is now on a crash course for the best season of his career with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. After being stiffed by the Riders this past off-season, Chick has been venting his frustration on quarterbacks at an impressive rate. Able to play the run as well as the pass, Chick has also matched his career high in forced fumbles with one game to spare.
It’s not just the pass rush that Chick has contributed to in Hamilton, with injuries to starting quarterback Zach Collaros and the popular Luke Tasker, Chick has become one of the faces of the franchise. With a shot at the league lead in sacks going into the final game of the season, expect quite a finish from Chick and the Ticats in Week 20.
Runner-ups: Andrew Fantuz, Terrence Toliver, Simoni Lawrence
Who do you think deserves the MOP for each Eastern team? Leave a comment below!