November 22, 2010
First Star/Defensive Player of the Week: Jerrell Freeman (linebacker, Saskatchewan)
For a second consecutive week, a Roughriders' defensive player takes the top slot here. Last week, defensive back Lance Frazier sealed their victory over B.C. with six tackles, two sacks, an interception and a forced fumble. This week, it was time for Freeman (#50 in the above picture, where he's going for a Henry Burris sandwich with Mike McCullough Sunday as Ben Archibald looks on) to shine. He and the other Saskatchewan linebackers (including McCullough and should-have-been-an-all-star middle linebacker Barrin Simpson, who turned in a great performance despite being limited thanks to an ankle injury) were crucial to the Riders shaking their reputation as the league's worst run defence; they limited Calgary's high-powered rushing offence to 86 yards on 15 carries and held lead tailback Joffrey Reynolds to just 52 yards on 10 carries. Freeman, a former University of Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusader, led the way on that front with a team-high nine tackles (Simpson was second with four), and was effective at putting pressure Burris as well, recording one of the Riders' three sacks. His most crucial play didn't come on defence at all, though, but on special teams; after Ryan Grice-Mullen muffed a fourth-quarter punt near the Saskatchewan goal line, Freeman raced back and fell on the ball in the end zone after Wes Lysack tried and failed to pick it up. He earned $100 for his efforts, but more importantly, he gave Saskatchewan the chance to avenge last year's Grey Cup defeat at the hands of the Alouettes.
Also considered: Chip Cox (linebacker, Montreal), James Patrick (defensive back, Saskatchewan)
Second Star/Offensive Player of the Week: Avon Cobourne (running back, Montreal)
Much of the hype around the Toronto - Montreal clash was for the anticipated battle of Cory Boyd and the Argonauts' rushing offence against Anthony Calvillo and the Alouettes' passing game. Calvillo certainly played a large role, as did the inept performance of Toronto quarterback Cleo Lemon and the Alouettes' containment of Boyd, but the real key to Montreal's victory was the play of former West Virginia Mountaineer Cobourne (pictured at right celebrating a touchdown with Alouettes' returner Tim Maypray). Cobourne showed off his rushing skills Sunday, recording 163 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries and adding 53 more yards on four receptions. That's very impressive against the league's top scoring defence. Cobourne now gets a chance to battle the Roughriders again in the Grey Cup. He picked up 85 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries against them last year and added 64 more yards on six catches, so he might be looking forward to this one.
Also considered: Chris Getzlaf (wide receiver, Saskatchewan), Jamel Richardson (slotback, Montreal), Calvillo
Third Star/Special Teams Player of the Week: Tim Maypray (returner, Montreal)
Marc Trestman apparently knows something the rest of us don't. That's not surprising, considering that he's a very successful CFL head coach and a hot prospect for a NCAA job. Still, everyone (including myself) thought he made a curious move last week, releasing reigning special-teams player of the year Larry Taylor in favour of Maypray, who had been solid but not spectacular this year. Although he had excelled at returning missed field goals and was decent on kickoffs, Maypray was thought to have particular issues on punt returns; he was only averaging 7.8 yards per punt return heading into Sunday's game. Well, the former Virginia Military Institute Keydet proved the doubters wrong Sunday, taking three punts for 105 yards and a touchdown (pictured, right). He also added 25 more yards on two kick returns. If Maypray can keep the big plays coming in Sunday's Grey Cup, he'll make the decision to keep him over Taylor look even better than it does already.
Also considered: Freeman, Landen Talley (returner, Calgary)