Blue Bomber Report Record: 6–10–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Most outstanding selections

Matthews easy choice as rookie; other categories cause for debate

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Media representatives in CFL cities across Canada are voting in six categories this week for the most outstanding players on the team they cover.

Here's what my ballot for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers looks like this year:

 

Most Outstanding Rookie

This one was the biggest no-brainer of the year as Bombers wide receiver Chris Matthews uses his size and speed to decimate CFL secondaries.

While Matthews went through a dry spell in mid-season as defensive co-ordinators focused on him, he has made some adjustments of his own and is once again putting up big numbers.

Heading into Week 18, Matthews leads the team in every meaningful receiving category: receptions (72), yards (1,105), average yards (15.3) and TDs (7).

Honourable mention: Demond Washington. Take away all his fumbles on punt returns and he has actually had a pretty good season.

 

Most Outstanding Lineman

Any media person who tells you he or she actually knows the intricacies of what is going on in the individual battles on the line of scrimmage is either a liar or Doug Brown.

So I will rely for my selection in this category on the Bombers coaching staff, who advise that tackle Glenn January -- who was an East Division all-star last season -- has once again distinguished himself this year.

Whatever, says January.

"Whenever you play a position like offensive line, obviously it's not about individual awards. If we were looking for individual notoriety, we signed up for the wrong job," said January.

"I'm just happy with the way the unit has come along this year, with me and (tackle) Steve (Morley) being the only veterans. We've shown some improvement and we did it with hard work. That's what's really satisfying for me this year."

Honourable mention: Morley. Good guy, works hard, pays the price.

 

Top Special Teams Player/Most Outstanding Canadian

Placekicker Justin Palardy has had a career season and is on pace to break his own franchise record as the most accurate field-goal kicker the Bombers have ever had.

Palardy has been successful on 35 of his 40 field-goal attempts this year, an 87.5 per cent success rate with just two games remaining.

If Palardy is able to maintain that pace, he will break the franchise field-goal accuracy record he set in 2010, when he went 26-of-30 -- or 86.7 per cent -- after joining the Bombers in August of that year.

Toss in a perfect 29-of-29 record on convert attempts this year and a kickoff average of 57.8 yards that is fourth in the league and somewhat improved over his first two seasons in Winnipeg, and Palardy seems an easy pick in both the top Canadian and special teams categories.

Just another year at the office, Palardy says.

"I expect to play like this. I expect to make every kick. Every year I play, I expect to play like I did this year," said the kicker.

Honourable mention (in both categories): Non-import Henoc Muamba, who continues his strong play as a special teams tackler (18 tackles and counting), but more importantly has matured into a bona fide starting middle linebacker.

Most Oustanding Defensive Player

This was a tough category -- and razor-thin vote -- last season because both Jonathan Hefney and Jovon Johnson made a compelling case. In the end, Johnson narrowly won the nod and went on to make league history as the first defensive back to be named the CFL's top defensive player.

It's a tough pick again this season, but for a very different reason -- the defence has struggled all year as a unit and there is no standout that's likely to go on to win league honours this season, as Johnson did last year

So I asked Bombers head coach and defensive co-ordinator Tim Burke what he thought.

"I would think just on numbers and impact, probably (defensive linemen) Alex Hall or Bryant Turner would probably be the guys who had the best years," said Burke.

I will give the edge to Hall, who is now done for the year with a knee injury but who recorded nine sacks in 2012 and was among the most dominant pass rushers in the league during the second half of the season.

Honourable mention: Turner, who had five sacks in the first three games of the season but has registered just one since then.

 

Most Outstanding Player

You could make a case that the top rookie and most outstanding player are the same man on this year's edition of the Bombers -- Chris Matthews.

But if you select Matthews in both categories, then you completely ignore the tremendous impact tailback Chad Simpson has on this team, on and off the field.

On the field, Simpson has 1,003 yards rushing and a 6.0 average on just 168 carries in what's been an injury-shortened season. What's more impressive, however, is the context: Simpson's put up those numbers on a team that's had an anemic offence, a revolving door at quarterback and often never even had a chance to establish the running game because they so frequently fell behind early in games.

Off the field, Simpson brings the kind of veteran leadership and steadying influence -- both of which were sorely needed during this turbulent season -- that comes with having had a successful NFL career before he ever got to Winnipeg.

Simpson said Thursday a nomination for most outstanding player, if it happens, would mean a lot to him, particularly because he thinks he is capable of doing a lot more for this team next season.

"It was a good season, a solid season. But I missed the first three games with a (foot) injury and even after I got back, I was probably 65 per cent because I couldn't put any pressure on my toe. Even now, it's not a hundred per cent.

"I can do way better."

Simpson gets my nod.

Honourable mention: Matthews.

Results of the voting will be announced Wednesday.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb .ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 26, 2012 C3

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