BY: Jeff Schneberk
With the start of the CFL playoffs five days away what better time than now to look ahead to what each team has going for it. Rather than run down a list of 30 guys when there are only six teams playing (and only four this weekend), I am going to list one top player per team, and none of them are quarterbacks. Let’s go.
Calgary: As Jon Cornish goes (runs) so do the Stampeders. Asides from being one of the most vibrant personalities in the CFL off the field, on it, he is almost impossible to start. Having the first round bye is probably not as good for him as it is for most of the rest of the team, it is no surprise that most of Calgary’s attack will be the ground game when they meet the winner of Saskatchewan and BC. Cornish is the best in the game at what he does and if the Roughriders and Lions beat each other up the way they usually do, then Cornish is probably going to run over them again himself. He has also broken his own single-season rushing record.
BC Lions: Emmanuel Arceneaux rejoined the BC Lions in May 2013 following a two-year absence and NFL stints with Minnesota, Washington and the New York Jets. Emmanuel was originally a free agent signing of the Lions in May 2009. Interestingly, the speedy receiver was in the midst of his college track and field season when the Lions were holding their U.S. free agent camps and as a result, he was unable to showcase his skills in person. His natural ability came through on video, however, as the Louisiana native was invited to training camp in 2009 based on his highlights alone.
Saskatchewan-Kory Sheets: He says he is the best running back in the CFL even though Cornish won the regular-season numbers battle, Sheets’ time is now, to prove that he is the man come the playoffs. When Sheets was at the top of his game, so were the rest of the Riders. They were impossible to stop. There is no doubt they will need that to continue, especially this weekend when they play in front of their home fans.
Hamilton-CJ Gable: There is no doubt that Hamilton’s chances of winning depend on how strong their running game is, like with all Canadian football teams, you can’t go without it. When Hamilton’s is in full speed it makes QB Henry Burris’ job a lot easier. Being virtually unknown at the start of the season (remember Chevon Walker?), Gable has emerged as one of the top RBs in the entire league, finishing among rushers with 782 yards on the field and 598 receiving yards. Hamilton has plenty of options on their offense but none more valuable than Gable’s on the ground.
Montreal-Arland Bruce III: There is no other WR receiver in the CFL you should not want to play against more in the playoffs than Bruce III. The only question I have is now will his chemistry be catching passes from the relatively inexperienced arm of QB Troy Smith?
Toronto-Chad Kackert: Despite being out with injury for most of this year, it is still hard to leave out the playoff MVP from last year’s Grey Cup. He may not be the big threat that Sheets and Cornish clearly are, but he does have that ability to be a big-time game breaker in the Argos offense, given his ability to make plays in the Argo backfield, not just as a runner but receiver too.