CFL Special Teams Standouts and Slip-ups; A Week 1 Review
The 2023 CFL Season is finally underway as a multitude of Special Teams players took to the field this past weekend. For those who are unaware, the "Standouts and Slip-ups" series is designed to provide you with the same great content and analysis you've come to expect, just in a more bite-sized format where will do my best to round up my top (and bottom) performers from around the CFL each week. The CFL Special Teams Power Rankings can still be found on Twitter, so don't forget to check them out after you're finished reading for a more generalized overview of each specialist. Without further ado, let's discuss this week's Standouts and Slip-ups;
1. Sergio Castillo - Kicker - WPG Blue Bombers | 4/4 FG / 50Y Long / 4/4 PAT / 1 Clutch Kick
Sergio Castillo was brought back to "The 'Peg" earlier this year and spent the off-season competing in a crowded kicking room for the starting position. He eventually won the starting gig and was set to take to the field for the first time since Week 19 last year. He started the night off with a field goal attempt from 32 yards out and then made another from 19 yards. His 3rd field goal was another short, 18-yard attempt, which made the score 32-4 for Winnipeg. After a 2nd Half comeback from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the score sat at 39-31 for Winnipeg. The Bombers travelled downfield and were able to set Sergio up for a 50-yard field goal. Casttilo was GOOD to make it a 2-score game with 4 minutes left in the game. Winnipeg is lucky that Castillo is balling out, as he scored 40% of the team points this week (16 Points)
2. Cody Grace - Punter - CGY Stampeders | 6 P / 52.5 Avg / 47.7 Net Avg. / 3 In20Y / 4-50Y+
Cody Grace came back for the 2023 CFL season after signing a contract extension through 2024 with the Stamps this past off-season, and come back he did. He punted 6 times for 315 yards (52.5 Avg.) and 286 net yards (47.7 Net Avg.) Both of these statistics lead the CFL through Week 1 and are extremely impressive. Grace also had 3 of his punts (50%) land inside the 20-yard line and had a 63-yard punt roll out of bounds at the BC 5-yard line. Speaking of huge punts, he also had 4 punts travel over 50 yards. Cody Grace has shown us that he has an elite leg and Calgary fans are lucky to have him back for 2 more years.
3. Mario Alford - Returner - SSK Roughriders | 1 KOR / 62 KOR Yards / 9 PR / 3 PR Over 15Y
Mario Alford was probably the most complete returner through Week 1. He had 1 kickoff return that went for 62 yards to open up the 2nd half of the game, which is the longest kickoff return of the 2023 CFL Season thus far. It didn't end there though, as Alford also had 9 punt returns for 85 yards. His longest punt return was only 19 yards long, but he had 3 punt returns go for over 15 yards, which leads the league at this time. The only knock against Mario is that he fumbled the football on a punt return, but he also recovered it, so no harm was done.
David Côté - Kicker - MTL Alouettes | 4/4 FG / 48Y Long / 1/1 PAT / 1 Clutch Kick
Lewis Ward - Kicker - OTT REDBLACKS | 4/4 FG / 45Y Long
Adam Korsak - Punter - SSK Roughriders | 7 P / 50.7 Avg. / 43.7 Net Avg. / 2 In.10Y / 4-50Y+
Joseph Zema - Puner - MTL Alouettes | 8 P / 48.9 Avg. / 42.5 Net Avg. / 4 In.20Y / 5-50Y+ Peyton Logan - Returner - CGY Stampeders | 3 KOR / 31.7Y Avg. / 4 PR / 10.3Y Avg. Punt Coverage Team - MTL Alouettes | 7.3 Avg. Y Alwd. on 7 punts against OTT D.Dedmon Punt Coverage Team - CGY Stampeders | 4.8 Avg. Y Alwd. on 6 punts against BC T.Williams Coverage Unit - SSK Roughriders | 6 P / 8.2 Avg. Y Alwd. / 2 KO / 17 Avg. Y Alwd.
1. Rene Paredes - Kicker - CGY Stampeders | 3/5 FG / 39Y FG Miss / 45Y FG Miss
Rene Paredes didn't start his week the way he, and many Calgary fans, wanted, as he went 3/5 on field goal attempts. He missed his first attempt from 39 yards, and a second from 45 yards. While I was certainly concerned when Paredes missed his second field goal of the night, my worries evaporated when he came back in the third quarter to make a 22-yard chip shot. He then had a second attempt from 39 yards out, which he made easily. Rene's last, and longest, attempt, a field goal from 50 yards, was also GOOD, straight down the middle. While this is certainly a frustrating outing for Paredes and the Stamps, I believe this is simply a small bump in the road and fully expect Rene to return to form in the coming weeks.
2. Coverage Team - HAM Tiger-Cats | 5 P / 9.6Y Avg. / 2 KO / 30.5 Avg. / 8 Pen.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats coverage team was tough to watch this week. Though they faced an intimidating returner in Winnipeg's Janarion Grant, they performed the worst out through week 1. The team was slightly above average in terms of yards allowed on punt returns, as they averaged 9.6 yards compared to the league average of 9.1 yards. The team struggled more on kickoffs, as they allowed an average of 30.5 yards on 2 kickoffs, which is extremely concerning when you compare it to the league average of 24.7 yards. Where they were really disappointing, however, was in the penalty department. The Ti-Cats racked up a staggering 8 penalties, which is 4 more penalties than the team with the second-most penalties. All was not bad, however, as they did manage to block a punt and force a fumble on a kickoff return.
3. Seth Small - Kickoff Specialist - HAM Tiger-Cats | 4 KO / 62.5 Avg. / 0 In. 30Y / 2 Pen.
Seth Small was not an active participant in most of the Ti-Cats training camp as he was at home with his newborn. At the time I wasn't concerned about this missed time, but now? I think the reps would have served him well. On 4 kickoffs he averaged only 62.5 yards, roughly a yard below the league average. All 4 of his kickoffs were returned beyond the 30-yard line but the real issue was his 2 illegal kickoffs that sailed out of bounds without touching the field. Small will likely find his groove now that he is at the Ti-Cats facility and I doubt this will continue to be an issue for him.
Brett Lauther - Kicker - SSK Roughriders | 3/4 FG / 33Y FG Miss Sean Whyte - Kicker - BC Lions |1 PAT Miss Richie Leone - Punter/KO Specialist - OTT REDBLACKS | 6 P / 42.7 Avg. / 4 KO / 1 Pen.
Janarion Grant - KO Returner - WPG Blue Bombers | 1 KO Ret. Fumble returned for TD Clark Barnes - Punt Returner - CGY Stampeders | 1 PR / 1Y P Return Yard Punt Coverage Team - OTT REDBLACKS | 5 PR / 19.4 Avg. Y Alwd.
Thank you for taking the time to read my work.
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