CFL Special Teams Standouts and Slip-ups; A Week 3 Review
In Week 3 of the CFL Season, we were treated to some really good special teams play. From impressive returners to consistent kickers and dominant punters, the special team's units played a crucial role in shaping the outcomes of games. While some players excelled and injected energy into their teams, others faced challenges and raised concerns. 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. CJ Sims - Returner - EDM Elks | 6 KOR / 30.2Y Avg. / 3 PR / 34.7Y Avg.
It seems that the Edmonton Elks have finally found "The Guy" they were looking for after struggling to maintain consistency in the return game. In his CFL debut against the Argonauts this week, he impressively returned a total of 6 kickoffs, averaging 30.2 yards per attempt. His longest kickoff return was 72 yards. Moreover, Sims also handled all punt return duties and returned 3 punts for an average of 34.7 yards per return. CJ Sims was a bright spot in an otherwise dark and gloomy game for the Elks. Now, I'm excited to see whether his outstanding performance was a testament to his excellent return abilities or if it was due to the weak Toronto Coverage Team (which we will talk about later). Either way, CJ Sims has injected the much-needed energy into the Elks as they approach Week 4
2. Rene Paredes - Kicker - CGY Stampeders | 4/4 FG / 53Y Long / 2/2 PAT / 1 Clutch Kick
Rene Paredes once again demonstrated why he is regarded as one of the greatest kickers of all time with another flawless performance. In his Week 3 game, he went a perfect 4/4 on field goals and 2/2 on extra points. While he successfully converted his first two field goals from 46 yards and 47 yards, his most remarkable kick occurred in the fourth quarter. With the Stampeders' offence setting him up for a 53-yard field goal to tie the game, Paredes faced the challenge of matching his career-long distance. With the wind at his back, and the game resting on his shoulders, Paredes nailed the kick straight through the uprights, appearing as if it would have been good from 60 yards! The game proceeded to overtime, where Paredes converted a field goal from 23 yards, granting the Stamps a 26-23 lead. Unfortunately, the Saskatchewan Roughriders proved to be too formidable for Calgary, winning the game 29-26, in double overtime, on a field goal by Brett Lauther (who we will discuss shortly). Paredes has now completed a streak of 8 consecutive field goals and remains the sole kicker to have attempted and successfully made two field goals beyond 50 yards. Oh, and he also kicked his 500th field goal.
3. Cody Grace- Punter - CGY Stampeders | 7 P / 50.9 Avg. / 43 Net Avg. / 4 In20Y / 4 >50Y
Cody Grace consistently demonstrates why he stands among the CFL's elite punters. In Week 4, he executed 7 punts with remarkable distance, averaging over 50 yards per punt. Among those 7 punts, an impressive 4 surpassed the 50-yard mark, while his longest punt reached 67 yards downfield. Notably, Grace effectively controlled his kicks to prevent outpacing his coverage, resulting in a great net average of 43 yards per punt. Additionally, his prowess enabled 4 punts to land inside the 20-yard line, with 1 of them strategically downed inside the 10-yard line. Grace's exceptional performance solidifies his status as one-half of the CFL's premier special teams duo, positioning him as a strong contender for the title of the league's best punter if he maintains this impressive pace amidst tough competition.
Sean Whyte - Kicker - BC Lions | 3/3 FG / 43Y Long / 3/3 PAT
Marc Liegghio - Kicker - HAM TigerCats | 4/4 FG / 44Y Long
Boris Bede - Kicker - TOR Argonauts | 2/2 FG / 42Y Long / 4/4 PAT / 6 KO / 4 In30Y
Adam Korsak - Punter - SSK Roughriders | 6 P / 59.2 Avg / 44.2 Net Avg. / 5 > 50Y / 90Y Long
Janarion Grant - Returner - WPG Bombers | 3KOR / 25.7 Avg. / 40Y Long / 5 PR / 13.4 Avg.
Chandler Worthy - Returner - MTL Alouettes | 5 PR / 77Y PR Touchdown
David Ungerer III - Special Teamer - TOR Argonauts | 1 Punt Block
1. Coverage Team - TOR Argonauts | 3 PR / 104 Yds. Allwd. / 6 KOR / 181 Yds. Allwd. / 3 Pen
To say the Toronto Argonauts' coverage team struggled this past week is an understatement. Heading into the game, I expected them to clean things up, but instead, I watched in horror as the wheels fell off the bus completely when they faced a previously unknown foe, Edmonton Elks returner CJ Sims. On 6 kickoff returns, the team allowed 181 yards, averaging 30.2 yards per return. In terms of analysis, they struggled even more on punt returns, allowing over 34 yards per attempt (3 punt returns). Additionally, they accrued 3 special teams penalties that didn't help their team's field position. While I am hopeful that CJ Sims is just a generational talent at the returner position and will put up these kinds of numbers against all teams, it is a bit concerning that Toronto's coverage team hasn't held up in the first 2 games.
2. Brett Lauther - Kicker - SSK Roughriders | 3/4 FG / Miss from / 1/2 PAT
Brett Lauther is currently going through a rough stretch in his performance. In the latest game, he went 3/4 on field goal attempts, but his lone miss came from beyond 50 yards. This contributed to his 0/2 success rate on these long-range kicks. Moreover, Lauther missed his first PAT of the season, his second miss under 40 yards, adding to a three-week streak of not being 100% on his kicks. Despite his struggles, Lauther did display moments of resilience and composure making two crucial field goals, including a game-tying 38-yarder in overtime and a game-winning 20-yard kick. While I am not calling for Lauther to ride the pine, if I were part of the Saskatchewan front office, I would start exploring potential alternatives among free agents or players on practice squads to ensure the team's kicking game remains competitive.
Thank you for taking the time to read my work.
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