CFL Team of the Week – Week 1

After two weeks of preseason football where we saw some players unfamiliar with the CFL make the Team of the Week, week one offered a chance for the stars to come out. They did just that, and it was fun to see the league’s elite players come out to play. We have a lot of BC Lions and Calgary Stampeders representation this week, with seven of the 12 players listed coming from one of those teams, but still, players on other squads dropped some big-time numbers in week one.

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Each week, 13th Man Sports will nominate 12 players to be named to the CFL Team of the Week. It will feature five players on offence; one quarterback, one running back, two receivers, and one offensive line, decided by a whole team, not individual players. Five more players come on defence, with two defensive linemen, one linebacker, and two defensive backs. The final two spots belong to special teams players, with one kicker and one kick/punt returner being featured each week.

Quarterback

Nathan Rourke (BC Lions)

Nathan Rourke, BC Lions – The Canadian Press

There were other quarterbacks around the league threatening for this spot, including both Cody Fajardo and Jeremiah Masoli, but Nathan Rourke’s near-perfect game against the Edmonton Elks makes him the easy choice. Rourke put on a show to silence his doubters, completing 26 of his 29 passes for 282 yards, three touchdowns, and most importantly, no interceptions. He didn’t hit 300 yards passing, but he more than made up the difference on the ground, rushing for 78 yards and two touchdowns. To put it simply, Rourke was spectacular.

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Running Back

James Butler (BC Lions)

James Butler, BC Lions – DARRYL DYCK / THE CANADIAN PRESS

There’s going to be a little bit of a BC Lions trend on the Team of the Week for week one. James Butler is the clearcut choice for the running back spot, and frankly, he had it all but locked up early in the second quarter. Butler rushed for 108 yards on just 17 carries and two touchdowns, and through the air, he caught six passes for 33 yards, scoring two more touchdowns. A four-touchdown night powered the Lions to victory, and if Bulter can keep running like this, the Lions will be a scary team to go up against.

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Receivers

Richie Sindani (Calgary Stampeders)

Choosing to put Richie Sindani on this list is something some people might not agree with, especially when it means the likes of Greg Ellingson, Lucky Whitehead, and Geno Lewis are left off the team. That being said, Sindani absolutely deserves to be recognized for his efforts in week one. Time after time, when either Bo Levi Mitchell or Jake Maier was in trouble, Sindani came open and came down with the ball. Sindani hauled in seven receptions for 101 yards, but didn’t score a touchdown. Already, the Canadian receiver is almost halfway to his total receiving yards in 2021, so he’s already on pace for a career year.

Jaelon Acklin (Ottawa Redblacks)

Jaelon Acklin, Ottawa Redblacks

Once again, Jaelon Acklin’s inclusion might be questioned by some, and to a certain extent, that’s fine. He did drop a deep ball early in the game that surely would have been a touchdown, and he didn’t get down late in the first half (the blame really isn’t at his feet for that), but Acklin was still excellent for the Redblacks in Winnipeg. The former Tiger-Cat brought in six passes, and had a league-high 143 receiving yards in week one. For as good as Acklin was, there’s still room to be better, but you can expect to see his name come up on the Team of the Week at least a few times this season.

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Offensive Line (By Team)

BC Lions

If you were to place bets on who would be the best offensive line in the league in week one, you probably wouldn’t have been putting your money on the BC Lions. There have been question marks surrounding the Lions’ offensive line all offseason, but when they took the field in week one, they dominated the Elks. They kept Rourke on his feet, allowing no sacks all night, and in the ground game, they blocked admirably for Butler. While the big plays from the skill position players stole the headlines, the Lions’ offensive line was perhaps the biggest story in their week one victory.

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Defensive Line

Sione Teuhema (BC Lions)

The Lions’ dominance wasn’t limited to the offensive side of the football. Rookie defensive lineman Sione Teuhema, who has previous experience with the Carolina Panthers in the NFL, sacked Nick Arbuckle three times over the course of the game. He tacked on another tackle during the contest, but it’s hard to deny that Teuhema had his way with the Elks’ offensive line.

Mike Rose (Calgary Stampeders)

Mike Rose, Calgary Stampeders – Larry MacDougal / CFL.ca

Statistically, Mike Rose doesn’t exactly pop off the page at you, but he was everywhere on Thursday night against the Montreal Alouettes. You simply can’t ignore a defensive lineman with an interception, even though it came off a tipped ball. That interception was impressive, as Rose knocked the ball down at the line of scrimmage first, and stuck with the play to come up with a diving grab to secure an interception. He added a tackle on both defence and special teams, and while he didn’t sack Vernon Adams Jr. on the night, he made his life difficult with pressure all night long.

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Linebacker

Jameer Thurman (Calgary Stampeders)

Jameer Thurman, Calgary Stampeders – Johany Jutras / CFL.ca

The Stampeders’ front seven made life hard for the Alouettes, and Jameer Thurman was really good once again. In the win, Thurman clinched his 200th career tackle in the CFL, but that flew under the radar with his interception. Thurman anchored the Stampeders’ linebacker corps on Thursday night, and helped hold the Alouettes offence back long enough for Jake Maier to come in and put the Stamps in a position to win the game.

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Defensive Backs

Adarius Pickett (Montreal Alouettes)

Adarius Pickett is only in his second CFL season, but on Thursday night, it was impossible not to notice his presence in the Montreal Alouettes’ defensive backfield. Pickett was a busy man, finishing the game with seven tackles of defence, one tackle on special teams, and an interception. Although it doesn’t do anything to earn him this spot, it is worth noting that Pickett had a kick and a punt return, with the punt return going for 33 yards. There have been concerns about the Alouettes’ secondary ahead of the season, but no one really expected to see this out of Pickett this season.

T.J. Lee (BC Lions)

T.J. Lee, BC Lions – Paul Yates / BC Lions

Oh look, another member of the BC Lions makes the list. You realistically could have put either Garry Peters or Louchiez Purifoy in thise spot and it would have made sense, but T.J. Lee was too good to be denied on Saturday night. Lee had two interceptions on the night, one of them coming against Nick Arbuckle, and one coming against rookie Canadian quarterback Tre Ford. Lee also had two tackles on the night.

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Kicker/Punter

Brett Lauther (Saskatchewan Roughriders)

Brett Lauther didn’t hit a late field goal like Marc Leigghio or Rene Paredes, but his performance was critical to the Riders in their win. The Roughriders beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats by 17 points, and Lauther hit five field goals, scoring 15 points on the night. Had he missed a few of those, this game could have been much closer, and thus, potentially resulted in a Hamilton win. Lauther’s longest field goal was 48 yards.

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Kick/Punt Returner

Tyson Philpot (Montreal Alouettes)

The kick/punt returner position wasn’t an easy one to decide this week, as no one really did too much of anything to earn the spot. As such, attention turned to rookie receiver Tyson Philpot as he took over returner duties with Mario Alford being hurt. Philpot had two kickoff returns for 63 yards, and five punt returns for 38 yards. Not a bad performance for a player in his first-ever CFL game, playing in his old college stomping grounds.


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