Hunt for the hardware

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:54 AM ET

It's that time of year again.

The Edmonton Eskimos are heading to the playoffs for the 34th consecutive year - and football writers are thinking of filling in ballots for the CFL player awards.

Here is one scribe's take on who should be the Edmonton Eskimo nominee in each category and who should eventually win the award during Grey Cup week.

OUTSTANDING PLAYER

Until the running game arrived this month, the entire offence had been based on Ricky Ray's throwing arm - and he has responded with a record-setting year.

During Saturday's win he became just the third Eskimo to throw for 5,000 yards in a season.

By the time the season is finished, he could have four new Eskimo records:

1. Ray needs to average 297 yards in the last two games to set the record for most yards in a year.

2. The 25-year-old needs just 26 pass attempts to break the mark for most attempts in a season.

3. He could also set a completion percentage record.

4. He already raised the bar for most completions in a year.

PREDICTED ESKIMO NOMINEE: Ray.

PREDICTED LEAGUE WINNER: Anthony Calvillo, Montreal: He's on pace to pass Ray for the league passing lead. Calvillo could throw for 6,000 yards and lead the league in TD strikes. Has thrown five fewer interceptions than Ray.

OUTSTANDING DEFENSIVE PLAYER

"Our defence is the heart and soul of this football team."

Those words came from head coach Danny Maciocia - and several key leaders form the heart of the defence.

The team leads the league in stuffing the run and sacks, making this a tough category to determine.

A.J. Gass and Singor Mobley are having outstanding seasons.

And so is Joe Montford.

The ex-Ticat has a team-high 10 sacks, just two off the league lead, and has added nearly 30 tackles. Plus, nobody in the league has forced more fumbles.

PREDICTED ESKIMO NOMINEE: Montford.

PREDICTED LEAGUE WINNER: Brent Johnson, B.C.: Second in the league in QB sacks, this defensive end would be leading the sack race by a country mile if he had a chance to play against the Lions' brutal offensive line.

OUTSTANDING OFFENSIVE LINEMAN

There should be an asterisk beside this category because the offensive line is playing much better with the addition of Dan Comiskey from Hamilton two weeks ago.

After Ray resembled a pinata against the Riders and Stampeders in September, the high-priced QB was sacked just once Saturday.

On one play, Comiskey knocked fearless Nate Davis - the Riders' all-star tackle - on his backside.

But with Comiskey only playing twice for the Eskimos so far, the award can't go to him.

Kevin Lefsrud has been the most consistent member of the hulking crew.

PREDICTED ESKIMO NOMINEE: Lefsrud.

PREDICTED LEAGUE WINNER: Jeremy O'Day, Saskatchewan: When he was injured for five weeks this summer, the Riders lost four straight games. When he returned, the team won five of its next six games. Yes, there were other factors, but he played a role.

OUTSTANDING ROOKIE

OUTSTANDING SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER

Veteran receiver Ed Hervey described Tony Tompkins the best.

"He's young and electrifying," he remarked.

At the tender age of 22, Tompkins has more special teams touchdowns (four) than anyone in the league and the biggest kickoff return average.

PREDICTED ESKIMO NOMINEE (BOTH CATEGORIES): Tompkins.

PREDICTED LEAGUE WINNER - ROOKIE: Damon Duval, Montreal: Kicker leads league in scoring.

PREDICTED LEAGUE WINNER - SPECIAL TEAMS: Corey Holmes, Saskatchewan: Slight edge in punt returns over Tompkins.

OUTSTANDING CANADIAN

Tied for the team lead in pass knockdowns, Kelly Wiltshire ranks high in tackles in the secondary, is second in interceptions and caused a huge fumble in Toronto last week.

PREDICTED ESKIMO NOMINEE: Wiltshire.

PREDICTED LEAGUE WINNER: Jason Clermont, B.C.: Almost 1,000 yards for the clutch, and tough receiver.


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