Mid-season heroes

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:56 AM ET

They may be teetering on a two-game losing streak but no one should lose sight of the fact that Winnipeg has far exceeded expectations in the first half of the 2006 CFL season.

In fact, if the Rogers people were to give out midway most outstanding player awards, the Blue Bombers would likely be well-represented at that halfway tuxedo party.

Start with Barrin Simpson. The middle linebacker, who signed as a free agent last winter, has done even more than what the Bombers had expected, anchoring the most improved defence on the circuit -- a major reason why Winnipeg sports a 5-4 record and still sits in second spot in the CFL East. Simpson has been nothing short of brilliant. On the field, he leads the league in defensive tackles with 53 and that's 10 more than his replacement in B.C., Javy Glatt, who has played one more game. And his motor never stops running. More importantly, the Minister of Defence has been that much-needed leader in the locker-room, where more games are won and lost than on the field.

LEADERSHIP INTANGIBLES

If the awards ceremony were held today, Simpson would certainly get the nod as the Eastern rep and would be up against either Lion safety Barron Miles or B.C. defensive end Brent Johnson. Miles leads the CFL in interceptions (seven) while Johnson leads in quarterback sacks (11). But based on those leadership intangibles, we would give it to Simpson.

Simpson would have Bombers company on that podium. Veteran slotback Milt Stegall would certainly be voted in as the Most Outstanding Player, East. And he would be up against former teammate Geroy Simon. The B.C. slotback leads the CFL in receiving with 59 catches for 1,025 yards and nine touchdowns. Although the injured Stegall is stuck at 50 receptions for 856 yards and four TDs, Simon has played three more games than Stegall has. If the CFL gave the award to truly the most outstanding player, it would be Stegall. Who else scored a 100-yard touchdown on the last play of the game to pull out a win? But since it is more of an MVP honour, Simon would get the nod as quarterback Kevin Glenn is Winnipeg's MVP.

The Bombers would even rate consideration in other categories. There would be several candidates for top Canadian but our vote goes to defensive lineman Doug Brown. Montreal's Ben Cahoon would likely win the East, then get beaten out by B.C.'s Brent Johnson.

This may surprise you but Albert Johnson III has led the CFL in punt returns most of the first half while Graeme Bell has often led in special teams tackles. Yet, Montreal kicker Damon Duval would likely get the Eastern vote as top special teams player, only to lose to Calgary placekicker Sandro De Angelis.

Montreal usually gets the top offensive lineman award by divine right but Winnipeg centre Obby Khan could draw some votes. Yet, someone in Calgary would take this one. Unless linebacker Ike Charlton fits the criteria for top rookie, the Winnipeg rep would be receiver Arjei Franklin. The winner, however, would be found elsewhere, depending on whatever definition is issued this year.

But don't get us wrong here. The Bombers still have work to do and that whip will start cracking this morning. But success does reap rewards and if the Bombers can re-discover that first-half success, it should also reap awards. And bonuses.


Videos

Photos