2024 CFL Special Teams Power Rankings - A Week 5 Review

What a great week in the CFL! From record-breaking field goals to thrilling returns, Week 5 had it all. Whether it was Sergio Castillo scoring 19 of Winnipeg’s 25 points, Janarion Grant recording the first punt return touchdown of 2024, or Mustafa Johnson blocking a crucial PAT, special teams were pivotal in every game. Let’s discuss how the CFL Special Teams units performed in this week’s review;

Kickers

Kicker of the Week - Sergio Castillo (WPG)

Kickers continue to perform at an elite rate through 5 weeks of play. This week, they completed 25 of their 27 field goal attempts, marking the third week with a completion rate of 93%. For the second week in a row, there were 3 field goals over 50 yards, the most seen in a given week. Kickers were also 16/17 (94%) on PATs this week. Here are the CFL Week 5 Kicker Power Rankings;

Standouts;

  1. Sean Whyte (BC) went 3/3 on field goals and 5/5 on PATs this week. With these 3 field goals, Whyte has set a new record for the BC Lions with 32 consecutive field goals made. He has tied the 3rd longest streak in CFL history and could enter 2nd place (39 consecutive field goals) by month’s end. If Whyte makes another 38 field goals in a row, he will break the CFL record for consecutive field goals set by Lewis Ward in 2019.
  2. Sergio Castillo (WPG) went 6/6 on field goals this week, including 2 field goals from 53 yards out. Along with his lone PAT, he scored 19 of Winnipeg’s 25 points in their win against Ottawa. If Castillo was not forced to use chipped balls in Week 1, he would be a perfect 13/13 on the season.
  3. José Carlos Maltos (MTL) was called into action after David Côté was injured during warmups. He made all 3 of his field goal attempts, including a long of 30 yards, bringing his current streak to 9 field goals in a row including his 2023 attempts. He also made his lone PAT attempt. With Côté placed on the 6-game injured list, Maltos should get his first real chance at being a starting kicker in the CFL. The Alouettes have also signed Canadian kicker Michael Domagala to their practice squad in case of another emergency.

Slip-ups;

  1. Lirim Hajrullahu (TOR) missed a 47-yard field goal wide-left this week. The snap and hold were both clean, but the ball missed by about a foot. This marks his third miss of the season and ends his streak of 8 field goals made in a row.

Punters

Punter of the Week - Nik Constantinou (HAM)

Punters punted the ball a season-low 39 times this week, averaging 49.1 yards and 35.9 net yards per attempt. This marks the third consecutive week where punters have averaged more than 49 yards per punt. There were 7 punts (18%) that remained inside the 20-yard line, a 7% increase from Week 4 but still lower than the season average of 22%. Punters had no trouble launching balls downfield this week, as 17 punts (44%) travelled further than 50 yards, with a long of 71 yards. There was 1 rouge, the lowest amount in a given week. There were no punts under 30 yards and no penalties handed out. Here are the CFL Week 5 Punter Power Rankings;

Standouts;

  1. John Haggerty (TOR) punted 3 times, averaging 48.3 yards and 33.7 net yards per punt. He had 1 punt remain inside the 20-yard line, bringing his total to a league-leading 8 on the year. During a punt return, Haggerty was seen holding his right ankle, indicating he might have been injured on the play. He was given a day off but returned to practice after that and seems to be good to go for Week 6.
  2. Nik Constantinou (HAM) gets more impressive every time he steps onto the field. This week he punted 6 times for an average of 56.5 yards and 39.7 net yards, both season highs for Nik. His beautiful 71-yard punt that rolled out of bounds at the 7-yard line was the longest of his career.

Kickoff Specialists

Kickoff Specialist of the Week - Rene Paredes (CGY)

Kickoff specialists had one of their best weeks of the 2024 season, kicking off 31 times for a season-high average of 69 yards per attempt. There were 19 kickoffs (60%) that travelled more than 70 yards, a 34% increase from last week. Specialists kept 19 kickoffs (29%) inside the opponent’s 30-yard line, which is in line with the season average. There were no rouges or penalties awarded. Here are the CFL Week 5 Kickoff Specialist Power Rankings;

Standouts;

  1. Lirim Hajrullahu (TOR) kicked off 4 times for a total of 289 yards, including a long of 77 yards. This represents a season-high average of 72.3 yards per kickoff for Lirim. He had 3 kickoffs (75%) remain inside the 30-yard line, bringing his total to 6 on the year.
  2. Stefan Flintoft (BC) recorded 6 kickoffs for an average of 71 yards per attempt, a season-high for Flintoft, who has improved significantly since the 2023 season. He had 2 of his kickoffs (33%) remain inside the 30-yard line and has been one of the most effective kickoff specialists in 2024.
  3. Rene Paredes (CGY) kicked off 4 times, averaging 68.8 yards per attempt, another season-high. He had 3 kickoffs (75%) travel further than 70 yards and was finally able to pin his opponents deep, with 3 of his kickoffs remaining inside the 30-yard line.

Slip-ups;

  1. Richie Leone (OTT) kicked off 3 times for an average of 60.7 yards per attempt, the lowest he’s recorded in any week. None of his kickoffs travelled further than 70 yards, and each one was returned past the 30-yard line.

Long Snappers

Long Snapper of the Week - Mike Benson (WPG)

There were 33 long snaps showcased in the CFL highlights this week, including 28 field goal snaps and 5 punt snaps. This marks the third consecutive week where long snappers had less than 90% of their snaps recorded as strikes, with a strike percentage of 88%. There were 4 snaps recorded as balls, the second most seen in a given week. There was 1 tackle recorded by a long snapper, and a single PAT was blocked. Here are the CFL Week 5 Long Snapper Power Rankings;

Standouts;

  1. Mike Benson (WPG) had a perfect performance this week, with all 6 of his field goal snaps recorded as strikes. He has proven to be an extremely reliable snapper throughout the 2024 season and claims the top spot in the Power Rankings.
  2. Adam Guillemette (TOR) had all 4 of his field goal snaps and his long punt snap recorded as strikes this week. He remains one of just two long snappers who have yet to snap an inaccurate ball.
  3. Alexandre Gagné (MTL) was forced to long snap for the first time in his professional career after Louis-Philip Bourassa was injured during warmups. He performed well, with 2 of his 3 field goal snaps recorded as strikes. While his punt snaps were not recorded in the highlight package and therefore do not count in these rankings, I reviewed them and recorded all 3 as strikes. Bourassa is a game-time decision for Week 6, so we may see Gagné handle long snapping duties once again.

Slip-ups;

  1. Aaron Crawford (CGY) was perfect on all 3 of his field goal snaps; however, his PAT unit gave up a block this week. The blitzing defender got past the guard to the right of Crawford. While it was not directly his fault, it must be recorded as a blocked kick.
  2. Jorgen Hus (SSK) had his worst week of the 2024 season, with 2 of his 4 field goal snaps recorded as balls. Fortunately, holder Adam Korsak was able to handle both snaps to ensure the field goals were kicked.

Kickoff Returners

Kickoff Returner of the Week - Davon Harris (HAM)

Kickoff returners returned 31 kickoffs this week, averaging 22.6 yards per return, slightly higher than the season average of 22.1 yards. There were a season-high 6 returns (19%) that travelled more than 30 yards, including a long of 61 yards. There were no touchdowns or fumbles this week. Here are the CFL Week 5 Kickoff Returner Power Rankings;

Standouts;

  1. Davon “Smoke” Harris (HAM) performed extremely well in his CFL debut, returning 6 kickoffs for a total of 150 yards, averaging 25 yards per return. He had 2 returns travel further than 30 yards, including a 61-yard return, the longest of Week 5.
  2. Peyton Logan (CGY) was given kickoff return responsibilities this week since Erik Brooks hasn’t been able to produce any big plays. In his 4 returns, Logan averaged 26.3 yards and had a long of 31 yards. Logan is expected to handle returns moving forward.

Slip-ups;

  1. Chris Smith (WPG) struggled this week, averaging just 19.3 yards per return across 3 attempts.
  2. James Letcher Jr. (MTL) had an even worse week, averaging only 14.5 yards per return across his 4 attempts.

Punt Returners

Punt Returner of the Week - Janarion Grant (TOR)

There were 36 punt returns in Week 5, with punt returners averaging a season-high 13.3 yards per attempt. There were 9 returns (25%) that travelled further than 15 yards, including an 84-yard punt return touchdown. Here are the CFL Week 5 Punt Returner Power Rankings;

Standouts;

  1. Janarion Grant (TOR) scored the first punt return touchdown of 2024 this week, an impressive 84-yard return. Overall, he returned 6 punts for a total of 131 yards and had 2 returns travel further than 15 yards.
  2. Erik Brooks (CGY) returned 2 punts, averaging 19 yards per return. His longest return of the night was 33 yards, his first punt return over 15 yards since Week 1.
  3. Terry Williams (BC) capitalized on the Hamilton coverage team’s mistakes, racking up 68 yards on 4 punt returns. He had 2 punt returns go for 25 yards.

Slip-ups;

  1. Davon “Smoke” Harris (HAM) did not fare as well in the punt return game. He had 4 returns for a total of just 31 yards, an average of 7.8 yards per return. His longest return of the night was 13 yards.

Missed Field Goal Returners

Missed Field Goal Returner of the Week - Mario Alford (SSK)

Here are the CFL Week 5 Missed Field Goal Returner Power Rankings;

Standouts;

  1. Mario Alford (SSK) was the only returner to attempt a missed field goal return this week. He fielded the ball 10 yards deep in his own end zone before returning it 33 yards to the 23-yard line. Alford has yet to allow a rouge on either of the missed field goals he has returned.

Coverage Teams

Coverage Team of the Week - Ottawa REDBLACKs

Coverage teams struggled to contain punt returners in Week 5, allowing a season-high 13.3 yards per return across 36 attempts, compared to the season average of 11.1 yards allowed. However, they performed better on kickoffs, allowing an average of 22.6 yards over 31 returns, close to the season average of 22.3 yards allowed. There were 13 penalties handed out for a total of 127 yards. No turnovers were recorded, but there was a blocked PAT. Here are the CFL Week 5 Coverage Team Power Rankings;

Standouts;

  1. The Ottawa REDBLACKs allowed an average of 9 yards across 5 punt returns and just 19.3 yards across 3 kickoff returns. For the first time all season, the REDBLACKs did not receive any penalties.
  2. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers continue to improve, allowing an average of 8.2 yards over 6 punt returns and an average of 21 yards across 3 kickoff returns. They also received no penalties for the first time all season.

Slip-ups;

  1. The Saskatchewan Roughriders could not contain Janarion Grant, allowing an average of over 22 yards across 6 punt returns and 27.3 yards across 4 kickoff returns. This was their worst performance of 2024, compounded by 3 penalties for a total of 35 yards.
  2. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have not improved under their new special teams coordinator, Dennis McKnight. They allowed an average of 17 yards across 4 punt returns and 23 yards across 3 kickoff returns. They also received 4 penalties for a total of 34 yards, their highest in 2024.

Individual Special Teams Tackles

Special Teams Players of the Week - M. Johnson & K. Ento (MTL)

There were a total of 59 special teams tackles recorded this week, close to the season average of 62. Special teams players received 9 penalties for a total of 98 yards, the fewest in the 2024 season. Here are the CFL Week 5 Special Teams Tackles Power Rankings;

Standouts;

  1. Mustafa Johnson & Kabion Ento (MTL) teamed up to score the first defensive PAT of the 2024 season. Johnson crashed down on the Stampeder line and batted down a PAT, which Ento recovered and returned 77 yards, giving Montreal crucial points in their comeback victory over Calgary.
  2. Kaylyn St-Cyr (CGY), a rookie out of Montreal, made 3 special teams tackles in his CFL debut.
  3. Bailey Feltmate (WPG) also recorded 3 special teams tackles this week, bringing his total to 6 on the year.

Slip-ups;

  1. Robert Preister (TOR) received 2 penalties for a total of 20 yards. One was for an illegal hold on a return, and the other was for objectionable conduct during a play.
  2. Carthell Flowers-Lloyd (HAM) played his first game of 2024 after starting the season with an injury. The 2023 special teams tackle leader failed to record a tackle this week and received an objectionable conduct penalty.

Thank you for taking the time to read my work. Please let me know what you think down below! I love talking about special teams.

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great work!!! good stuff!!!

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One metric I look at for kickoff returners is whether they make the 40 yard line or not. It is all about the field position that the returner gives his offence.

After a field goal, teams have the option of receiving a kickoff or taking possession at the 40 yard line. When given the choice after a field goal, ‘receive a kickoff’ has been selected just once this season. That is why I use the 40 yard line as the benchmark for returners.

Davon ‘Smoke’ Harris reached the 40 yard line just once on 6 returns last week. Chris Smith reached the 40 yard twice last week and he was the only returner to do so more than once.

I would expect a returner to have a higher average when the kickoff is fielded closer to the goal line. Smith was returning kickoffs from Richie Leone, your lone slip-up for kickoff specialists, so I would expect his average to be lower.

Ultimately, it is the end result (field position) that matters most.

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Thank you for the detailed response. You’re 100% right.

I will add it to the running list of “Stats I should’ve tracked this year” and will make sure to implement it in my spreadsheet next year. I should also add net kickoff yards and average starting position for opponents for kickoff specialists.

In the meantime, I will do my best to note where kickoff returners end their returns and keep that in mind when evaluating them.

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