Ontarians in the NFL: Mid-season Report
At the mid-way point of the NFL season, the list of active Ontarians and overall Canadians in the NFL has decreased a bit from our training camp preview, as injuries and releases have trimmed the list down. But, with 14 Canadians on NFL rosters, fans north of the border have their selection of players to watch for.
While players like Orlando Franklin, Shaun Suisham and Colin Cole receive regular playing time on their teams, the rise of young players like Tyrone Crawford and Luke Willson has been a fun development to watch as well. Entering the second half of the season, both players should continue to excel for their respective teams. But, before we enter the second half of the year, here is a look back at how Canadians have played thus far.
Players from Toronto and the GTA:
Orlando Franklin, Guard, Denver Broncos (Toronto, Ontario)
Sep 7, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos guard Orlando Franklin (74) before the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
After protecting quarterback Peyton Manning‘s blindside last season, the team decided to transition Franklin to left guard this year. Through eight weeks of the season, it is safe to say that the transition to left guard has gone over smoothly for the 27-year-old Toronto native, as the Broncos once again rank as one of the league’s very best offences.
On the field, most of the discussion surrounding the Broncos this year has been focused on Peyton Manning’s conquest of the NFL record book. But a big part of Manning’s on-field success this year can be attributed to his offensive line. Through eight games this year, Manning has been sacked only eight times.
As for Franklin individually, he has committed five penalties this season, but has been a key part of the Broncos’ running attack. Off the field, Franklin has published a pair of compelling articles on Yahoo Canada Sports, discussing how football led him down the right path while growing up in Toronto, and also in a separate article, what a work week in the NFL is like. Both articles are great reads for any sports fan.
Stefan Charles, Defensive Tackle, Buffalo Bills (Oshawa, Ontario)
Aug 16, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Stefan Charles (left) and linebacker Jacquies Smith (right rear) cause Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Landry Jones (3) to fumble during the third quarter at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 19-16. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
With Buffalo Bills standout defensive tackle Kyle Williams battling injuries this season, Charles has seen an increased role along the Bills defensive line. As a part of defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s ferocious front four rotation, Charles has played in eight games this season, compiling 10 total tackles, one sack and a fumble recovery.
Throughout his time on the field this year, the former Edmonton Eskimo has shown his ability to provide adequate gap control. Although most of his playing time is as a defensive substitute, the backup duo of Charles and Corbin Bryant has been a reliable rotation Schwartz can deploy in various situations.
Colin Cole, Defensive Tackle, Carolina Panthers (Toronto Ontario)
Through nine weeks of the season, Cole has appeared in all nine games for the Panthers, starting in seven of them. Cole has registered 20 total tackles (7 solo, 13 assisted) this season, but is yet to obtain a sack. With only 5.5 career sacks, I would not expect Cole to get too many of them, as his role is more focused on clogging gaps at the line of scrimmage.
But this season the Panthers have struggled on defence, allowing an average of 131.9 rushing yards per game so far. While all of that is not Cole’s fault, the team did start younger defensive tackle Kawann Short in his place this past weekend. Going forward, Cole should continue to see significant playing time along the Panthers defensive line.
Brent Urban, Defensive End, Baltimore Ravens (Mississauga, Ontario)
After tearing his ACL during training camp, Urban is rehabbing this season and should be back at off-season OTAs for the Ravens 2015 season.
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Players from the Rest of Ontario:
Shaun Suisham, Kicker, Pittsburgh Steelers (Wallaceburg, Ontario)
After signing a brand new four-year deal this past off-season, Suisham has continued his consistent play, converting on 14-of-15 field goal attempts this year. On top of his great accuracy, Suisham has hit six field goals from 40-49 yards out, as well as a one from 50 plus yard out.
With 65 points through eight games, Suisham is on pace to break his career high mark of 129 points that he set last season.
Tyrone Crawford, Defensive Tackle, Dallas Cowboys (Windsor, Ontario)
Sep 7, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive end Tyrone Crawford (98) hits San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) as he throws a pass in the third quarter at AT&T Stadium. San Francisco beat Dallas 28-17. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Crawford has enjoyed a fantastic season in Dallas. Through eight games, he has 19 tackles (10 solo, 9 assisted) and a whopping 17 hurries. Even though he is yet to register a sack, the 17 hurries indicates that Crawford has been very disruptive this season.
Don’t tell Crawford he is playing well though. “Cinderella Man” still considers himself to be mopping floors since he is yet to register his first career NFL sack. According to Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli tagged Crawford with the nickname “Cinderella Man” because until Crawford gets that elusive first sack, he is mopping floors just like Cinderella once did. But, we all know how the Cinderella story goes, so hopefully Crawford can continue his excellent level of play.
Luke Willson, Tight End, Seattle Seahawks (LaSalle, Ontario)
With tight end Zach Miller “out for a while” according to head coach Pete Carroll, Willson has became the Seahawks starting tight end this season.
Although Willson is yet to establish himself in the Seahawks’ offence, he did catch a 23-yard game-winning touchdown last weekend against the Panthers. The touchdown came with 47 seconds left in the game, putting the Seahawks up 13-9.
Going forward, Willson should continue to see his targets rise (14 in his last three games) as him and quarterback Russell Wilson continue to develop chemistry.
Austin Pasztor, Right Tackle, Jacksonville Jaguars (Langton, Ontario)
After missing the first four games of the season with a broken bone in his right hand, Pasztor returned to the Jaguars starting lineup in Week 5. Starting at right tackle, Pasztor has quickly re-established himself as one of the Jaguars’ better offensive linemen.
List of Active Canadians Playing in the NFL:
Jon Ryan, Punter, Seattle Seahawks (Regina, Saskatchewan)
Through seven games this season, Ryan is averaging 44.7 yards per punt and has pinned opponents inside their own 20-yard line 16 times.
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Guard, Kansas City Chiefs (Mont-Sainte-Hilaire, Quebec)
The former sixth-round pick is yet to appear in a game this season for the Chiefs.
John Urschel, Guard, Baltimore Ravens (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
Oct 12, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA;Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh (C) laughs with guard John Urschel (64) after scoring against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. The Ravens won 48-17. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Urschel has appeared in three games for the Ravens this season, starting in two of them. His reputation for being a world-class human being is also making its way around the league, too.
L.P. Ladouceur, Long Snapper, Dallas Cowboys (Montreal, Quebec)
Ladouceur remains the Cowboys’ long snapper and the team’s kicker Dan Bailey is 15-for-16 this season.
Andy Mulumba, Linebacker, Green Bay Packers (Born in Luputa, Congo, raised in Montreal, Quebec)
Unfortunately, Mulumba tore his ACL during Week 2 of the regular season. He now has his sights set on rehab and making a potential return to the team’s off-season OTAs next summer.
T.J. Jones, Wide Receiver, Detroit Lions (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
The Lions placed the rookie receiver on the team’s reserve/physically unable to perform list back in August.
What do you think? Are you impressed with these young Canadians so far? Let us know in the comments section below.