Monday, 16 January 2012

Why S.J. Green is the Vincent Van Gogh of the CFL

During the 2011 season, rightfully so, a lot of attention was bestowed on all-world receiver Jamel Richardson and his statistical accomplishments. However, everyone forgets about his tag-team partner in S.J. Green who was phenomenal throughout the season.

By all accounts, if Green was on any other CFL team, his achievements would have been heaped with high praise. Finishing sixth overall in league receiving with 87 receptions, 1,147 yards, and four touchdowns, these numbers were mind boggling considering what Richardson did (111 receptions, 1,777 yards, 11 touchdowns).

But quietly the man anointed as “Beast” has continued to wreck havoc on opposing defenses. To take a look back at his career, he patiently bided his time, as Alouettes great Ben Cahoon was administering his punishment on opposing defensive backs.

In-fact, not many fans, or media members knew who Green was. Personally speaking, the first time I encountered Green was in the team’s locker room media session during the ’08 Grey Cup. He was wearing his alma mater’s University of South Florida varsity jacket. Given how I am a nerd of football knowledge, I said to him, tough loss to Rutgers, in reference to USF losing a tough home game to the Scarlet Knights. Just like any proud alum, he had a disappointed look on his face. I said to myself this won’t be the first or last time I converse with him.

In his first three years with the Alouettes, he had a mere 26 receptions. Most of the time, players who have minimal impact are usually jettisoned away. However, Green continued on his pursuit for team greatness, as each practice went by, his confidence grew. I asked Richardson what his first impression was of Green, he said, “I knew he had big play potential. I saw him as a threat (with a laugh), so I had to bring my “A” game (laughing even harder.)

In 2009, he saw more playing time, and everyone knew he could become a star in the league. Shortly after the ’09 Grey Cup campaign, his offseason tryout with the NFL’s New York Jets didn’t workout for him which was the Alouettes gain.

In 2010, Green was given a real opportunity to have a significant role, and he has never looked back. Initially, he was known for his highlight reel grab he had against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in week one of that season. To date, it is arguably one of the best defying receptions in CFL history. If ESPN’s Sports Science did a physics study on that catch, I am sure everyone would come away amazed. From that moment, a legacy was born.

Shortly thereafter, in an early road game against the B.C. Lions in Vancouver where they hadn’t won since former Prime Minister, Jean Chretien was in power, the offense was held in check for most of the night. But it was Green who was the piston to jumpstart the offense, as he had eight catches for 107 yards, and added another highlight defying grab that put the team in scoring position to finally win in Canada's most beautiful city.

Right then, fans started to take notice of the player wearing the number 19 jersey.
He was an integral part of the team’s second consecutive Grey Cup win. Once Cahoon retired during the offseason, a lot of people speculated who would be able to replace the production and key catches from the retired star.

Heading into 2011 training camp, Coach Marc Trestman said with great confidence that he believed in Green’s ability to be the guy to take over for Cahoon’s role. The difference he brought to that position was his enormous size.

In fact, in the post-Cahoon era, to show how valuable Green was to the Alouettes offense, I took a small sample size of statistical information I gathered during a three-week stretch. To display his effectiveness, on second down situations, he was targeted 15 times, and he converted nine times for a 60 percent conversion rate, the highest amongst his cohorts at the receiver position.

Anthony Calvillo knows how valuable Green is to the offense. Once defenses start rolling their coverage to Richardson, it is Green who is next in line to make a play, and he has done that throughout his time with the team.

Furthermore, comparing where Green is to Cahoon in the Trestman offense, if you consider it’s the second year where a football player is fully comfortable in a team concept. Cahoon, who put up great numbers in the first season with Trestman, in his second year, totaled 89 receptions, 1,031 yards, and two touchdowns. But Green, as the starter, in his second year in the system as previously mentioned had 87 receptions, 1,147 yards, and four touchdowns. Even though he had two less catches, his production value was higher than Cahoon’s, considering he was the second, or even the third option in the passing routes.

Many pundits expect his third year in the system is where we will see him become more of a force considering he will be comfortable in his role once assumed by Cahoon.

Green has a come a long way from an unknown locker room gem to now being the Van Gogh where only his teammates can truly appreciate his artwork. With him locked up for two more years, Alouettes fans will get to enjoy more of his mastery paintings of the highlights catches, potentially vying for another Grey Cup championship, and on Twitter @SJ19_19SJ. Now it’s time for the league to take notice of this artist.

You can follow me on Twitter @MoeKhan19

I can be heard on The Midnight Snack every Friday morning from midnight-2am, and Gamepoints Radio, every Tuesday night, and various other shows all on TSN Radio 990.

Photo credit: Larry Wong, Postmedia News,

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