As we reach the midway point of the 2020 NFL season, all eyes north of the border have been on the wave of Canadian talent making a name for themselves.
Leading the way is rookie Chase Claypool, who has wasted no time making the most of the opportunity to be front and centre in the Pittsburgh Steelers offence.
The Abbotsford, B.C., native appears to be ushering in a flurry of Canadians making their way through the NCAA.
Leading the way is Alabama receiver John Metchie III as he follows Claypool’s lead as one of the top Canadian players in Division I football. The Brampton, Ont., native has been playing an increased role with the Crimson Tide this season and has 517 yards along three touchdowns in six games so far.
Along with Metchie, Brooks, Alta., native Ajou Ajou has chipped in as a freshman with Clemson, the top-ranked team in Division I, catching two receptions for 41 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Sherwood Park, Alta., native Chuba Hubbard and Calgary’s Amen Ogbongbemiga continue to be key contributors for Oklahoma State.
These players will look to join fellow countrymen in the NFL one day as the crop of Canadian talent looks to have a bright future.
As we wait for the next wave of Canadian talent to arrive in the NFL, we take a look at which Canucks continue to push forward in the pros.
Chase Claypool, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
7 GP | 23 REC | 375 YARDS | 5 TD | 2 RUSH TD
Going into the season, Claypool appeared to have his work cut out to stand out from a 2020 NFL Draft class that had a lot of hype, especially at the receiver position.
Thirteen wide receivers were selected in the first two rounds last spring, including five in the first round – the most since 2015. Pittsburgh decided to wait until the second round to draft Claypool at 49th overall, and the impact he’s had through the team’s seven games has been more than worth it.
Claypool has seven total touchdowns, including a historic performance against the Philadelphia Eagles in which he became the first Canadian-born player to score four touchdowns in an NFL game.
Right now, Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow are leading the odds for the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year award, but Claypool has put his name in the non-quarterback conversation along with Justin Jefferson and Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
Considering all of those players were first-round picks, it’s impressive for Claypool to be in the mix, especially after he totalled just nine targets in his first three games before seeing 11 against Philadelphia and 25 in his last four games.
N’Keal Harry, WR, New England Patriots
6 GP | 19 REC | 172 YARDS | 1 TD
Since starting the season with a respectable 166 yards in his first four games, Harry’s production took a serious dip as the Patriots offence struggled and then suffered an untimely injury.
Harry was knocked out of New England’s Week 7 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers with a concussion after he was on the receiving end of a helmet-to-helmet hit. The injury is a particularly scary one for Harry as he’s suffered head injuries in the past and almost quit football as a result.
Even more unfortunate for Harry, the injury opens up the opportunity for other receivers like Damiere Byrd, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski to play more prominent roles and could leave a tough road back into the offence for the Canadian.
Brent Urban, DE, Chicago Bears
8 GP | 14 TACKLES | 1 SACK
Urban continues to be a valuable contributor on a Bears defence that remains a top-10 unit in the NFL.
In addition to his defensive contribution, the Mississauga, Ont., native has recently received some attention for his celebrations on the field. Thanks to a signature air-guitar celebration, teammate Akiem Hicks has called Urban “Mr. Guitar Rock-out Solo”.
“I kind of had that in my back pocket,” Urban told the Chicago Sun Times. “I’m a big energy guy. Especially with no fans, I’m trying to make it fun and have my teammates feed off me. I’ve got a couple more celebrations in the back pocket here. But that’s one I definitely wanted to show.”
Christian Covington, DT, Cincinnati Bengals
8 GP | 20 TACKLES
Covington is coming off a strong performance against the Tennessee Titans in Week 8 where he had five tackles, including a season-high three solo tackles.
Last season, the 27-year-old had a career-high 28 tackles with the Dallas Cowboys, and at the halfway point of the 2020 campaign he’s in good shape to surpass that total.
Neville Gallimore, DT, Dallas Cowboys
6 GP | 7 TACKLES
Unlike Claypool, the path for Gallimore to find regular action has been a slow one since being selected in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
That changed when the Cowboys decided to make sweeping changes to the defensive side of the ball, trading Everson Griffen and cutting Dontari Poe.
Gallimore understands the opportunity that’s in front of him as he continues to wait for his first NFL start, but admits that it’s been a slow development.
“Yeah, it’s a learning curve, but it’s a part of it. I know it wasn’t going to be easy. Heck, it wasn’t easy to get into this position anyway,” Gallimore told reporters in a conference call last week. “So again, it’s just another opportunity for me to grow as a football player and again, just get better. That’s the biggest thing for me. I want to improve and I want to limit any mistakes or similar mistakes that happened in the past. Just grow. I’m just trying to be a better ballplayer, end of the day.”
Tevaughn Campbell, DB, Los Angeles Chargers
4 GP | 10 TACKLES
Campbell has a chance to earn more snaps with injuries in the Chargers secondary and Desmond King traded to the Titans ahead of Tuesday’s deadline.
The Scarborough, Ont., native was on the field for 78 per cent of the Chargers’ defensive snaps against the Denver Broncos but was on the wrong end of a game-changing play. The 27-year-old was flagged for pass interference late in the fourth quarter, which helped the Broncos set up for the game-winning touchdown.
Campbell has shown value on special teams, as well, forcing Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Dede Westbrook to fumble on a kickoff leading to help the Chargers take a commanding lead in an eventual Week 7 victory.