Thursday, October 15, 2009

CFL Q & A: Utilizing Jason Clermont

Why hasn’t Jason Clermont been more involved in the Saskatchewan Roughriders offence?

It was a fairytale scenario in the off-season for Jason Clermont, the Saskatchewan Roughriders and their fans.

Clermont, coming off an injury filled year in British Columbia, had been released by head coach Wally Buono. The Riders didn’t wait long for before contacting Clermont, and eventually a deal was done. For many Rider fans, it was a deal they had been waiting for ever since Clermont entered the Canadian Football League.

With around 6,000 career yards and 37 touchdowns compiled his career, Clermont was expected to help bolster an offence that was already pretty talented, and provide some veteran leadership to the young players on the roster.

While the later point may be true, Clermont’s offensive production has been lacklustre. Many have dubbed Clermont’s time with the Roughriders a disappointment.

With only 215 yards a good ways through the season, it is hard to argue with this claim.

So why has Clermont been under utilized in Roughriders offence?

Depth at Receiver: When Clermont arrived in Saskatchewan, it was well known that the Riders already had a bevy of receivers. The Riders were solid at the slot-back position, with Andy Fantuz and sophomore sensation Weston Dressler. The Riders were also committed to developing young slot-back Chris Getlzaf and wide receiver Robb Bagg. With so many talented receivers on the roster, it was unrealistic to think Clermont would fit into the starting rotation.

But what has been surprising is the fact that Clermont has not been thrown to in the six receiver set. Clermont has been on the field a lot at times, but the Riders have not called his number.

Clermont is a similar receiver to the Montreal Alouettes Ben Cahoon. They both excel at catching short quick passes and earning yak yards. They are both and physical and can take hits. Yet Cahoon has 880 yards receiving and Clermont­­­­­­­­­­­ only has 215 yards.

Perhaps now, with Dressler falling to injuries, Clermont’s role will improve with the Roughriders. The depth the Riders have at receiver makes it easier to understand why Clermont has been underutilized.

Saskatchewan’s Offence: Clermont has not been used in the offence as effectively as he was when he was in BC. In BC, the quarterbacks always threw a lot of short passes to Clermont, usually over the middle. Though these routes were often known as ‘suicide routes’, they were effective in picking up a lot of yardage. Clermont rarely dropped those passes and he always seemed to pick up more yardage after the catch.

In Saskatchewan, the Riders don’t use Clermont in these similar roles. I’m not sure if they are afraid to use him in these ‘suicide routes’, but they haven’t been throwing him the ball a lot at all.

This could have a lot to do with Saskatchewan’s type of offence. The Riders aren’t necessarily a pure passing team. Their passing stats aren’t glamorous. The Riders also like to spread the ball around to numerous receivers.

Besides Weston Dressler, who has a lot of receiving yards, each other Roughrider receiver is pretty equal in their yardage.

So, while Clermont may have been a go-to receiver in BC, he does not necessarily need to be one in Saskatchewan.

Clermont’s Role: Many fans feel that Clermont’s time with the Riders has been a disappointment, they may not understand how big of a role Clermont actually plays with the team.
Clermont’s stats may not be glamorous, but his veteran influence has been invaluable. Clermont has basically served as a players coach. The young receivers such as Robb Bagg, Andy Fantuz and Weston Dressler have all flourished under Clermont’s tutelage.

It hasn’t just been receivers. Clermont has stayed after practices and worked with players like Graham Harrell, helping them improve their game.

With his football smarts and leadership, it is not hard to visualize Clermont being a coach in the future.

The Verdict: The depth of the Roughriders receivers, plus the type of offence the team runs, has been a main reason that Clermont has been underutilized. With players like Weston Dressler, Robb Bagg and Andy Fantuz, Jason Clermont has often been overlooked in the offence. Perhaps it was unrealistic of fans to believe that Clermont would play as well as he had in the past. After all, Clermont is getting older. If Clermont had signed with the Roughriders a couple of years ago, he might be having a bigger impact with the Riders now. Still, disappointment or not, Clermont’s valuable leadership cannot be overlooked.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

CFL Q & A: Examining the Defensive Ends

Which pair of defensive ends are currently the best in the Canadian Football League?

When defensive stud Cameron Wake departed from the Canadian Football League to the National Football League, many fans were left to wonder if they would ever see another dominant defensive end for a while.

A good way through this new CFL season and it is apparent that there is not shortage of excellent pass rushers in the CFL. Not only have there been excellent pass rushers, but many teams have had the privilege of having a pair of solid pash rushers on their team.

The Montreal Alouettes—with Anwar Stewart and John Bowman—the Saskatchewan Roughriders—with John Chick and Stevie Baggs—the BC Lions—with Ricky Foley and Brent Johnson—have all been blessed with two solid pass rushers.

An honourable mention goes out to the Edmonton Eskimos and Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who have also had some solid play from their defensive ends, but their duos are not quite up there with Montreal, Saskatchewan and BC.

Let's take a closer look at Montreal, Saskatchewan, and BC's pass rushers to determine which duo is the most dominant.

The Montreal Alouettes: Anwar Stewart and John Bowman

Anwar Stewart's resurgence this season, along with John Bowman's fine play, has been a major reason for the Alouettes improved play on defence.

Stewart only had four sacks last season. This season, he has already doubled that with eight. That is an unbelievable turn around especially since Stewart is an aging veteran. He sure hasn't played like one this season. Stewart has also been flying around the field this season, as he has recorded 30 tackles and one interception. It is in this way Stewart has proven to be a well-rounded defensive end.

Bowman has been a perfect compliment to Stewart. Bowman is currently tied for the lead league in sacks with nine, and his playing style has been reminiscent of Anwar Stewart's. And, similarly to Stewart, Bowman has recorded 25 tackles. This fierce duo has given the opposition yet one more reason to fear the Alouettes.

The BC Lions: Ricky Foley and Brent Johnson

Everyone knew that Brent Johnson was a stud at defensive end, but it was anyone’s guess if Ricky Foley could fill in for the departed Cameron Wake.

Ricky Foley has definitely developed into one of the league’s premium pass rushers this season.

Foley is tied for the league lead with nine sacks and recently had a three sack game against the Toronto Argonauts. Foley has also added 32 tackles.

After a slow start, Brent Johnson has also been on a torrid pace. Johnson has recorded six sacks and 32 tackles. The pressure put on by these two defensive ends has been a huge reason for BC climbing back into the West race.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders: Stevie Baggs and John Chick

Heading into training camp, the Riders weren’t sure how John Chick would recover from his injury, or who the other defensive end would be. Those questions have been answered for the better.

Though he didn’t start off hot, Chick has been a force to be reckoned with. Chick has flirted with the league lead in sacks and currently has eight. He also has 15 tackles and 2 forced fumbles. Chick has returned to his 2007 form.

Stevie Baggs, a virtually unknown commodity heading into the season, also has eight sacks on the season. He has also picked up 33 tackles.

What has made Baggs so impressive is the fact that he flies around the field making tackles. He has played a role for the Riders similar to Fred Perry. He will make the big sack, but he will also tackle a receiver 20 yards down field.

The Verdict: Stevie Baggs and John Chick

In this first version of CFL Q and A, Stevie Baggs and John Chick earn the honours as the best pair of defensive ends in the CFL. It was a close call to make.

In my opinion, Brent Johnson and Ricky Foley finish in third among the three teams. Johnson and Foley both started off slow, and while they have turned it around now, they still have problems dealing with the run game. They are more pure pass rushers, unlike Montreal and Saskatchewan’s defensive ends, who are better rounded.

Montreal and Saskatchewan’s pairs of defensive ends are very close. They can both rush the passer and are always excellent at stopping the run. I believe that John Chick and Stevie Baggs have been more dynamic than Anwar Stewart and John Bowman.

Saskatchewan’s defence has been impressive this season. They have rarely allowed a one hundred yard rusher, and this speaks volumes for how well John Chick and Stevie Baggs have helped stop the run.

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