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.

Do you have a question for CFL Q & A, send me an email at roughriderfreek@hotmail.com

Pictures from: http://www.jdrf.ca/images/Locations_08/South_SK_08/Jan/PLD_05670_2.gif and http://static.cdn.mrx.ca/cfl/bc/images/inside/2009/07/Foley3957.jpg

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