***For the Top Running Backs***
***For the Top Linebackers***
***For the Top Pass Rushers***
***For the Top Kickers***
With the new CFL season getting ever closer, I will be taking a look at each position from Kicker to Quarterback going into 2016 and ranking who I see as the best. This will be a list made up of last year’s players as I have little info on new International players and the draft rarely yields elite level talent (at least in the player’s rookie year). Please feel free to leave a comment if you have other thoughts.
*For this particular preview I will be listing which teams I see as having the top overall defensive secondaries going into 2016. This makes it easier to account for corners, safeties, and hybrid linebackers all in one go.*
Here we go…
1. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (Notable Players: Courtney Taylor, Emmanuel Davis, Johnny Sears Jr, Rico Murry, Demond Washington)
The more I researched the players above for this article the more I found myself thinking, “Wow, this team is scary in the back end“and for good reason. The thought was that both Taylor and Davis were too good for the Ti-Cats to not lose at least one of the dynamic playmakers to other teams (or the NFL) but they somehow managed to keep both! Combine those two elite corners with the hybrid player Rico Murry (one of my favorite tacklers in the CFL) and Johnny Sears Jr who was a solid playmaker early last year and even before then in Winnipeg and you have a crazy good group of guys to work with. That’s not even mentioning Demond Washington who is an underrated threat on defense and special teams, and the promising Mike Daily who filled in for Craig Butler last year. Oh yeah, Craig Butler, scary to imagine if he makes it back this year isn’t it? This is a secondary that can absolutely smother people (and will need to with Collaros set to miss the start of the season).
2. Calgary Stampeders (Notable Players: Brandon Smith, Fred Bennett, Jamar Wall, Joshua Bell, Brandon McDonald)
Depth. That’s what is see when I look at the Stamps secondary, and it’s not even close. All the above names could start on most teams if they were cut tomorrow and yet they are all in one lineup. While Calgary doesn’t have the elite covermen (at least in my humble opinion) that Hamilton and Edmonton boast the Stamps don’t have an area of real weakness or injury concern, and that can be way more valuable. Calgary has made it a point to develop and retain its stars each offseason and the result is a rock solid lineup with no overpriced free agents and tons of quality players who know the system. A new HC and the loss of some key players will hurt the Stamps some, but their Secondary should not be a concern.
3. Edmonton Eskimos (Notable Players: Patrick Watkins, John Ojo, Marcel Young, Cauchy Muamba, Korey Jones)
The reigning champions had a severe case of gang green this offseason, losing Head Coach Chris Jones (and their entire coaching staff), Otha Foster, and Kendail Lawrence (among others) to the rival Roughriders. For this list the Jones and Foster losses are particularly painful and contributed to the fall to #3. Yet the Esks still have a championship foundation they can lean on in the back end. Watkins is getting on in age but is still a top cover man, Ojo is a productive defender who looks to be the future star in the secondary, and Muamba has gotten markedly better every year he has played. The Eskimos will play with a chip on their shoulder this year with everyone doubting them, time will tell if the secondary can hold down the fort for a team desperate to repeat.
4. Ottawa REDBLACKS (Notable Players: Abdul Kanneh, Jerrell Gavins, Antoine Pruneau, Ryan Hinds, Brandon Sermons)
The REDBLACKS ended the year with possibly the best secondary in the CFL but several major departures have stripped them of some of the shine they held in the Grey Cup. Brandyn Thompson and Jovon Johnson were key parts of a nearly championship defense and not having them back has to create unease in Ottawa. Still, this roster possesses two top tier covermen in Kanneh and Gavins and one of the more versatile defenders in the league in Pruneau. Sermons was good enough to start in the GC last year despite little statistical production while Hinds is a journeyman defender that can still produce. If the REDBLACKS can keep stocking their depth behind Kanneh and Gavins they should remain an elite secondary into 2016.
5. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (Notable Players: Johnny Adams, Maurice Leggit, Macho Harris, Matt Bucknor, Chris Randle)
When I did my initial assessments for this article I started by leaving Winnipeg off the list because I didn’t remember anything especially outstanding about them last year. In my reviews I went back and actually looked at the Bombers roster was was blown away at the talent there. The above names are all productive starters and that’s not including Teague Sherman and Bruce Johnson who are also on the roster. Johnny Adams was tied for the league lead in Interceptions last year and is an ascending young talent. Macho Harris was a bright spot on a bad Riders team, Chris Randle is a rock solid starter, and Matt Bucknor is shaping up to be one of the better national defenders in the secondary. The Bombers greatly underachieved last year and may again this year but it won’t be due to lack of talent in the back end. If Coach O’Shea (or La Police…just wait) can get his team motivated and playing to their potential this could be an upper echelon secondary.
Wild Card: Saskatchewan Roughriders
The worst secondary in the league a year ago the Riders have completely remade their secondary to the point that Matt Webster is really the only player who played consistent snaps last year (and not much at that). This makes the secondary a complete mystery and nigh impossible to properly rank. The cynic in me says they stay near the bottom, but the football analyst in me says that there is no way Chris Jones puts out anything below average when it comes to his defense. Time will tell but I’ll give them a tentative ranking of “Tied for 5th” with the Bombers.