Grey Cup Matchup #2 (Defense)

The Grey Cup is tomorrow! With that said I have a lot to cover to finish the matchup between the Ottawa REDBLACKS  and the Edmonton Eskimos. Let’s continue to Defense!

Defensive Line

Ottawa: Shawn Lemon, Justin Capicciotti, Keith Shologan, Moton Hopkins, Zack Evans

Edmonton: Odell Willis, Eddie Steele, Almondo Sewell, Willie Jefferson, Marcus Howard

The meat of the matchup, both teams have scary defensive lines capable of stuffing the running and making life miserable for the opposing quarterback.

Ottawa’s DL is unique in that a lot of pressure comes up the middle rather than from the edges. Evans and Shologan have been maniacs in the center with seven sacks a piece and plenty of stops for no gain. Hopkins doesn’t put up huge numbers but is a veteran presence that helps everyone get on their correct assignment. Capicciotti has been a revelation at rush end with double digit sacks in back to back years, though he seems to have slowed down a bit as of late. Lemon has shown he wasn’t a one hit wonder in Calgary, coming back from the NFL to be an impact player.

Edmonton’s unit didn’t post as high a sack total as Ottawa’s but they were close, though more of it came from the edge rush than the middle of the line. Odell Willis has had a down year (by his standards) with 9 sacks while Sewell and Steele have been solid interior run stuffers. Jefferson has steadily improved over his two seasons and will be counted on to provide consistent pressure opposite Willis.

While Ottawa ranked higher defensively and posted more sacks than Edmonton I favour the Esks in this matchup. Edmonton beats down their opponent with a variety of player substitutions and blitzes, especially along the DL. Ottawa is good but allowed the inexperienced Jeremiah Masoli to put up big numbers on them. Mike Reilly is a much bigger threat than Masoli.

Advantage: Edmonton

Linebacker

Ottawa: David Hinds, Damaso Munoz, Antoine Pruneau

Edmonton:Dexter McCoil, JC Sherrit, Otha Foster

Injuries early in the year forced Ottawa to cycle through various players at the Linebacker position. Pruneau, one of the REDBLACKS promising defensive backs from 2014, moved down to LB while Hinds was promoted midyear when Malik Jackson went down. The most impressive of the bunch is Damaso Munoz who was a solid starter in Edmonton for several years before being let go. Munoz is strong against the run and will likely be asked to contain Akem Shavers and Reilly (when he starts to roll out of the pocket). The big question is if this group of LBs can cover the quick passes from Reilly to Bowman and Walker, an Eskimo staple.

In contrast to the REDBLACKS, the Eskimos have had an an excellent trio at Linebacker for most of the season. JC Sherritt is a former Defensive player of the year and once broke the tackle record for most in a season. While this year Sherritt’s tackles were down he continued to make plays and had a career high three forced fumbles. Dexter McCoil finished off last year by winning the Rookie of the Year and has kept playing at a high level (though, like Sherritt, his numbers are down a bit). Foster doesn’t come with any of the awards hardware of his counterparts but has shown himself to be an above average starter. Watch for this group to make life hard for Henry Burris and William Powel.

Advantage: Edmonton

Defensive Secondary (Halfbacks and Corners)

Ottawa: Abdul Kanneh, Brandon Sermons, Brandyn Thompson, Jovon Johnson

Edmonton: Aaron Grymes, Patrick Watkins, John Ojo, Marcell Young

The REDBLACKS secondary can be described aptly in two words, Ball Hawks. When it comes to interceptions Kanneh has 6, Johnson has 5, and Thompson has 3. Sermons, filling in for the injured Jerrell Gavins (who had 4 picks), doesn’t have a whole lot of statistical bragging rights  but has impressed enough to remain a starter for the GC. Johnson is enjoying a career renaissance in Ottawa after several years in Winnipeg and provides the veteran leadership to a very young group. Kanneh is the top cover-man and will likely see Adarius Bowman much of the evening. It will be interesting to see how Thompson and Sermons hold up against the underrated Kenny Stafford and Nate Coehoorn.

Edmonton, no slouch in the Ball Hawking department either, will counter with elite cover-man Patrick Watkins and the hard hitting Aaron Grymes. Both can cover top receivers and make plays on the ball (both have 3+ interceptions). John Ojo, in addition to having an awesome name, has gained a reputation for big plays with 5 picks and can hold his own on the outside. Marcell Young is the only weak point I see in this secondary, having bounced around a couple years as a backup/starter between Edmonton and Hamilton. This matchup is tough to call, but I have to take experience over young talent when it comes to the big game.

Advantage: Edmonton

Safety

Ottawa: Jermaine Robinson

Edmonton: Cauchy Muamba

Easily the weakest point in the REDBLACKS defense, no one seemed to be able to hold on to the position with over 5 different players being named the starter in addition to Robinson. With only 2 tackles to his name this season despite starting two games prior this is should be a major area of concern if Ottawa’s DB’s struggle in coverage.

Not all that much better than Ottawa, Edmonton rolls out Cauchy Muamba. Muamba has had several years experience at the position with several teams and can make plays from time to time, though he hardly qualifies as top of the line. With so many deep threats from Ottawa Muamba will have to bring his absolute best to remain a starter into next year. That said, its still no question who has the edge here.

Advantage: Edmonton

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Playoff Picks – CFL Division Finals

Since I missed getting my picks up before the CFL Semi-Finals I need to admit I selected the Argos to top the Ti-Cats. But hey, everyone gets a mulligan right? Now with my freebie used up I’m 1-1  with three games to go, I pretty sure I can finish 4-1. So without further ado here are the official Practice Squad Playoff Picks! (100% Guaranteed to possibly be right)

Hamilton at Ottawa

A match-up that would have looked like an instant classic midway through the season now has the potential to be a one sided beat down similar to the  Stamps and Lions last week. Jeremiah Masoli is set to make his 3rd career start against an Ottawa defense that lead the league in sacks this season. By contrast Henry Burris is heading into career start 234 and brings with him four (FOUR!) thousand yard receivers in Chris Matthews, Ernest Jackson, Brad Sinopoli, and Greg Ellingson. While Hamilton will play hard on defense I don’t see this as a defensive slugging match like last week. I expect Burris to spread the ball and utilize William Powel on the ground to keep Hamilton’s defense on the field and exhausted while Ottawa’s defense stuffs the run and dares Masoli to throw on Abdul Kanneh and Co. in the secondary. While I will never count out Head Coach Kent Austin’s ability to coach up a team, I believe Ottawa sees this as a golden opportunity to go from Expansion team to CFL powerhouse.

Final Score OTT 31 – HAM 13

Calgary at Edmonton

A much harder game to call with Calgary coming off a dominant performance against BC despite key injuries throughout the contest and Edmonton coming off over two weeks rest. Edmonton took the season series 2-1 but Calgary has been able to push around their division rivals in big games the past few years and will look to do the same with a strong ground game and deadly passing attack in Jerome Messam and Bo Levi Mitchell. Edmonton will look to change the narrative with a scary good defense and their own top notch QB in Mike Reilly. I expressed concern in last weeks recap that Edmonton could take away Jerome Messam early with a few stuffs and get Bo Levi to air it out. While Bo can throw (yes I caught that) I think Head Coach Chris Jones would rather trust his corners (Watkins and Ojo) to provide sticky coverage and let his pass rushers feast on a patchwork O-Line then get into pounding match against Messam. When it comes down to it I can’t let the past cloud the fact that Edmonton is a more complete team.

Final Score EDM 24 – CGY 21