Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Next Wave of Shutdown Cornerbacks

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' rookie cornerback Johnny Adams (far left) celebrates with teammates after his pick-six against Montreal in week three action.
Meet Johnny Adams, cornerback for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and fellow rookie corner AJ Jefferson, a member of the Toronto Argonauts. These two first-year players have burst onto the scene in the opening weeks of the 2015 CFL season, slowly leading a changing of the guard as to who are the league's top cover-men. You can expect to hear their name's quite a bit over the next few seasons. 

And you should probably know them by now anyway. Adams already has two interceptions for the Blue Bombers in only three career games while, not to be outdone in the same amount of starts, Jefferson has an interception of his own; one he returned 100 yards the other way for a touchdown in Toronto's 42-40 win over Saskatchewan in week two. They've both come in as rookies and earned starting jobs at short-side cornerback, a position typically occupied by a team's best cover-man.

Adams, signed by Winnipeg in early February, is a former Michigan State Spartan who bounced around the NFL from 2013-2014, suiting up for four games with the Buffalo Bills. In college, he was a three-time All-Big 10 selection (2010-2012) and earned first-team honours in his senior season after racking up 35 tackles with three interceptions and 10 pass knockdowns. His best season, though, came in 2011 as a Junior when he also earned first-team honours after collecting 51 tackles, 3 interceptions, 9 pass-defences and three sacks. 

Jefferson, meanwhile, has more of an NFL pedigree to his name. He's recorded 109 career tackles with three interceptions in four seasons split between Arizona and Minnesota, typically slotting in as the third or fourth corner for the Vikings in 2012 and 2013. The former Fresno State standout spent the 2014 season on the Seattle Seahawks' injured-reserve and following his stint with the NFC Champions, Jefferson was out of work until the Argonauts inked him to a contract on the eve of rookie camp this past May. 

Toronto Argonauts defensive back #24 AJ Jefferson
Adams and Jefferson been everything their respective clubs could've asked for from two rookies. And while it's still early, you could even very well say that, overall, they've been the league's top two cornerbacks this season. They certainly still have much to prove, however Adams and Jefferson are well on their way to All-Star selections in their rookie campaigns if they can continue to play at such a high level. 

Adams, who stood out at the Blue Bombers' mini-camp in Florida, already has 10 tackles and two interceptions for Winnipeg. His exceptional play in both mini-camp and training camp allowed the Bombers to move Chris Randle to nickel linebacker, a move that is starting to pay dividends after a slow start for the converted cornerback.

Jefferson was fantastic in the pre-season and had a terrific outing against Edmonton in week one, however struggled against Saskatchewan's Ryan Smith the following week. His interception return touchdown against those same Riders covered up some of his mistakes that game, however the 6'1", 190lbs rookie returned to form against his toughest opponent to date in Calgary's Jeff Fuller. Jefferson has nine tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery in three games with the Double Blue. 

They've been the best-of-the-best after three weeks of CFL action and are doing so as raw rookies to the Canadian game. And while it's likely too early to proclaim them as the top cornerbacks in their respective divisions, don't be surprised if they earn that title by the end of the season. With the league's latest rule changes and departure of some great defensive backs like Delvin Breaux to the NFL, the CFL is looking for the next wave of shutdown players.

Johnny Adams and AJ Jefferson might just be the next two up. 

No comments:

Post a Comment