Friday, August 7, 2015

CFL Best: Top Pass-Rusher and Shutdown Defensive Back

The third instalment of "Best in the League" comes down to three players: Patrick Watkins, Johnny Adams and Aaron Grymes.

In the latest instalment of "Best in the League", the writers on ask the fans who they believe is the league's top shutdown defensive back. In my mind, it comes down to three players: Aaron Grymes, Patrick Watkins and Johnny Adams. 

Due to the rule changes altering defensive backs' technique, it's not recommended to take players' performances in previous seasons into account all that much. Geoff Tisdale is a great example of why we should only evaluate play in 2015, as the eight year veteran was one of the top defensive backs last season, however his style didn't comply with the new rules and, as a result, Tisdale was out of work for five weeks to open the season. 

There's no doubt in my mind that Watkins, Grymes and Adams have been the best defensive backs in 2015. Watkins, who most viewed as the top DB heading into the season with Delvin Breaux departed, has had a great season at his familiar boundary-cornerback position for the Eskimos. He's recorded three interceptions- although only his pick-six against Saskatchewan was actually well-earned- and has continued to be a match-up nightmare for offences with his incredible height at 6'6", long wing-span and quick hips. 

Watkins' teammate, Aaron Grymes, is one of the most underrated players in the league. Playing at field-side halfback, Grymes sees a lot of action and can take any of the league's top slot-backs entirely out of the game. The Idaho product has multiple interceptions on the season and has displayed a stellar ability to use both his hands and physicality to force passes incomplete without drawing a flag. 

But while Grymes and Watkins have been great for Edmonton, I think there's a new top-dog in the CFL: first-year player from Winnipeg, Johnny Adams. 

Adams has come into the CFL as a rookie and started from week one at boundary cornerback, allowing the Bombers to move another lockdown defensive back, Chris Randle, to nickel linebacker. The former Michigan State Spartan, who's tied for the league-lead in interceptions with three, has been as good as advertised while, as a rookie, playing a position occupied by the teams' best cover-guy, which Adams obviously is. 

Adams has been outstanding against the league's top receivers on the short-side, most recently keeping Lions' All-Star wideout Manny Arceneaux off the stat-sheet until a meaningless final play with zeros on the clock and Adams lined up 20 yards deep in prevent coverage. He's done nearly the same to great players like Jeff Fuller, Kenny Stafford and Fred Stamps on a week-to-week basis.

Adams has tremendous ball-skills, and usually when quarterbacks actually do throw his way, it's because the 5'11", 190 lbs corner is daring them to test him so he can jump the route. Adams hasn't allowed a touchdown pass in man-coverage up to this point, further strengthening his case as the league's top defensive back. 

Watkins and Grymes certainly make strong cases too, and I wouldn't be bothered at all if either of them were crowned instead of Adams. And while there are some other great defensive backs out there- Brandon McDonald, Weldon Brown, Billy Parker, Jerald Brown, Jamar Wall, Abdul Kanneh, AJ Jefferson, Bruce Johnson, amongst many others, come to mind- the trio mentioned above are simply on another level. 

But the rookie, Johnny Adams, grabs my vote. 

Last week's "Best in the League" was all about the beloved quarterback sack; something no current player knows better than Charleston Hughes. 

The long-time Stampeders' defensive end gets my vote as the league's top pass-rusher, edging out Edmonton's Marcus Howard, Montreal's John Bowman and Saskatchewan's John Chick for the accolade. Hughes leads the league in sacks with six and even has three forced fumbles to boot. But most impressively, Hughes leads all active players with 50 sacks in his last five seasons. 

The self-proclaimed "Stamp Machine" is the best pass-rusher in the CFL. 

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