Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Mid-Season Grades: Linebackers

Yesterday it was the heavily criticized Secondary. Today, it's the highly praised Linebackers.

Johnson's Sack Dance
Jamall Johnson, Otis Floyd and Markeith Knowlton form the most fearsome Linebacking corps in Canadian football. No team trots out three more vicious players than the Ti-Cats. All three are currently in the top 10 in tackles for 2010, and all could garner serious consideration for All-Star nods. (Johnson and Knowlton were All-Stars in 2009.)

From what I've seen this season, Jamall Johnson is the front runner for Most Outstanding Defensive Player. He is all over the field. His 50 tackles is second in the league (behind the 53 racked up by Toronto Argonaut Kevin Eiben), and he has made big plays in almost every game, the standout play being his stuff of Steven Jyles on a 3rd-and-one gamble against Winnipeg on August 13th.

Knowlton has been quieter than last season, but I think that has more to do with Johnson's emergence than any falloff in Knowlton's skills. He's still third in the league in tackles, with 40, and he has performed when needed. He's no longer the team's best Linebacker, but he is still better than most.

Floyd Sacks Lemon
Otis Floyd, admittedly one of my three favourite players on the current team, seems to defy age. He plays with reckless abandon. He sits ninth on the tackle list with 37, and he is undoubtedly the heart and soul of the Defense. Floyd is getting a little long in the tooth, but he still makes plays and contributes on a weekly basis.

For my money, no team has a better starting Linebacking group than the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and they have shown in 2010 that 2009 was just the beginning.

Mid-Season Grade: A

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  1. Johnson's "emergence"? There was a good case for him as our outstanding defensive player last year too. But Knowlton was more diverse - 4 picks and 4 fumble recoveries and scored a TD each way, plus came second on the team in tackles. Lots of football to play yet and I'm going to guess it will be a tough choice by the end of this season as well.

    No excuses but Markeith was hobbled a bit a few games back, though he didn't miss much field time.

    Floyd seems to be the quieter one this year. But I agree he's the heart of the D and probably the team as a whole. The stellar play of his two fellow LBs has probably elevated Otis's as well - he can take some chances knowing the MK and JJ have his back.

    We probably haven't had a LB crew this good since the 1980s - Zambiasi, Ezerins, and Robinson for example.

  2. As great as JJ was last season -- and don't get me wrong, he was phenomenal -- I just feel like he's taken his game to a completely different level this year. It has gotten to the point where I'm surprised when he's not the team's leading tackler at the end of the game. I don't think there is a Linebacker playing in the CFL right now who is within a country mile of JJ.