Monday, January 30, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Assessing the Defense

Hard to believe that a defense as terrible as ours was for the bulk of the season has now lost its second player to the NFL. Hate to lose a guy like Jeff Knox but I was kinda not expecting him back... plus in theory a healthy Sam Eguavoen leaves us pretty good there. But news that Otha Foster signed with the Ravens was like a punch in the gut. He was a very unheralded but important part of our defense. Plus he plays one of the toughest spots on the defense. Going to be tough to replace him. Good thing our GM has a ton of experience replacing people... often times even managing to replace his replacements.

In light of Foster's departure, I thought I would take this opportunity to assess where we are currently at with our defense. Last season I was pretty confident in our front 7 and concerned as hell about our secondary. In retrospect I was right about the DBs and LBs... and wrong about the DL. This season by virtue of having a secondary I think we are leaps and bounds ahead of last year but we still have some important holes to fill.

I am very high on Willie Jefferson but that is about where my enthusiasm ends currently with our DL. I think Newsome is a decent guy to add to the DL rotation but I think we need one more impact DL to add in there rather than the converted tight end that Jones is high on. On the inside our status is intricately linked to the health of Linden Gaydosh. If he can stay healthy then we have a stud Canadian DL helping shore up the middle and giving our ratio a boost. But outside of him there are a lot of question marks at DT.  I still have my fingers crossed that Greg Milhouse turns out to be a stud... a fact that almost assuredly curses him horribly.

With the exception of Foster's vacated spot, this should once again be a source of strength. A healthy Sam Eguavoen can slide back into the outside LB where he looked really good last year. In the middle we have both Henoc Muamba and Greg Jones. I'm really curious to see what we do there. Both are natural MLBs. Muamba could possibly play outside (though its not his strength) and Jones I can't see playing anywhere but in the middle. Ratio reasons would tend to favour Muamba as the starter but it might be possible for both Jones and Muamba to play in a rotation. The other option might be to trade Jones. As for replacing Foster, this is a tall order. Tyler Hunter saw spot duty there. They may also look at converting a DB such as Kacy Rodgers. Either way, there will likely be a drop off from Foster.

Defensive Backs
As I mentioned in the opening, the fact that we actually have one puts us light years ahead of this time last year. Cox is a lockdown DB. Once he was moved from HB to CB, Gainey really seemed to flourish. Add in Rodgers (who showed a lot of promise in his first year) and Bennett (who quietly brought a fair bit of stability to the secondary) and you have a decent foundation. We could certainly do better than Bennett but we can survive with him if need be. The big question mark in this unit now is safety. If we start 5 Canadians on offense plus Gaydosh and Muamba we could start an American here but I imagine the desire is to keep the spot Canadian. Hecht was adequate (who by comparison to the rookie receiver he took over from made him look like a demi-god). He would be an okay option but we should be looking for better. Andrew Lue (if re-signed) could be in the mix and ideally 2016 draft pick Elie Bouka would me in that mix as well (along with probably an O-lineman we draft and try to convert to safety at the rate Jones goes).

Overall I think we have some strong pieces to build around (Jefferson, Muamba, Cox) but certainly have lots of room to improve.

NFL Watch:
Otha Foster (Ssk) – signed with Baltimore
Soctt Milanovich - accepted QB Coach job in Jacksonville
Jorgen Hus (Ssk) – worked out with Arizona
Tony Burnett (Win) – worked out with Baltimore
Kyler Elsworth (Tor) – worked out with Baltimore
Terrence Tolliver (Ham) – worked out with Baltimore

CFL Ins and Outs

In: QB Kevin Glenn, WR Duron Carter (free agent signing)
Out: QB Mitchell Gale, RB Curtis Steele, DL Dylan Ainsworth, WR Shamawd Chambers (released), Otha Foster (signed in NFL)

In: OL Pierre Lavertu (contract extension)

In: QB Brett Smith (free agent signing)

In: WR Ryan Lankford, DB Keith Lewis, DB Jeremy Harris (free agent signing)

In: DB Travis Lee, DB Elroy Douglas, DB Tyler Storie (free agent signing)

In: DL Jason Ankrah, DB Lloyd Carrington (free agent signing)
Out: QB Henry Burris (retired)

Out: Head Coach Coach Milanovich as well as hope

In: DL Jesse Joseph (contract extension)

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