The Saskatchewan Roughriders ’ only two West Division all-stars are on defence, which isn’t necessarily offensive.
However, the fact that neither all-star happens to be the CFL’s leader in sacks for 2021 does leave a detectable pong in the air.
Actually, the Roughriders boasted the league’s two most prolific pursuers of passers — defensive ends A.C. Leonard (who had 11 sacks) and Jonathan Woodard (10) — and the voters didn’t cast a sufficient number of ballots for either player.
Instead, Winnipeg Blue Bombers standouts Willie Jefferson and Jackson Jeffcoat on Wednesday were named the defensive ends on the division’s dream team.
Jefferson and Jeffcoat are, without question, outstanding. The consistent pressure they exert is a primary reason why Winnipeg was the league’s dominant team during the regular season.
Fine, then. Pick one. Jefferson or Jeffcoat.
But don’t overlook someone who also had a superlative season, except for … well, you know.
In September, Leonard was handed a two-game, league-issued suspension for failing to produce a urine sample after being randomly selected for post-game drug testing.
An additional game was appended to the suspension as a result of Leonard’s less-than-exemplary temperament in the presence of a doping-control officer, who was simply doing his job.
Perhaps that three-game interruption of a banner season weighed into the snubbage of Leonard.
L’Affaire Leonard certainly factored into the equation when voting was conducted to determine the Roughriders’ most outstanding player.
That honour was bestowed upon quarterback Cody Fajardo , even though Leonard and defensive back/linebacker Loucheiz Purifoy are the only members of the Roughriders whose performances this season are worthy of the “outstanding” label.
Purifoy, like Leonard, was a notable omission from the all-star team. In Purifoy’s case, however, his versatility worked to his detriment. He has excelled this season at defensive halfback, safety and linebacker. So where, oh where, do you put him?
Leonard, however, should have been automatic.
His 11 sacks — an average of one per game — put him ahead of Jeffcoat (nine) and Jefferson (seven).
Jefferson had two interceptions, one of which he returned for a 39-yard touchdown, but Leonard chipped in with a pick of his own.
Jeffcoat, it should be noted, led the league in forced fumbles (four). Jefferson was one off the pace. Leonard jarred the ball loose on one occasion.
Leonard had 41 defensive tackles — 15 more than Jeffcoat and 23 more than Jefferson.
With six tackles for a loss, Leonard was tied with Jeffcoat. Jefferson had five.
Jefferson and Jeffcoat both played for the CFL’s best defence — one that allowed the fewest points (12.9 per game), touchdowns (15) and yards (281.3 per game) in the league.
But they also played for a team that boasted the CFL’s best offence, whereas Saskatchewan was in the bottom third of the league in most categories.
As a result, the Roughriders’ defence had to carry the day if the team was to enjoy success. And that it did, posting a 9-4 record in games that mattered (Winnipeg was 11-1) and helping an offensively deprived Saskatchewan side nail down second place and a home playoff game.
A modicum of acknowledgement was provided by the all-star voters, who recognized defensive tackle Micah Johnson and cornerback Nick Marshall.
The B.C. Lions, by contrast, had one more all-star than Saskatchewan despite posting four fewer victories.
It is all so dopey.
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