June 6, 2018

Under Pressure: 5 new contenders for the sack title

Jason Halstead/CFL.ca

TORONTO — Who is the best pass-rusher in the CFL?

The question was posed to many of the league’s top stars this off-season, with the usual suspects getting mention — from Rider teammates Charleston Hughes and Willie Jefferson to the ageless John Bowman.

Tune in Friday as CFL.ca reveals the best pass-rusher in the latest from Best in the League.

While we’re used to seeing some of the same names atop the sack list year in and year out, there’s a handful of new contenders that could find themselves competing for the coveted sack title.

CFL.ca looks at five pass rushers that could land high on the sack list this season:

Kwaku Boateng | EDM

Year/Age: 2nd/23

2017 sacks (games): 4 (18)

Kwaku Boateng could be in a position to put up big numbers in 2018 for the Esks (Walter Tychnowicz/CFL.ca)

After falling to the fifth round on draft day, Kwaku Boateng burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2017, showing the same explosiveness that made him a highly-touted prospect in the first place. As a 22-year-old he recorded four sacks and 21 tackles in 18 games, despite a crowded group of talented defensive ends in Edmonton.

Boateng is a pure pass-rusher and if he’s thrust into a starting role following the departure of Odell Willis, look for him to put up high sack totals in his first full season as a starter. The Wilfrid Laurier grad could emerge as one of the league’s top ratio-breakers.

Ja’Gared Davis | CGY

Year/Age: 3rd/27

2017 sacks (games): 9 (10)

Despite nearly sack-per-game production last season, Ja’Gared Davis isn’t quite a household name, putting him near the top of the list of breakout candidates for this season. The Stampeders have plenty of good pass rushers, with James Vaughters, Cordarro Law and the highly-touted Folarin Orimolade in the mix, but Davis’ production in limited action has been impressive.

The emergence and subsequent re-signing of Davis in Calgary likely made Charleston Hughes expendable, and if Davis can play anything close to a full season, look for similar production once again.

James Vaughters | CGY

Year/Age: 2nd/24

2017 sacks (games): 6 (17)

James Vaughters will be leaned on to help replace the production of Charleston Hughes (Larry MacDougal/CFL.ca)

The aforementioned Vaughters could be in for a big season on the Stampeders’ defensive line as he looks to fill the void of Hughes. Just 24, Vaughters had six sacks in 17 games in his rookie season, taking advantage of injuries on the D-line.

On a defence with plenty of talent around him, Vaughters could emerge as one of the league’s premiere pass-rushers if given the opportunity in 2018.

Jonathan Newsome | OTT

Year/Age: 3rd/27

2017 sacks (games): 4 (9)

What’s old is new in the nation’s capital, as the pass-rushing duo of Jonathan Newsome and A.C. Leonard is reunited a year after playing with the Riders. The sack totals don’t jump off the page for Newsome, but the 27-year-old just didn’t jive with Chris Jones’ system.

A new chance in Ottawa, and a new defensive system under Noel Thorpe, could benefit the former Indianapolis Colt going into his third Canadian Football League season.

A.C. Leonard | OTT

Year/Age: 4th (26)

2017 sacks (games): 5 (17)

Just like with Newsome, Leonard doesn’t come with other-worldly numbers or anything like that. But Leonard was part of a constant three-man rush from the Riders in 2017, and could be turned loose under the aggressive Noel Thorpe.

Look for both Leonard and Newsome to see an uptick in production as the REDBLACKS go into 2018 with arguably the best pass-rushing duo they’ve had since entering the league.