January 25, 2023

FA Most Wanted: The disruptive playmaker

Matt Smith/CFL.ca

TORONTO — The term ‘playmaker’ is often bestowed upon players on the offensive side of the ball. However, one of the most disruptive playmakers of the 2022 season was a member of the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ defence.

Darnell Sankey‘s time in the CFL has been brief, but the linebacker has already become a household name and one of the most dominant defenders in the league.

After enjoying a successful rookie campaign as a member of the Calgary Stampeders, Sankey decided to test the waters of free agency and ultimately landed in Riderville for 2022.

With an expiring contract, Sankey could once again find himself on the open market when the CFL Free Agency period officially opens on Feb. 14. Ranked as the No. 5 player on CFL.ca’s top 30 pending free agents list, Sankey could find himself with plenty of options this coming month.

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Sankey has a knack for making defensive stops and forcing turnovers (Kelly Clark/CFL.ca)

The six-foot-one, 240 pounder made an immediate impact in Calgary and exploded onto the CFL scene during his 2021 season. As a first-year player Sankey appeared in 14 games for Calgary and recorded a league-leading 97 defensive tackles, adding a sack and a forced fumble during that season. For his efforts during what was an incredible rookie year, Sankey was recognized as a West Division All-Star.

After making the decision to travel east and join the Roughriders for his second season in the league, Sankey was once again an instant impact player for his new team.

Sankey quickly established himself as a pillar and helped to lead what would become an aggressive Saskatchewan defence. The 2022 Rider defence finished third in the league in total tackles (856) and first in the league in forced fumbles (20), while adding 41 sacks and 15 interceptions on the year.

Through 18 games with the Riders, Sankey built upon his output as a first-year player and once again found himself finishing the year as the league’s leader in tackles.

Sankey finished 2022 with 120 defensive tackles, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished since Alex Singleton (123) cracked the 120 mark in 2018. The total also set a new single-season franchise record in Saskatchewan, surpassing Dave Albright’s total of 118 in 1987.

In addition to being one of the fiercest tacklers to roam the defensive side of the ball, Sankey also tallied three sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception for the Riders defence this season.

Wherever Sankey decides to play this season, his team will get an instant and impactful boost to their defensive front-seven.

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