Battle for the CFL West Division Defensive MOP

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OTTAWA, ON - AUGUST 10: Ottawa RedBlacks wide receiver Cody Hoffman (83) is tackled by Edmonton Eskimos linebacker Kenny Ladler (37) during Canadian Football League action between Edmonton Eskimos and Ottawa RedBlacks on August 10, 2017 at TD Place Stadium, in Ottawa, ON, Canada. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

With the CFL season over two-thirds of the way done, it’s time to start thinking about who’s in the running for awards at the end of the season. One of the most intriguing battles is the CFL West Division Defensive MOP nominee. It’s a three horse race. Let’s break down each team’s nominee and the odds of them accepting the award at the end of the season.

Battle for CFL West Division Defensive MOP

B.C Lions – Solomon Elimimian

The representative from the Lions, without a doubt, will be Solomon Elimimian. Once again he leads the league in tackles with an even 100. If he keeps it up this will be his third year in the last four at the top of the pack for tackles. Once an offensive player is in his grasp, he has little chance of escape.

The most dynamic thing about Elimimian is his ability to play sideline to sideline. No matter where the play goes it usually ends up in an Elimimian tackle. He is definitely a top three candidate but that tackles alone might not get him the award this year. He has one sack and one fumble recovery to go along with the takedowns so we’ll see if that will be enough to earn the honour this season. Elimimian is the only defensive player to win Most Outstanding Player in CFL history, and he won Defensive MOP two out of the last three years. If he picks up the pace a bit it could happen again.

Calgary Stampeders – Alex Singleton

The Stamps nominee should be Alex Singleton. Singleton, from Thousand Oaks, California has a dual citizenship because his mother was born in Toronto – no doubt the Stamps are very happy for that. The national linebacker has racked up 95 tackles, three sacks, a pick and one forced fumble this season. His numbers are outstanding for a player in his second year. Singleton was the first player ever to record at least ten tackles in three straight games and, while doing so, set the CFL record for most tackles in a three game stretch.

Singleton is having one of the best seasons in a long time by a linebacker. Like Elimimian, he just knows where the play is going and it usually ends with a Singleton vs offensive player collision. Singleton is at the top of the list when it comes to Defensive MOP considerations, but Elimimian and one other player are hot on his heels.

Edmonton Eskimos – Kenny Ladler

It has been a tough middle third of the season for the Edmonton Eskimos. After starting 7-0 came crashing down, losing their last five games. Injuries caught up to them and it has been a rough go. Kenny Ladler has been a bright spot for the Esks this season and should be their Defensive MOP nominee.

Ladler has 66 total tackles to go along with three interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Those are some darn good stats, but Ladler doesn’t seem to get the love he deserves. He’s probably fourth on the list of nominees, but has had a very good season this year.

Saskatchewan Roughriders – Ed Gainey

The Riders’ defence woke up during their home game against the B.C Lions a few weeks ago and it’s all thanks to one man, Ed Gainey. Gainey had four interceptions against the Lions and singlehandedly made the defensive backs on the team start to believe in themselves and each other. The front seven for the Riders has been fine all season. Sure, they don’t blitz as much as fans would like but they have been solid when leaned on. It was the defensive backs that were struggling mightily until that big game.

In total Gainey now has 34 tackles, two fumble recoveries and eight interceptions. Gainey leads the league in picks by four and has had three multi interception games. He’s an absolute ball hawk and a game changer. His one mark against him, to not be the West Division Defensive MOP, is that he didn’t really do a whole lot until game seven this season. I don’t know if Gainey will get the nod unless he keeps up the interception pace. If he sits around 12 or 13 interceptions at the end of the season then I could definitely see him accepting the award at season’s end.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers – TJ Heath

Add another defensive back to the nominee list. TJ Heath is one of the best DBs in the league. He’s tied for second in the CFL with four interceptions to go along with 43 tackles, second only to Taylor Loffler on the team. His knock is that all four of his interceptions came in the first three games of the season. At the same time that could also be looked at as a positive. Quarterbacks noticed his ability to force turnovers and throw at him significantly less than they did at the start of the season.

This may not be Heath’s year to win the Defensive MOP award but there is no denying he is having a great season. He will have to turn up his interception numbers fast if he wants to get back into the conversation.

The Big Three

Unless someone comes out of left field, it’s down to three players to be the West Division’s Defensive MOP. Alex Singleton, Solomon Elimimian and Ed Gainey all have a shot at taking home this award and an outside shot of taking the MOP outright. Singleton is the total package this year, his tackling and ability to turn the ball over places him at the top of my list. Then, in no particular order Elimimian and Gainey are battling it out to take the top spot away. Elimimian is a consistent force on the football field: everywhere the ball goes he is right there and he is on pace to be the league’s leading tackler once again. Ed Gainey has the most take-aways in the CFL and he is three interceptions away from tying Terry Irvin’s team record of 11 which was set in 1984. With almost a third of the season to go, the CFL West Division Defensive MOP nominee race is heating up.

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