Defensive lineman Willie Jefferson has had a great start to the season, but it needs to be more than a one-man show up front for the Roughriders defensive line to succeed.
They need a bigger push, especially up the middle.
The Riders are second-last in the league against the run and in sacks plus quarterback pressures.
They have a total of 41 (10 sacks, 31 QB pressures). Of that, Willie Jefferson has 19.
Defensive Line Coach Ed Philion is hoping he can boost the numbers of the rest of his players.
“You’d see their numbers go higher if we get consistent inside push,” he said.
“We’ve stressed that all season, but especially this week with (B.C. Lions quarterbacks Travis) Lulay and (Jonathon) Jennings.”
Discipline has also been a factor for the defensive linemen, he added.
Philion said he’s noticed some players are trying to do too much, creating lanes for the quarterback to escape.
“We just showed them (in the film room) times that they tried to do somebody else’s play and how it affects us,” he said.
“B.C. found those mistakes and were able to exploit it.”
Head Coach Chris Jones said even Jefferson is one of those players, despite how good he’s been.
“A couple of times in the run game he’s gotten out of his gap, which hurts us in the run game which nobody sees … because they don’t know really know where we’re supposed to be defensively,” he said.
Jones and Philion had success in Edmonton with one of the best defensive tackles in the CFL, Almondo Sewell.
The Riders don’t have a similar impact player, so Philion said they need to be creative in provinding interior push.
“You have to find ways to make do or get by and doing different things; use movement, use their strengths,” he said.
“We don’t have that big six foot four, 300-pounder, so we’re going to have to use our quickness and our speed and try to disrupt things.”
However, players matching Philion’s description are on the way.
The Riders recently signed defensive tackles Nick James and Darious Cummings.
James is six foot four and weighs 330 pounds, while Cummings is six foot one and weighs 300 pounds.
James could make his Rider debut this weekend against the B.C. Lions.
Philion is hoping he’s found that ‘monster’ to help the defense.
“The search is always on,” he said.
“Until you find that Almondo Sewell type guy we’re going to keep searching.”