Interceptions? Naw, let's talk about the pass rush.

The start of the 2009 season was less than stellar for the Eskimos defense, as they waited all the way until Week 9 before recording their first interception. Sure the secondary needed to be better, and the linebackers had to be tighter in coverage, but the fact is that the Eskimos inability to get to opposing quarterbacks appears to have had a tremendous effect on the number of picks early in the season. Now I’m not saying that getting sacks equates to more interceptions, however, when you look at the 2009 season stats, a very noticeable trend is observed.

In the first nine weeks of the season, the Eskimos recorded 12 sacks in eights games. At a pace of 1.5 sacks per game, the net result was one lone interception by Bobby Keyes on August 29th. In the following 10 games, the Eskimos pass rush produced 20 sacks and an amazing 18 interceptions. When a defense can improve by an extra half a sack per game to a 2.0 clip, the difference in the amount of interceptions can be quite noticable. Pressure on the opposing quarterbacks means less time for them to make good throws.

The interesting fact about these stats is that the Eskimos had a better winning percentage when they WERE NOT making sacks and picking off passes. Strange indeed, but that’s another story for another day.

Dario Romero, Greg Peach, and Kai Ellis all recorded six sacks apiece last year. Maurice Lloyd added four to the total, while TJ Hill contributed two more. All of those players will need to up their totals if the Eskimos pass rush can be more successful at putting pressure on opposition pivots in 2010.

It will also be interesting to see how Richie Hall uses Rod Davis in a pass rushing role as the veteran linebacker has shown the ability to track down quarterbacks in the pre-season. Davis is a bull of a linebacker and he could be very effective at breaking through the opposition’s offensive line.

How effective newcomers Andre Coleman, Kenneth Pettway, along with second year Eskimo Justin Brown will be is anybody’s guess, but one thing is certain, if none of these players show the ability to get to the quarterback, general manager Danny Maciocia will need to act quickly to find players who can fill the role. It’s no coincidence that the two teams who met in last year’s Grey Cup had three of the top four leaders in the sacks department on their rosters.

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