Our Leos offence usually gets more than it's fair share of discussion. A continuing discussion of who should be the starting qb, the excitement of realizing we have a back-up in Pierce who oozes potential, a tremendous recieving corps, the continuing emergence of Warren as the league's best all-purpose tailback, a retooling of the offensive line, the Leos offensive strategies all occupy our attention.
However the Leos undefeated record this year and the improvement of the squad from last year has more to do with the Leos improvement on defence and special teams. Some of those reasons include:
- The decision to hire Dave Ritchie as defensive coordinator to replace Arsanian. Ritchie has brought a complex defensive scheme with three man and four man fronts, three linebacker, four linebacker, and even five linebacker sets, and defensive back units which include five, six, and seven defensive back formations. The Leos have utilized the blitz much more often this year, and have schemed it with linebacker, defensive half, and safety blitzes. They've even dropped lineman like Johnson into coverage while blitzing to provide different looks. It's made playing the Leos more challenging than the 'vanilla' defence of last year.
- A more aggressive attitude towards defence which has led to a lot more fumbles and interceptions. The Leos defence is a weapon in games and the turnovers have led to touchdowns. The Leos offence, in some ways, has not been as effective or explosive, as last season and turnovers have played a huge role in offensive production.
- Improved personell, especially in the defensive backfield with the additions of Phillips, Miles, and Tony Tiller has resulted in more team speed and aggressiveness. Improved pressure on the quarterback has also helped the defensive backfield unit. The Leos defence is giving up the highest amount of percentage completions in the CFL. However most of those passes have been of the shorter variety. Combined with sure tackling from most of our defensive backs has limited opposition offences.
We've really cut down on long passes and made timely interceptions. Young and Marsh are excellent corners, Phillips is a real find, and Tiller is a fast, smart defensive back.
- Kidd, Simpson, and Floyd bring an experienced, physical approach to the linebacker positions, playing their positions with the reckless abandon within a disciplined approach.
- Brent Johnson has emerged into a complete defensive end who is now the best in the league at his position. Always an excellent pass rusher his ability to also stop the run and to rush the quarterback from different positions on the defensive line are also outstanding this season.
- A tremendous comradarie amongst the defensive unit. These guys play for each other and cheer each others successes. An example was when Crumb made a nice interception and return in the Hamilton game they were all over him on the sidelines.
What Needs To Improve:
- Chris Wilson has provided excellent contain and a speed rush with pressure on the quarterback so far this season. With Johnson getting more double teams its time for Wilson to start improving his technique and begin getting more quarterback sacks. McKay-Loesher is starting to get more game time reps and could emerge in this position.
- The Leos need an improved interior pass rush. Williams is beginning to step up his game in the interior of the line. Ferrara has been solid but not impressive. My big hope in the off-season was that the Leos would sign Joe Fleming but that never happened. Dante Booker may yet get back into the starting lineup. In the long term the Leos defense could really use a defensive tackle with tremendous push inside. It would make Johnson's job easier and also help a speed guy like Wilson by not allowing the quarterback to step up in the pocket.
- Improved play from Mark Washington. Washington is an experienced defensive back. He doesn't have the speed to break on the reciever as some of the other speedy Leos defensive backs. However he has been a smart defensive back in the past who understands the strengths of the recievers he faces. This year he's tried to make the big hit at times without 'wrapping' well and on blitzes he's given up the inside route a few too many times, a cardinal sin when Miles is blitzing from the safety position.
Interested in your thoughts!! I'll post a separate topic on special teams, another HUGE reason the Lions are undefeated so far this year.