Whoa Da' Quan Bowers Retires!

Without warning Da' Quan Bowers retired. No going to lie this is a shock and creates a massive question mark for the Esks between Almondo Sewell and Alex Bazzie. Bowers signed an extension through to 2019 just two months ago. What prompted the change of heart is a mystery, but it does make Brock Sunderland look like a genius in preparing the depth by trading Odell Willis.

Now full disclosure, I hated the Willis trade was it was made and warmed to it somewhat when Alex Bazzie was signed. I told myself that Bowers would be the focus of the pass rush and that as important as Bazzie was the interior of the like was set between Bowers and Sewell. Then I took the time to look at the other two defensive tackles and I thought we have two other defensive ends dressed up as tackles. My thoughts were at the time that both Mike Moore and Jake Ceresna though different were equally talented. Given time they could replace Bowers when he took another NFL shot, but that would be two years away and they would be given time to develop.

Surprise! Now the Bowers departure means that one of Mike Moore and Jake Ceresna need to own the position.

Mike Moore had 3 sacks in 5 games last year and will now push to be the guy at DT. At 6' 4" 264 pounds Moore is undersized for the DT position but oversized for the DE position in the CFL. While at Virginia Tech Moore started 9 games in his last season caulking up 3 sacks, 11.5 tackles for a loss, 2 pass defenses and 3 forced fumbles.

Mike Moore Highlights

Jake Ceresna came over from Ottawa in the Odell Willis trade and is most similar in size of Da'Quan Bowers. Ceresna is 6' 5" 295 pounds and he had 2 sacks in 14 games with the Red Blacks last year. Ceresna had a shot with the Jets. While in the NCAA in 33 games he recorded 63 tackles, 38 solo, in 12 starts. He led the Red Dragons with 9.5 sacks and 18.5 total tackles for loss, was second on the squad with 17 quarterback hurries, and also finished with six pass breakups, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

Jake Ceresna Highlights

I have to bet on Jake Ceresna to fill the void and the trade now looks like Sundy had some sort of a crystal ball. Why Ceresna? Fit. He fits the role that the Esks want at this position and Moore can play both DE and DT, so he can be used to backup and platoon with Bazzie and Ceresna.
Does the departure of Bowers impact the pass rush? Yes it does! Bowers was poised to be a double digit pocket collapsing nightmare for CFL QB’s, but now we will never really know just how much damage he could have done to opposing offensive lines. Having typed that Ceresna has upside and has just gone through his rookie year to learn how to be a pro. At 23-years-old Ceresna has huge upside potential. The only question is when will he realize it. Esk fans hope it is this year not next year.

I am left to wonder if the condition of Bowers' formerly injured knee, which was badly injured in a Pro Day workout before the NFL Draft back in 2011 enough to lower his draft stock and likely also his performance in the NFL after recovery, was the factor in his decision.

If you have had knee surgery before as have I, you can recover but overwhelmingly most won't be able to do just quite everything you could do before including without risking further injury.

Adrian Peterson of the NFL was a rare exception in his stellar comeback season in 2015, but after that season he's been done as a top performer though still playing in the NFL.

The last time Bowers was significantly injured was back in 2013 when he was placed on the IR by the Tampa Bay Bucs. However, he did play 14 games last year and 11 games in Tampa in 2014. This feels more like a family thing or a football desire thing and not an injury thing, but that is pure speculation as the Esks have not released why Bowers retired.

No matter why Bowers retired the Esks have to move on. One of Mike Moore and Jake Ceresna now have a chance to be the starter and prove they own it in the first 4-6 games.

I really like Moore's abilities and flexibility to play inside (DT) and outside (DE). Moore has had time last year to digest the Esks schemes and playbook. For this reason, before the Bowers retirement I had Moore as a backup hybrid DT/DE spelling off both Bazzie and Bowers in certain packages for the first 1/3 of the season. That would mean, again before the Bowers retirement, Ceresna would start on the PR then platoon with Bowers from about game 6 onward. This would have allowed Ceresna to develop more in the Esks scheme. However, considering what has transpired I would bet Ceresna get's the starters gig for fit reasons and will have to grow into the position quickly. With Ceresna the scheme remains intact without significant adjustment.

The key issue is that the Esks platoon at the DT pass rushing spot to keep players fresh, but with Moore being a little undersized he is more of a situational player. This is a bit of a disadvantage as the opposition can recognize the package and adjust their play calling accordingly. Hence what is most likely to happen is that Ceresna will play 80% of the downs for the first six games and will have to up his game on the pass rush. Does this take a toll on Ceresna by game twelve or fourteen and can Moore fill the void if necessary? I guess we have to wait and see, but it is likely.

It seems clear now that Sundy brought Ceresna in for his potential, to fit the scheme as a pass rushing DT and because of his physical attributes being most like Bowers. Now that Bowers "retired" that has opened the door to Ceresna, but for scheme reasons the Esks must find another 290+ pounder to play on the interior of the line behind Ceresna and Sewell. Could Moore work? Yes, but the undersized backup at DT experiment has been tried before with mixed results.

Remember players like Jabari Hunt and Sam Montgomery who were both 260+ pounders with talent, but just couldn’t get over the size difference. Not saying Moore is like either of these players and he did have 3 sacks in 5 games last year, but Brock Sunderland often has a backup plan to the backup plan and that means he has to be on the hunt for Bowers replacement. Once the replacement is found the door is shut on Bowers.

One also has to consider Sundy paid a heavy price to acquire Ceresna as in Willis, a neg list player and 4th rounder which tells me that the Esks see Ceresna similar to a first rounder ranked of player. BTW Bowers was a 2nd rounder in the NFL draft and would clearly be a 1st rounder in the CFL. From a rating perspective and on paper the Esks believe Ceresna and Bowers are of the same level of talent and that means the clock is ticking on Bowers return. If he is going to unretire he needs to do so by game 3 or 4 or the Esks will have filled the gap and moved on without him.

Any word out of Edmonton as to why Bowers retired?

Had a great year last year and should have been on his way to even bigger and better things with the Esks this season.

Sad to see him go as he was fun to watch

Apparently he has a coaching gig with Clemson, but he is still not listed with the team.

He knew his NFL window had closed and it was time to move on when he got an offer in Clemson.