Balloting is now closed for divisional All-Star nominations, so over a four-day span I will unveil one of four groups of players. Today I present my West Defensive All-Stars.
Defensive Tackle: DeVone Claybrooks (CAL), Tom Johnson (CAL)
One of the hardest positions to pick an All Star at is Defensive Tackle. Guys who play this position are not stat machines. Their presence is felt in other areas. The Calgary combination of Claybrooks and Johnson made life miserable for Running Backs when they played against the Stampeders. Each man also recorded four sacks, which is fairly impressive for an interior Lineman.
Defensive End: Brent Johnson (BC), Keron Williams (BC)
While the Stampeders clog up the middle, this Lions pair help get to the passer. While BC did not lead the league in sacks, both Johnson and Williams provided excellent pressure on opposing Quarterbacks, combining for 12 sacks over the course of the season.
Linebacker: Solomon Elimimian (BC), Barrin Simpson (SSK), Juwan Simpson (CAL)
Linebackers are the Quarterbacks of the defense, and these three guys were the best of the best in 2010.
What Solomon Elimimian accomplished in his rookie season was nothing short of phenomenal. He led his team in tackles and wreaked havoc on opposing players. He laid out vicious hit after vicious hit. A nice find by Wally Buono.
Barrin Simpson came into this season with something to prove. After being in Mike Kelly's (remember him?) doghouse for most of last season, Simpson was unceremoniously dumped by Winnipeg after the 2009 season. The Roughriders took a chance on the aging Linebacker and all he did was lead the league in tackles.
Juwan Simpson took his game to another level in 2010, tying for the West-Division lead with seven sacks, and leading the Stampeders in tackles with 71. Simpson is also great on Special Teams, where he notched an additional 18 tackles.
Cornerback: Brandon Browner (CAL), Dwight Anderson (CAL)
Probably the two players I hate more than any others, the Stampeder duo of Brandon Browner and Dwight Anderson are the best cover tandem in the West. Week in, week out, these guys shut down the top Receivers in the CFL. They both get a lot of leeway from officials, but their stellar play has earned them the benefit of the doubt.
Defensive Back: Chris Thompson (EDM), Milt Collins (CAL)
Collins seamlessly made the switch from Safety to Halfback this season, and continued to lay the big hits on guys.
Thompson, who was acquired from Hamilton in the off-season, found his ballhawk skills again. Thompson finished second in the league with seven interceptions, after notching only one last season.
Safety: James Patrick (SSK)
Patrick was the top ballhawk this CFL season, leading the league with nine interceptions. Patrick was a force to be reckoned with in the Secondary, tallying 68 tackles to go along with those interceptions.
Special Teams: Yonus Davis (BC)
In the West, there was no more potent a weapon on Special Teams than Yonus Davis. He is a poor man's version of Toronto's Chad Owens. Davis finished with over 1,600 return yards, while adding three return touchdowns.