Stamps' defensive line remains strong

Edmonton Eskimos Jason Armstead shoves Calgary's Charleston Hughes during last year's western...

Edmonton Eskimos Jason Armstead shoves Calgary's Charleston Hughes during last year's western semifinal. CODIE MCLACHLAN/QMI AGENCY)

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:30 AM ET

CALGARY - The low numbers probably had something to do with Charleston Hughes' low number.

Yet, the Calgary Stampeders defensive end isn't lacking confidence to open the 2012 CFL season.

Hughes led the Stamps with seven sacks last year, part of a league-low 27 for the team, so when the results of TSN's Top 50 came out, the five-year veteran didn't make the cut.

Getting an honourable mention as being tied for No. 51 with Edmonton Eskimos linebacker JC Sherritt didn't satisfy him.

So when asked for his message to quarterbacks this season, the 28-year-old flashed that crazy smile of his.

"Be aware of the rest of (the defensive players)," Hughes said. "Don't worry about me, I'm only No. 51.

"My first reaction looking at the list was there were a lot of suspect people in the top 50 that I don't agree with.

"If you compare me to other defensive linemen in this league, none of them compare with what I do."

There were five defensive ends ranked ahead of Hughes on the Top 50 list, and all but Ricky Foley (45th) of the Toronto Argonauts had more QB sacks than Hughes' seven.

Saskatchewan's Odell Willis (33rd on the list, 13 sacks), Montreal's John Bowman (20th, 12), B.C.'s Keron Williams (18th, 11) and Edmonton's Marcus Howard (37th, 11) ranked second through fifth in that category last year.

Stamps defensive-line coach DeVone Claybrooks, who lined up next to Hughes last year, still believes Hughes is the best all-around defensive end in the league.

Claybrooks argues that if Hughes didn't drop into coverage about 35 times a game last season he would have been up there among the league sack leaders.

"The guys with the higher numbers, they pass rush 50 times a game," Claybrooks said. "His numbers should speak for himself.

"You don't see a lot of ends dropping in coverage and being the factor that he is. You will see bigger numbers this year. I'm expecting big things."

Under former defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones, the Stamps didn't put a priority on sacks.

That should change this season under Rick Campbell, but the main influence is Claybrooks, who hopes to create pressure with just a four-man rush.

Having Corey Mace back at the tackle position should help.

Mace actually was on pace for 18 sacks last season "¦ with one in the season-opener before blowing out his Achilles.

The third-year Canadian expects the Stamps to be among the league leaders in sacks.

"Guaranteed," Mace said. "We will get after the quarterback. We have to capitalize when we're back there.

"We just have to be smart because the refs are quick with the whistle. You need to be smart, but you can't play hesitant."

Hughes had a solid 2011 by making some impact plays. He had an interception he returned 67 yards and picked up a fumble that he took for a 71-yard touchdown.

So he suggests not to look just at sacks.

"We had hits on quarterbacks," Hughes said. "No quarterback was comfortable sitting in the pocket playing against us.

"Even though we didn't have the amount of sacks other teams did, we still did our job."

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter @SUNIanBusby


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