Shabazz sets D tone

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

From a nobody in training camp to the defensive MVP?

It sounds like a great script - and it has a chance of becoming a reality with the Edmonton Eskimos this season.

If linebacker Siddeeq Shabazz continues his all-star play of late, the Green and Gold rookie should be a serious contender to be named the club's top defender at the end of the year.

Granted, there are two other candidates - DB Jason Goss and LB Shannon Garrett - in the running at the moment, but Shabazz stepped up with his most noticeable effort of the season during a 16-10 win against Montreal on Sunday.

Considering the age-old saying that five specific plays will ultimately determine a football game, Shabazz made one of them on his own goal line in the first half at Molson Stadium.

In the first quarter, Montreal had three cracks at scoring a touchdown from inside Edmonton's three-yard line.

On the third-down gamble, Shabazz sacked Montreal quarterback Marcus Brady for a four-yard loss to give Edmonton the ball back.

"It was a little carryover from last week," said Shabazz, referring to Montreal's trip to Commonwealth Stadium on Sept. 14. "Last week, I kind of let him in the end zone. I was frustrated about that.

"It was an easy read but my eyes weren't right. So, this time I knew they weren't going to score.

WEREN'T LETTING THEM IN

"We knew they were coming hard - we weren't going to let them in. They tried to cut me - played the cut block, got outside and made the play."

Playing Will-linebacker, Shabazz is making Eskimo fans forget Singor Mobley.

In fact, Shabazz leads the Esks in defensive tackles through 12 weeks with 54.

The 26-year-old import is also second on the team with three sacks.

After spending time with five NFL clubs and playing 28 regular-season games in the world's top four-down league, Shabazz is clearly starting to find his stride as a CFL rookie.

"This is my game now," said Shabazz, who was a safety in the NFL.

"The biggest adjustment (was) playing down in the box (among the front seven), having to read the run and the pass a lot quicker. That was the hardest part to get used to.

"And then taking on linemen - I never had to take them on like that before."

While the coaching staff praised the defence for its effort in Montreal, Shabazz's overall body of work this season is earning very high marks from one of the most respected members of the Eskimo locker-room.

"Man, he has become an excellent player," said Garrett, a 13-year CFL veteran.

"He is physical, fast, he's an all-around good player."

But if Shabazz continues to turn heads in this league for the rest of the season, the NFL could come calling again.

OPTION YEAR

Going into his option year on his contract next year, he could bolt from the Eskimos in the winter.

From a financial point of view, there is no comparison to the mighty American circuit. But you can easily tell that Shabazz has a bit of a bad aftertaste in his mouth after dealing with the NFL in the past.

"Honestly, I have been kind of frustrated with the NFL, just the way that they treat you," said Shabazz. "They don't treat you like people."

When asked how some players are treated, Shabazz responded: "Like cattle."

To the Eskimos, Shabazz is becoming a defensive stud.


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