Esks defenders best of the best

Rod Davis, a linebacker with the Edmonton Eskimos, smiles after receiving a ceremonial helmet...

Rod Davis, a linebacker with the Edmonton Eskimos, smiles after receiving a ceremonial helmet adorned with antlers for the hardest hitter of the week at the 47th Edmonton Eskimo Annual Dinner held on Oct. 25, 2011 at the Shaw Conference Centre. (IAN KUCERAK/QMI Agency)

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:39 PM ET

On a defence that surrendered a league-low 385 points, they’re the best of the best.

Linebacker Rod Davis, cornerback Rod Williams and defensive end Marcus Howard were the Eskimos defenders named as West Division all-stars on Thursday.

“It’s a great honour but I have to take my hat off to my 11 other teammates because without them none of this would be possible,” said Davis, who quarterbacks co-ordinator Rich Stubler’s defence on the field. “We came in this year talking about how this is a team defence, it’s not a one-man show.

“If we just run around and make plays, someone’s bound to be noticed. It’s a team award and it goes to the rest of the 11 guys on the defence.”

It was fitting to have a player from the D-line, the linebacking corps and the secondary singled out, Davis added.

“It’s a testament to the type of defence we had this year,” he said. “We knew coming in this was going to be a totally different group. We knew we were going to have to set different standards to get back to the Eskimo way.

“I think we’re on our way to getting back to where we need to be, but we’re not there yet.”

It helps having Williams’s six interceptions lead the division this season, despite missing three games with a hamstring injury.

It was a race all season long between him and teammate Weldon Brown, who ended up with five picks.

“Me and Weldon are good friends. We compete in everything,” said Williams, who won a $100 bet in the process. “I happened to get more than him, but he’s a great player. We pushed each other. A lot of times he pushed me harder than I pushed him.”

But a defensive back who makes a name for himself one season often finds opposing quarterbacks throwing away from his part of the field in the playoffs.

“It’s a sign of respect,” Williams said. “But at the same time, you’ve got to find ways to make plays for your team. You’ve got to compete.”

But part of Williams’s success belongs to his roommate, Howard, for pressuring quarterbacks and getting 11 sacks in 13 games since joining the Eskimos in Week 6.

“Before a series, Julius (Williams) and Marcus Howard would come tell me, ‘Two-and-a-half seconds, just sit and you’ll be OK,’ ” Williams said. “I’d do that and I got six picks.”

Along with helping out each other, the Eskimos defenders also add to the offence.

“Our defence has been pretty awesome this year,” said quarterback Ricky Ray. “It makes a difference offensively a lot when you go out there and you play with the lead most of the game.

“The other thing, too, is they don’t give up a ton of big plays. That keeps the momentum on our side and they’ve just been doing a tremendous job this year.”

IN AND OUT: LB Greg Peach (knee) and West Division most-outstanding rookie LB J.C. Sherritt (ankle, finger) are both probable for Sunday. However, Peach had his arm looked at by team doctors during a drill Thursday.

RG Greg Wojt (ankle) is doubtful after reaggravating his injury in last week’s regular-season finale.

“Our hope is that we can get him on the field (Friday),” said head coach Kavis Reed. “If we can’t, that answers our question.”

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

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