Bomber triple threat

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:34 AM ET

A year ago, Winnipeg defensive tackle Doug Brown earned nods as the Blue Bombers' top player in three different categories.

This year, another defensive player could be a triple threat when the ballots are cast in the next couple of weeks.

Import cornerback Jovon Johnson could easily be named the club's top defensive player and earn recognition as the club's best special teams player. And, like Brown did last year, Johnson rates serious consideration as Winnipeg's most outstanding player in a season where few offensive players have stood out.

Johnson dedicated his season to his brother, DaQuan Crosby, who was gunned down during a robbery in his Erie, Pa., hometown when he was only 15 last year.

"The way I've been going out every game and performing, I know he would have been excited to be able see me do it," said Johnson. "So I dedicated it to him and I'm going to continue to play the way I've been playing."

That's been exceptional. Johnson currently leads the CFL with six interceptions. He also leads the Bombers in defensive tackles with 61 (eighth in the CFL) and is tied for the club lead with eight pass knockdowns while covering the opposing teams' most dangerous receivers.

"Here's a guy who some people had thrown on the rock heap and, for whatever reason, he has responded to what we're trying to get accomplished here," Bomber head coach Mike Kelly said yesterday. "I don't know if there is any individual who has played corner significantly better than he has this year."

Brown, who has 43 defensive tackles and five quarterback sacks could also rate consideration as top defender again.

After a slow start, Johnson now sits fourth in the CFL in punt returns with 50 for 440 yards (8.8-yard average), fifth in kickoff returns with 773 yards on 31 returns (24.9) and leads the league in missed field goal returns with three for 203 yards, including a 118-yard touchdown.

"When all the clamouring was going on about us not having a return man, we kept saying, 'We think we have one here, just hang on and it will start to show,' " Kelly reminded. "Then he does the job he's done for us ...

"I don't see one player play at the level of significance that he has as a punt returner, a kickoff returner and a corner."

Only placekicker Alexis Serna could beat Johnson out in the special teams category. And, barring a late surge by another Bomber, tailback Fred Reid -- who no longer returns kicks -- could edge Johnson out in the most outstanding player category.

"He'd have to be considered in that group," Kelly conceded. "I don't like singling out individual players but certainly, I understand the significance of individual awards coming ... certainly, Jovon needs to be in the conversation."

Johnson, 25, seemed to be taken aback by such a suggestion.

"If I got those awards, I would live with it but the chances of it happening, man, I don't know what they are," said the indefatigueable 5-foot-9, 188-pound Iowa product. "I've never won an award like that. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, I wouldn't be upset about it."

Putting aside the club's 6-9 record for a moment, Johnson has been pleased with his own campaign.

"I'm excited with it," he said. "At the same time, I've got to give a lot of credit to my teammates because, without them, it wouldn't be possible to be doing this well."

jim.bender@sunmedia.ca


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