Blue’s dynamic duo

JIM BENDER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:25 PM ET

It was rather lofty praise for a pair of promising young pass rushers who are just starting to make their mark on the CFL.

Winnipeg’s twin terrors, Phillip Hunt and Odell Willis, have taken the country by storm this season. The lightning-quick import defensive ends have not only racked up 14 quarterback sacks between them but they have constantly thrown the fear of God into opposing passers.

Hunt recorded his league-leading ninth quarterback sack versus the Saskatchewan Roughriders during Winnipeg’s 31-2 victory Sunday and both gave quarterback Darian Durant fits for the second straight game.

Even Roughriders offensive co-ordinator Doug Berry was impressed.

“I talked to Doug Berry after the game and he talked about our defensive ends, and he said they are as good as he’s seen in a long time,” Bomber head coach Paul LaPolice said.

“For myself, I think back to the Joe Montford-(Tim) Cheatwood) days. But those were guys that were muscles at the end. These are two young guys who are real tremendous football players and work hard. And Odell was sick (flu) the last two days (before the game) … It’s a tribute to Odell for playing well (Sunday).”

But Montford and Cheatwood? Some would argue that Montford was the best defensive end in CFL history. None would argue that he was among the best as he finished his illustrious career in fifth place in all-time quarterback sacks with a total of 135. He also recorded 26 sacks in one season (1999), second only to James (Quick) Parker’s record 26.5 in one year (1984).

Cheatwood, who played with Montford in Hamilton, was one of the most feared defensive ends in his prime, recording 44 sacks in just six years.

But Hunt and Willis are only in their second CFL seasons and get off the ball a lot quicker than either Montford or Cheatwood ever did. And there is no telling how good they could be if they ever stop getting flagged for so many infractions.

Willis, who had 10 sacks last year, has five thus far. Hunt is two up on Montreal’s John Bowman.

“The sack lead means nothing to me,” said Hunt, who had three quarterback drops in seven games last year. “As long as we win games, that’s what I expect to do. I would trade the sack lead for a win any day. The sack lead, I work hard to get that but, as a team player, I like winning games.”

Willis, 26, recorded three defensive tackles, including a stop on a third-down gamble Sunday. The pair do get a lot of help from defensive tackles Doug Brown, Dorian Smith and their backups inside, but their gusto inspires their teammates. They certainly inspired them during the 31-2 victory.

“It was a great game,” said Hunt, 24. “I think everybody on the team had a sense of urgency of getting their job done and winning certain battles, so the outcome was a lot better than it was in the past.”

It also helped the secondary shut down receivers.

“Part of that comes with our front four getting pressure on him (the quarterback) and getting him out of the pocket,” said defensive back Jovon Johnson.

Smith, by the way, had a sack in each of the last two games against Saskatchewan.

“We believe in bringing pressure and making sure that we control the tempo on defence,” LaPolice said.

In fact, the Bomber pressure up front was so disconcerting to the Roughriders that their offensive line is now under scrutiny.

The Bombers play the Argos in Toronto on Sunday, and the Boatmen should be nervous as their O-line allowed six sacks during a loss to the Lions in B.C. last weekend.

jim.bender@sunmedia.ca

Sun sports editor Ted Wyman is joined by writers Paul Friesen and Kirk Penton to debate the hottest topics in sports, including the Bombers big Banjo Bowl win and the Eskimos signing of GM Eric Tillman

winnipegsun.com/sunradio


Videos

Photos