Bombers' Hall leading sack race

Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Henry Burris (L) fumbles the ball as his is sacked by Winnipeg Blue...

Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Henry Burris (L) fumbles the ball as his is sacked by Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Alex Hall during the second half of their CFL game in Winnipeg, August 16, 2012. (REUTERS)

JIM BENDER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:31 AM ET

The joke during pre-season was that the Blue Bombers had certainly replaced Odell Willis with a defensive end with the same tendency to jump offside.

But the play of Alex Hall since then has certainly been no joke.

With another two quarterback sacks during Winnipeg's 34-12 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last weekend, Hall moved into a first-place tie with B.C.'s Khalif Mitchell atop the CFL list at eight apiece. That is actually two ahead of Willis, who was traded to Saskatchewan last winter.

"It's a good accomplishment to be recognized as an individual," Hall humbly submitted Wednesday. "It's a good feeling."

Hall is actually still getting the hang of this Canadian game.

"As long as he keeps working, I honestly believe that he can be the best defensive end in this league," said Bombers defensive line coach Will Plemons. "But that's gonna take a lot of work. He's not there yet. But I think the potential is there ... As long as he keeps working, as long as he works on the fine points of this game, I think he can be just as devastating a pass rusher as anyone else. I honestly believe that."

So, why does he believe that?

"He's very smart," Plemons responded. "He's very athletic and he stays on his feet all the time. You don't see him off his feet. He's also strong for his length. Some guys with that type of length can get pushed off. But he's uncannily strong for the size he is, and he's got great balance. So, you put that together and you work on the fine points of his game, the set points, the moves and so forth. He's going in the right direction to become a very fine defensive end here."

The 6-foot-5, 250-pound St. Augustine's product admitted that it has taken awhile to adjust to the Canuck game after playing a few years in the NFL.

"Yeah, adapting to the one-yard rule," said Hall, who played for Cleveland, Philadelphia and New York Giants. "That was the biggest difference and everything's finally coming together now ... I haven't got called (for offside) for a while, so that hasn't been an issue for me."

Plemons, who is coaching in the CFL for the first time, understands.

"It's hard for a guy to come from the States and adapt to one yard," he said. "They don't get it that it's not tolerated until you get caught. Then, it shakes you up a little bit as well. Most guys, it takes a game. But he has adapted. He hasn't had a penalty in a while, that's absolutely critical."

Interim head coach Tim Burke said Hall played his best game of the year versus Hamilton.

"He's been a good pass rusher but I think he's really picked up his run defence, and I thought he did a really nice job in both facets of the game," he said. "He's got a chance to be really, really good."

Hall, 27, also recorded five defensive tackles against Hamilton.

"I give him credit because we've got a lot of new guys on that line, and we've got a new coach, and you've got to sort it out and you've got to work on it under fire," Plemons said.

LEAGUE LEADERS

This may come as a shock but the lowly Winnipeg Blue Bombers are actually tied for the CFL lead with 29 quarterback sacks.

Alex Hall leads the way with eight while both Jason Vega and Bryant Turner have five apiece.

"We're not surprised because we know what we're capable of," Vega said Wednesday. "We took that talk that we were too inexperienced and too young to heart, and we went out and played like we should."

But it has taken them perhaps too long to start playing like they should.

"It's like any other position, there are some tendencies you need to recognize from the other D-linemen and once you get those things down, it starts to come all together, and it works," Vega said.

"This season has not gone the way you want it to, thus far," Plemons said of the losing record. "However, we are doing a good job of getting pressure on the quarterback and we could be so much better as well. We haven't reached our full potential yet."

Both Plemons and Vega credited the improved play of middle linebacker Henoc Muamba for the defensive line's recent surge.

"It's good at this point when you're putting pressure on the quarterback and the team, overall, is getting better," Plemons said. "I think that will reflect better for the defence. The offence did such a great job last week and that helped us stay fresh."

QUARTERBACK SACK RACE

Team

Winnipeg 29

B.C. 29

Saskatchewan 27

Montreal 26

Edmonton 26

Calgary 22

Hamilton 21

Toronto 16

Individual

Alex Hall, Winnipeg 8

Khalif Mitchell, B.C. 8

Odell Willis, Saskatchewan 6

Charleston Hghes, Calgary 6

Jason Vega, Winnipeg 5

Bryant Turner, Winnipeg 5

Khreem Smith, B.C. 5

Shae Emery, Montreal 5

Greg Peach, Hamilton 5

Ted Laurent, Edmonton 5

Ventrell Jenkins, Montreal 5


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