CFL vet Ryan Phillips: these are the best defensive backs in the league

Editor’s note: With the 2017 season just past the halfway point, we asked 12-year CFL veteran Ryan Phillips to give us his choices for the best defensive backs in the league. Phillips spent more than a decade in the secondary with the B.C. Lions before joining the Alouettes this season. A two-time Grey Cup champion, he is currently the president of the Lockdown/Playmaker Institute.

This is the moment most players and fans have been waiting for: finally, an opinion and perspective from a player not too far removed from recent times. But also an unbiased and true perspective of who and why these players are the best of the best. Obviously, I have a passion for this position, but I have taken the time to watch all the games and do the necessary homework. I have seen the performances of all the great defensive backs across the CFL. I know I’m going to have a few guys mad at me, but I wanted to be as truly honest as possible. This is just the all-star Lockdown/Playmaker team through the first half of the season with a lot of football left. So, if you’re not on here now it doesn’t mean you won’t be by seasons end.

Let me give a little background about the criteria:

1. There will be “NO ONE HIT WONDERS.” I have seen it happen too many times in this league where people crown some guys off of one game or one performance. Trust me it won’t happen here. 

2. Make an impact in more ways than one. I say this because I don’t want people to think I’m judging only based off interceptions. I like overall impact on the game and production. Difference makers.

3. Consistency. It’s simple. Can your team rely on you being this all-star player week in and week out. Consistency is the difference between being great and being average.

4. Are you on the oppositions scouting report as a threat? That’s inside information for me only. Sorry HAHA

5. Big play ability. Do you make the big play? Do you make an impact when the game is on the line? Do you limit the production of the opposition? These are all critical elements to being an all-star.

So, now without further ado here is the Lockdown/Playmaker Mid Season all-stars of 2017:

Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ Chris Randle (8) celebrates his touchdown against the Ottawa Redblacks with teammates during first half of a CFL football game in Ottawa on Friday, Aug. 4, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Cornerbacks: Chris Randle (Winnipeg), Ronnie Yell (B.C. Lions)

Now in his sixth season, Randle has embodied the word consistency. He’s a solid corner that does everything well. He tackles, makes plays and limits whatever receiver he faces. In my opinion he’s one half of the best boundary side secondary in the league. Yell is definitely one of the leading candidates for comeback player of the year, a guy who gives his team a chance to win ball games every week. With three interceptions he’s showing steady improvement by making game changing big plays.

Honourable mentions: Ciante Evans (Calgary), Johnathon Mincy (Montreal), Jovon Johnson (Saskatchewan), Richard Leonard (Hamilton)

Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive back Ed Gainey celebrates an interception during first half CFL action against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, in Regina on Sunday, September 3, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor

Halfabcks: T.J. Heath (Winnipeg), Ed Gainey (Saskatewan)

Heath is just a great and consistent playmaker. Always around the ball. Definitely on the other teams scouting report as a threat to make plays and create turnovers. Meanwhile, Gainey is simply the “HOTTEST” DB in the league. Gainey has went from a four interception game to making plays every week. Just added another two interception game in the Banjo bowl against Winnipeg.  Big time players, make big time plays, in big games. His impact on defense goes without question while probably playing the hardest spot in the secondary “boundary halfback.” Simply put, this selection is a no brainer. 

Honourable mentions: Jamar Wall (Calgary), Loucheiz Purifoy (B.C. Lions), T.J. Lee (B.C. Lions)

Edmonton Eskimos linebacker Kenny Ladler (37) celebrates with defensive back Arjen Colquhoun (36) after he intercepted a pass to end the game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats during fourth quarter CFL football action in Hamilton, Ont., on Thursday, July 20, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley

Nickel: Kenneth Ladler (Edmonton)

Ladler is a rising star. Always sticks out on film by steadily being around the ball and making plays. Plays hard all the time and he’s starting to become one of the most important guys on that Edmonton defense especially with J.C. Sherritt’s absence.

Honourable mentions: Cassius Vaughn (Toronto), Maurice Leggett (Winnipeg), Shaquille Richardson (Calgary)

Safety: Antoine Pruneau (Ottawa)

Antoine Pruneau- Pruneau is taking full advantage of being able to go back to free safety full time. He’s making plays in every facet of the game including special teams. His ball skills are a pleasant surprise with his team leading three interceptions.

Honourable mentions: Taylor Loffler (Winnipeg),

Good luck to everyone on the second half of the season and let the big plays continue.

Facebooktwitterredditmail

30 Comments on CFL vet Ryan Phillips: these are the best defensive backs in the league

  1. white stallion in red // September 6, 2017 at 5:22 pm //

    Randle is a Stamp originally. Where are Campbell and Evans?? The 2 first team corners from last year playing on the best team and best secondary in the league?

    • riderontheisland // September 6, 2017 at 6:06 pm //

      get over yourself horsie and just like everyone is trying to tell you that you don’t have the best secondary in the league.

      • Laughable. Tommie Campbell is the best in the league. How did Edmonton’s Weapon #1 Bowman do in Labour Day? I assumed he played as he was invisible. Evans is practically as good.

        Look, Huff takes dumps that know more about football than Jones, or Maas, or a lot of other GMs, and the same with DD regarding coaches. Any team would be lucky to have Campbell or Evans.Don’t believe me, we’ll talk again, what, Sept 24?? I’m sure Campbell will go against Carter again (I think Carter had 2 catches for 8 yards last time?).

      • PS: Please keep yipping. It makes the “8 yards” even more enjoyable, if that’s possible.

    • Horse – please re read >>

      “an opinion and perspective from a player not too far removed from recent times. But also an unbiased and true perspective of who and why these players are the best of the best. Obviously, I have a passion for this position, but I have taken the time to watch all the games and do the necessary homework. I have seen the performances of all the great defensive backs across the CFL. I know I’m going to have a few guys mad at me, but I wanted to be as truly honest as possible”

      Cheers

    • George Porge // September 6, 2017 at 7:16 pm //

      Evans was an honourable mention.

      I can’t actually argue with these picks, to be honest. Calgary may have one of the best overall defenses in the league, but they are an overall balanced team. No one player is “the best in the league” at what they do, but as a team they manage to hold back the opposing teams’ offence. Overall, I’ll take it.

  2. Ed gained eh….another cast off by Austin who just wasnt good enough for his defence .

    • Puzzled Cat Fan // September 6, 2017 at 6:01 pm //

      While I wanted the Cats to keep Gainey at the time, between two years in Montreal and two years in Hamilton, he had two INTs.

      Maybe it’s what he was asked to do and/or the cast around him but last year’s three INTs and so far this year’s six INTs are different than he had done.

      Reed seems more of a mess up considering 2014 was 60 DT, 5 ST, 8 sacks and 1 INT. The following year 2015 was 81 DT, 2 ST, 2 sacks and 1 INT.

    • Gainey used to get burned walking into the stadium off the street.

      It’s great he’s having a stellar season and if he keeps it up he’ll be deserving of league recognition, but let’s not forget how awful he was on too many occasions.

    • Randy … short memory … half the poster boys on this site were calling for his head while he was with the Tiger Cats … no one was going to forgive him for blowing the tackle on Ellingson’s miracle catch that put Ottawa into the final

  3. white stallion in red // September 6, 2017 at 5:38 pm //

    1 other halfback who isn’t the flashiest guy but is very consistent and been doing it a long time is Branden Smith

  4. solara2000 // September 6, 2017 at 5:50 pm //

    A great analysis. Super that Ryan identifies key competencies and attributes and then assesses using them. May not agree on a couple but hey which team wouldn’t take any of these guys.
    Thanks for a great article Ryan.

  5. Anthony Kaduck // September 6, 2017 at 6:26 pm //

    Great article. I think that next year’s version will see Jonathon Mincy and Richard Leonard making a move into the top tier.

  6. Ryan Phillips has more credibility in assessing the CFL’s defensive backs than any of the posters here.

  7. Stephen Fisher // September 6, 2017 at 7:33 pm //

    Mincy should be in the conversation.

  8. white stallion in red // September 6, 2017 at 8:40 pm //

    Best CFL DB ever………. Less Browne

    • Well no, not Les Browne. The best DB of all time and the first defensive player on TSN’s all time 50 greatest players list from a few seasons ago: Garney Henley.

      • yeppers. garney was best. and played a ton of offence too. fastest guy for a looooong time. and popular too. i hope the ticats bring him back for a special night before it’s too late.

    • Methinks Rod Hill should be in the conversation.

  9. white stallion in red // September 6, 2017 at 9:03 pm //

    Yeah hard to argue with that…something like 10 Allstars honors….unfortunately I have 2 categories..black and white tvs days and colored TV days…no disrespect to the olden times but I don’t think athletes from those days compare to modern ones. Also plays and the cerebral aspect of football are far greater.

  10. Southwest cowboy // September 7, 2017 at 12:37 am //

    Gainey is the reason Hank was able to complete that bomb to Ellingson which took Ottawa to the Grey Cup game in 2015. But that was two years ago, this is now.

  11. Barry Wilburn

  12. TJ Heath… a constant reminder for Argos fans of that awful Drew Willy trade. Worst trade ever.

  13. Johnny Blumpkin // September 12, 2017 at 1:14 pm //

    True story. A lot of pluggish comments here.

Comments are closed.