It’s a good thing Alex Bazzie doesn’t have an opinion of himself that’s higher than Wally Buono because it’s clear the coach/GM of the B.C. Lions isn’t enamored with the position his wide-wide defensive end has among the CFL’s sack leaders.
Bazzie may head into Friday’s game against the Montreal Alouettes leading the league with nine sacks, and his relative productivity in three seasons with the Lions was surprise even to him. It’s no big deal to Buono.
“I lead the league in wins. What the bleep do I care? That’s like saying I’m on a tackle a game pace,” Buono said of Bazzie (above) before getting serious. “I don’t want to undermind what he’s done. What I really like about Alex this year is that he’s played well every game.
“But sacks are a glory stat. If we’ve played 10 games and on average if there’s 60 plays a game, that’s 600 plays (this season) so far.. If he gets nine sacks, whoop-de-do.”
Good thing Bazzie doesn’t have an inferiority complex.
More satisfying is that in his third season with the Lions he is rounding into the player the club had during his rookie year, and his sack totals would be even more impressive if he hadn’t been turned into a rotational backup last season under Jeff Tedford.
Bazzie lost his cool in a pre-season game last season and had been knocked down in the eyes of the former Lions coach from that point until training camp this year, when Buono and defensive coordinator Mark Washington figured out how to use a player whose quickness was more appealing than his size.
In just 32 CFL games, Bazzie has 27 career sacks, and if that doesn’t seem impressive consider that since his arrival in 2014, only John Chick of Hamilton (33) and Montreal’s John Bowman (35) have more during the same span.
Those numbers bring a smile to the face of the surprise sack leader.
“When you consider John Bowman has over 100 career sacks, that’s motivating. I wonder what it takes year in and year out to put up those numbers. I’ve got some catching up to do but it’s nice to get the recognition,” said Bazzie, who will be trying to hunt down former Marshall University teammate Rakeem Cato, now the Als starting quarterback.
So are sacks important to a player if they don’t turn the crank of a cranky coach?
“It matters when you get a sack with a win. A lot of my success is a credit to my teammates. Everytime there’s a sack and a win it’s a magnificent feeling,” said Bazzie.
It’s also a good feeling to be on a 7-3 club and be part of a defence headlined by Solomon Elimimian and Mich’ael Brooks that starts play leading the CFL with 33 sacks overall. What makes it interesting is if Bazzie can improve those totals in the role given him lately by Washington as a lineman asked to drop often into pass coverage.
“It’s making me a complete player, to have to go against running backs in space. I get to have a feel for our guys in the back end and I have more respect for our linebackers and defensive backs,” said Bazzie, who isn’t anywhere close to his listed weight of 260 pounds, according to Buono.
The success of Bazzie or the front four isn’t drawing comparisons to the days of Brent Johnson or Cam Wake, but there’s no mistaking what the pressure game has meant to the overall success of the Lions, whose battle with Montreal matches two of the top four defensive units in the CFL.
It’s just going to take a while longer before Bazzie’s sack success has a more lasting impression on his coach.
LIONS TALES: As forecast the Lions will make four changes to the roster from last week’s game against Toronto, swapping OLs Hunter Steward and Antonio Johnson for Tim O’Neill and the released Levy Adcock. Geraldo Boldewijn is back after missing a game due to a stomach virus, with Courtney Taylor back to a reserve role. Rookie Andrew Hudson replaces Bryant Turner as the Lions wanted change on special teams.