Edmonton Elks’ head coach Jaime Elizondo showered Canadian defensive end Mathieu Betts with praise on Tuesday.
“One of the fundamental principles that we want to be based on defensively is our chase, our pursuit,” said Elizondo in a media availability. “As a team we want to run to the ball better than any other team and Betts sets that standard every day. All you gotta do is watch practice and that guy’s going 100 miles an hour.”
Betts was the No. 3 overall selection in the 2019 CFL Draft and has been receiving work with the first-team defence opposite Kwaku Boateng. He was in training camp with the Chicago Bears in 2019 but joined the Elks after he was released, recording two sacks and one forced fumble in six games.
“The players that explode on one play but not on the next — Betts is exactly the opposite of that,” said Elizondo. “He shows up to work every day giving great effort. His technique is getting better on the edge. (Defensive line coach Demetrious) Maxie’s doing a great job of getting him better with his hands and his feet, but we’re really happy with him. He’s a tone-setter and that’s what you need on defence.”
Elizondo was asked about the play of defensive end Shawn Lemon, who signed with the team in February. The nine-year CFL veteran has recorded 70 sacks in 107 career games while switching teams a remarkable nine times.
“We’d like Shawn to be more like Betts in regards to chasing the ball in pursuit and that intensity. One of the things that I talked to Shawn about yesterday was just finding that niche of consistency on every play. That’s what we’re looking for from him, is taking it to the next level and putting the effort into every single rep so the young guys who emulate him,” said Elizondo.
“He needs to up his game a little bit in terms of pursuit but there’s not many better pass-rush specialists in this league.”
The battle between Boateng, Betts, and Lemon will be a fascinating one to follow ahead of Edmonton’s season-opener against the Ottawa Redblacks on Saturday, August 7.