Former CFL star Alex Singleton leading the NFL in tackles ahead of Week 6 Sunday slate

Photo courtesy: Philadelphia Eagles

It’s an image intimately familiar to any CFL fan. Alex Singleton, long hair trailing behind him, arms flexed as he pops up to make a guttural yell after yet another tackle.

Whether its a bone-crunching form tackle in the hole or a feat of sideline to sideline athleticism, its starting to get awfully familiar south of the border too.

That’s because, as the NFL prepares for a full slate Week 6 action on Sunday, the former Calgary Stampeder is leading the NFL in combined tackles.

With 66 takedowns — 35 solo and 31 assisted — so far in 2021, Singleton is the league’s most prolific linebacker at what linebackers are supposed to do best. That status comes with a game in hand on most of his opponents thanks to a 14 tackle performance during Thursday Night Football this week, but while players like Denzel Perryman, Bobby Wagner and Eric Kendricks have a chance to surpass him on Sunday, Singleton has firmly entrenched himself among the top five at his position.

There is much more to linebacker play than simply racking up tackles, but Singleton’s presence at the top of a major statistical category leaves little doubt as to his arrival as a legitimate NFL player and the heartbeat of the Eagles defence. The 27-year-old  played 16 games, starting 11, last season for the Eagles and recorded a team-leading 114 total tackles, two sacks, recovered two fumbles, defended one pass and intercepted one pass which he returned for a touchdown. He’s currently on pace for 193 this season, his first year wearing the captain’s patch.

That’s the type of production CFL followers were used to seeing out of Singleton while with the Calgary Stampeders. He produced 123 tackles in his final two years in Canada, earned the league’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player Award in 2017, and received CFL all-star recognition twice.

All three years Singleton was with the Stamps, Calgary made it to the Grey Cup. However, the first two times resulted in upset defeats, the Redblacks in 2016 in Toronto and the Argos in 2017 in Ottawa. The third time was the charm as the Stampeders claimed Earl Grey’s mug in 2018.

The 2-4 Eagles are unlikely to have that level of success no matter what Singleton does, but the long-haired daredevil backer has slowly forced fans and commentators to take notice of his presence. Soon, he may reap the rewards.

Singleton signed a one-year exclusive rights free agent contract in March worth $850,000 plus performance incentives, a steal of a deal for a productive starter in the middle. He’s made over $1 million in the NFL so far, but should be in line for a major pay increase if he keeps up his torrid pace.

Fans north of the border know few deserve it more than the late-in-life Canadian and they are more than happy to live vicariously through him.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.