Opinion: Calgary Stampeders’ DL Shawn Lemon should win CFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player

Photo: Larry MacDougal/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Rodney Dangerfield was one of the most successful stand-up comedians of all time and the theme that ran throughout his career was that he got “no respect.”

There isn’t a better impersonator of Rodney Dangerfield in the CFL than Calgary Stampeders defensive end Shawn Lemon.

The 34-year-old is on pace to become the fastest player in league history to reach 100 sacks. He has recorded 90 career quarterback takedowns over 133 career games played in 11 seasons for six different teams, some on multiple occasions.

In 2021 he was cut by the Elks after training camp while being told the game had passed him by. He would return to Calgary for the first time since 2014 and collect eight sacks in 11 games while forcing two fumbles. Both of those stats would have led Edmonton for the season as the top sack man in green and gold managed six QB drops.

During the 2018 and 2019 seasons he was traded from Toronto to BC, and then signed as a free agent in Toronto only to be traded to BC again.

“I see it as many teams wanted me for what I can do,” Lemon said taking a Zen-like approach on the Horsemen Radio podcast when asked about his transient career.

That’s not to say he doesn’t also carry a bit of a chip on his shoulder as he continues to succeed. “Every week I go play a team, and that same team in 2020 before the pandemic…nine teams had a chance to sign me, and none of them signed me so I’m pretty pissed off before the game even starts.”

That motivation has seemed to be the juice Lemon needed.

As per Winnipeg Blue Bombers radio play-by-play man Derek Taylor, Lemon is second in the league in sacks, but Taylor claims that three of league leader Lorenzo Maudlin’s sacks were instead tackles for a loss on QB runs rather than a true QB sack. He also has Lemon third in the league when you combine sacks, tackles-for-loss, and holding penalties drawn.

All of this is to say that Shawn Lemon deserves your vote for defensive player of the year.

There are those who will scoff, but that means you are likely drawing on reputation rather than production. Something that happens often for Lemon who has just one East all-star nod in his 10-year CFL career.

Defensive ends used to win the Most Outstanding Defensive Player award regularly but only once in the last decade has a lineman taken home the hardware.

Willie Jefferson was the winner in 2019 when he had 24 total tackles, 12 sacks, one interception and six forced fumbles. If you go back a little further, John Chick won it in 2009 with 30 total tackles, 11 sacks and four forced fumbles.

So far, with three games to go this season, Lemon has 25 tackles, 12 sacks, and five forced fumbles. While no one can see the future, it should be safe to say that Lemon could improve on his own numbers this season to meet or beat the numbers of those MODP-winning seasons.

Photo: Bob Butrym/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Yet he is rarely mentioned before the game as the “player to watch” or as a “defensive menace.” The players you will often hear about in that context are the “bookends” in Winnipeg, Jefferson and Jackson Jeffcoat who have combined for a total of 10 sacks this season.

Lemon’s group leads the league in sacks with 44 and he has more than a quarter of the squad’s output. All-star defensive tackle Mike Rose is second on the team with seven. Folarin Orimalade is third with five. Lemon has been the straw that stirs the drink in getting the team to the CFL lead.

This is all without having played this season’s version of the turnstile — the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The Riders approach this weekend having given up more sacks than any other team combined with 59. Projecting ahead to a team that averages close to four sacks surrendered per game against the league’s best sack attack and it could be some rough days ahead for Cody Fajardo.

One of the players that would know him best lines up across from him every day in practice and tweeted:

Within the CFL media community, there is often criticism that players get year-end rewards more based on reputation than results. It’s easier to get your second all-star than your first. Not enough of the voters actually watch enough games.

If you are one of those voters, make sure you take a long look at what Shawn Lemon has done this year. He is having a season that equals or betters those winning defensive ends of the past, and is the lead producer of the most sack happy defensive unit in the league.

A very worthy MODP vote indeed.

Ryan Ballantine is a lifelong Stamps fan and host of the Horsemen Radio Podcast. He has been covering the team since 2008.