One of the greatest defensive linemen in Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ history believes that his former club needs some pass rush reinforcements. Luckily, he’s got just the player in mind.
On Sunday, Hall of Famer Doug Brown took to Twitter to give his two cents on the Bombers’ defensive front, suggesting veteran free agent Shawn Lemon would be the perfect piece to pull the unit together.
“Thoughts after seeing the (Winnipeg Blue Bombers’) starters for 1.5 quarters: If they can afford it, the team could use a Shawn Lemon — or another difference maker off the edge —and a disruptive force at DT. Jeffcoat didn’t play, but they need at least 3 viable edge rushers & help stopping the run.
As Willie J enters his golden years, he needs to be put on a pitch count. To be most effective, he can’t be playing 60 snaps a game.”
Lemon attended training camp with the B.C. Lions but was released by the team on May 21 due to concerns as to how he would fit with their ratio.
The 34-year-old had spent the previous two seasons with the Calgary Stampeders, producing a career year in 2022. The 11-year veteran recorded a personal best 29 defensive tackles and 14 quarterback sacks to go along with five forced fumbles, earning a CFL All-Star selection and the West Division nomination for Most Outstanding Defensive Player.
The Akron product has appeared in 135 regular-season CFL contests with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Edmonton Elks, Ottawa Redblacks, Toronto Argonauts, Stampeders and Lions, winning two Grey Cups. He has registered 221 defensive tackles, 29 forced fumbles, one interception and 92 sacks in his career — trailing only Charleston Hughes amongst active players last season.
Winnipeg has been known for a ferocious pass rush during their recent era of dominance, with a defensive line bookended by all-stars Jackson Jeffcoat and Willie Jefferson. However, both players will be 32 this season and Jeffcoat was plagued by injuries a year ago, having not dressed for more than 12 games since 2017. The team also lost defensive tackle Casey Sayles to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in free agency, leaving a vacancy likely to be filled by Ricky Walker.
The team gave their starters — save for a resting Jeffcoat — considerable playing time early in their first preseason game against the Edmonton Elks. They would go on to win 25-23 but gave up 421 yards of net offence. The team notched four sacks, including from rookie defensive linemen Caleb Thomas and Aaron Sterling, but none were generated by the first-team unit.
Adding a veteran pass rusher like Lemon at an affordable price would be in line with the rotational model used by the Bombers in recent years when they’ve dressed the likes of Craig Roh, Tobi Antigha, Keion Adams and Cedric Wilcots II.
Winnipeg has one last preseason tuneup on Friday, June 2 against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, before they open the season at home against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on June 9.