CFL Week 1 Defensive Line Rankings: Argonauts start the year at No. 1

2X9H9GW Guelph, Canada. 31st May, 2024. Toronto Argonauts defensive lineman Jared Brinkman (91) recovers a fumble during first half CFL pre-season action against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Guelph, Ont., Friday, May 31, 2024. Credit: The Canadian Press/Alamy Live News

• Argonauts have the clear-cut top defensive line: The Argonauts defensive line earned 90.9 overall, 90.3 run-defense and 88.5 pass-rush unit grades in Week 1.

• Alouettes impress behind Mustafa Johnson: He led all Montreal defensive linemen in each grading category, earning an 85.2 overall grade, a 77.3 run-defense grade and a 79.6 pass-rushing grade.

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Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Week 1 of the 2024 CFL season is in the books.

These post-Week 1 lineups include players who played the most at each position, and highlighted in red are those with a season-long PFF grade below 60.0.

1. Toronto Argonauts

Base Defensive Set: Even Front
Field EDGE: Folarin Orimolade
Field DI: Jake Ceresna
Boundary DI: Jared Brinkman
Boundary EDGE: Robbie Smith

  • This unit was elite in Week 1 and the clear-cut best group. The Argonauts defensive line earned 90.9 overall, 90.3 run-defense grade and 88.5 pass-rush unit grades.
  • This elite unit's stars were along the defensive line's interior. Jared Brinkman (92.5) and Jake Ceresna (90.5) earned elite grades. Brinkman starred in the run game, earning a 92.1 run-defense grade with a forced fumble. Ceresna starred in the passing game, earning an 89.2 pass-rushing grade with three sacks and four pressures for an 18.9% pressure rate and a 15.8% win rate.

2. Montreal Alouettes

Base Defensive Set: Odd Front
Field EDGE: Shawn Lemon
NT: Mustafa Johnson
Boundary EDGE: Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund

  • An all-around excellent performance from the Alouettes defensive line. This unit earned a 74.8 overall defensive grade, 72.2 run-defense grade and  71.1 pass-rush grade.
  • CFL East All-Star Mustafa Johnson started the season on a great foot, leading all Montreal defensive linemen in each grading category. He earned an 85.2 overall grade, 77.3 run-defense grade and 79.6 pass-rushing grade.

3. British Columbia Lions

Base Defensive Set: Even Front
Field EDGE: Pete Robertson
Field DI: Christian Covington
Boundary DI: Josh Banks
Boundary EDGE: Sione Teuhema

  • The Lions performed well, but this marks a drop-off from the top-tier defensive line groups in the CFL. The BC defensive line earned a 61.9 defensive grade, 64.5 run-defense grade and 62.0 pass-rush grade.
  • EDGE Sione Teuhema was a force in the run game in Week 1, earning an 83.6 run-defense grade with four defensive stops and an -2.25-yard average tackle depth.

4. Saskatchewan Roughriders

Base Defensive Set: Even Front
Field EDGE: Bryan Cox Jr.
Field DI: Anthony Lanier II
Boundary DI: Micah Johnson
Boundary EDGE: Malik Carney

  • The Roughriders defensive line was very average in Week 1. This unit earned a 63.2 overall defensive grade, 58.9 run-defense grade and 64.8 pass-rush grade.
  • This unit was led by EDGE Bryan Cox Jr., the only defensive lineman to earn an overall grade above 70.0, finishing with a 74.7 overall mark. He contributed most in the passing game, earning a 71.4 pass-rushing grade with a sack, fumble and fumble recovery.

5. Calgary Stampeders

Base Defensive Set: Even Front
Field EDGE: James Vaughters
Field DI: Mike Rose
Boundary DI: Kwadwo Boahen
Boundary EDGE: Julian Howsare

  • The Stampeders' defensive line lacks consistency in all areas of defensive football, earning 61.4 overall, 52.7 run defense, 67.6 pass-rush and 48.3 coverage grades. Generally not a main component of defensive line play, I’m highlighting its unit coverage grade because a defensive lineman was asked to drop into coverage on 10 of their 57 snaps, resulting in three targets and a 66.7% first-down rate.
  • The pair of defensive interior linemen, Rose and Boahen, struggled mightily in the run game, as they both earned run-defense grades below 50.0 (49.8 for Rose and 49.1 for Boahen). The biggest factor was the team's average depth of tackle sitting a whomping 7.8 yards.

6. Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Base Defensive Set: Odd Front
Field EDGE: Miles Fox
NT: Jake Thomas
Boundary EDGE: Willie Jefferson

  • The Bombers' defensive line performed well in the run game, earning a unit 63.0 run-defense grade, but failed to make any impact against the pass. It earned a 54.5 pass-rush grade, the lowest mark of any unit in Week 1.
  • DI Jake Thomas was stellar as a run defender in Week 1. He is one of only three defensive linemen in the CFL to grade above 80.0 in the category with his 80.3 grade. He is tied for first amongst linemen with four defensive stops in Week 1.

7. Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Base Defensive Set: Even Front
Field EDGE: Nick Usher
Field DI: Dewayne Hendrix
Boundary DI: Casey Sayles
Boundary EDGE: Brandon Barlow

  • The Tiger-Cats defensive line failed to create an overall positive impact on the games in Week 1. This unit earned 59.3 overall, 59.3 run-defense and 59.1 pass-rush grades
  • Individually, EDGE Nick Usher performed well as a run defender, earning a 77.3 run-defense grade. However, the Tiger-Cats edge defenders' lack of pass-rush productivity is alarming, as they earned a 55.0 pass-rush grade with a 3.7% pressure rate.

8. Edmonton Elks

Base Defensive Set: Even Front
Field EDGE: Elliott Brown
Field DI: Noah Curtis
Boundary DI: Robert Nkemdiche
Boundary EDGE: Romeo McKnight

  • To say Edmonton struggled in the week is putting it lightly. The Elks ranked as the worst overall graded unit with a 56.0 in addition to finishing second worst in the run-defense (57.7) and pass-rush (57.0) departments.
  • No defensive lineman recorded a solo tackle in the run game, and as a unit, it was graded negatively on 44.4% of all run plays.
  • No defensive lineman could record a pass-rush win rate above 10.0%, as the highest was 8.0% for Robert Nkemdiche, the only defensive lineman to bring down a ball carrier, recording one sack.

NR. Ottawa Redblacks

Projected Base Defensive Set: Even Front
Field EDGE: Bryce Carter
Field DI: Blessman Ta’ala
Boundary DI: Cleyon Laing
Boundary EDGE: Lorenzo Mauldin


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