Hunt, Hit and Hurt. That is what Weldon Brown, the new strong-side linebacker, says is the motto for the 2013 Saskatchewan Roughriders defence in 2013, better known as the “Wolf Pack.”
The definition of a wolf pack is a group of wolves that live, feed and travel as a family group.
I love the “Wolf Pack” moniker for the Roughriders defense, as football is the ultimate team sport where the premise is to play and stay together; there's power in numbers.
Novelist, Rudyard Kipling once wrote "the strength of the Pack is the Wolf and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack."
This holds true for any defensive unit in the league but has a bit more significance with the Riders defence this season. Why? Well, GM Brendan Taman, head coach Cory Chamblin, and defensive coordinator Ritchie Hall have assembled a unique group of castoffs from various teams to form an intriguing and extremely talented unit.
Case in point, five of the seven interior starters fall into this castoff category.
Even two of the backup linebackers, Tristan Black and Diamond Ferri, fall into this category, with Black coming from Toronto and Ferri from Montreal.
The only Rider-experienced interior players in Hall's defense are Sam Hurl, a second year backup linebacker, and the beloved defensive lineman Keith Shologan, a veteran of six seasons with the Riders. (Note: Tearrius George, two years with the Riders and three with Calgary, is on the suspended list).
The three other backup interior ball players are young wolves/rookies to the CFL: Will Davis, Antonio Coleman and Levi Steinhauer.
After being deemed not worthy by the Eskimos, Brown comes over from Edmonton where he spent three years as a cornerback. In the Wolf Pack, he is playing the SAM or strong-side linebacker.
In the CFL a SAM linebacker has to be a jack of all trades, possessing the ability to cover some of the league's best receivers, take on pulling offensive lineman/goliaths, and stop the run. SAM linebackers need a combination of finesse and power.
Middle linebacker Rey Williams comes back to his old stomping grounds after spending the last two seasons in Hamilton. The once feared alpha male looks to recapture that title within the structure of the Wolf Pack.
Rey is a bit more familiar with being a Rider than some of the other newbies as he spent three seasons (2007-09) with the club.
John Chick comes back to Riderville after spending three years in the NFL, one with Indianapolis, and two with Jacksonville. John's a physical and polished pass rusher that brings an insatiable appetite for hunting down quarterbacks.
On the other side at rush end is another tremendous “QB hunter” cast aside from his former team, Rickey Foley. Foley is coming to Saskatchewan fresh off a Grey Cup Championship with the Argonauts, where he earned the Grey Cup's Most Outstanding Canadian award. I say earned because he stepped up big in the championship game, recording four tackles, one special teams tackle, one QB sack and a fumble recovery!
Moving into the middle of that interior line you find the addition of Jermaine McElveen. McElveen spent a year with the Ticats after four with Montreal. He's been productive and often underrated since coming into the league. Great pick up for the Riders!
As you delve into the back end of the defense you will find two of the starting five positions are potentially now occupied by players new to Rider Nation.
Highly touted man-to-man cover guy Dwight Anderson comes over from Montreal and Carlos Thomas comes over from Hamilton (Thomas was a Rider four years ago in 2009, albeit only for one game).
The alpha male of the secondary, starting free safety Tyron Brackenridge, (I had Brackenridge in my TSN Top 50 selections) is new to the position having played SAM linebacker last year and halfback the year before.
The flexibility and numerous options that are created defensively with playing Brown at SAM, Craig Butler at WILL and Brackenridge at safety are fantastic. Basically you have two interchangeable parts in Brackenridge and Butler, with Brown giving you that Swiss Army Knife ability in Hall's defence.
Cornerback Paul Woldu, who is going into his sixth year in the league and second with the Riders, and second year free safety out of the Saskatoon Hilltops program Graig Newman give Hall's defence even more flexibility as they can play numerous positions and are both Canadians.
Rounding out the secondary is Terrell Maze, Macho Harris and Woodny Terenne, all second year Riders. Prince Miller is the lone true rookie learning how to live, feed, and travel with the group.
From what I've seen in both Brackenridge and Butler is that these players have an innate ability to find the ball and be in the middle of all things nasty. So whatever you may lose by taking arguably the best defender/cover guy in Brackenridge away from the line of scrimmage and playing him at safety, it's safe to say Butler offsets by being closer to the mix at WILL linebacker. I'm anxious to see "Butts" play an 18-game schedule to see what kind of numbers/food he can provide for the Pack.
In week one, we saw the Wolf Pack feast on a weaker Edmonton Eskimos team. They looked hungry and ravenous, determined to come together and dominate as a group.
Individually they all looked like they were playing with a chip on their respective shoulders. Collectively they all worked together to Hunt, Hit and Hurt; which makes this group of talented castoffs an extremely dangerous Pack! Howwwwwwwwwllllll!