TORONTO — Each week, argonauts.ca showcases one of the marquee matchups for fans to watch out for before the Boatmen’s next game. The Argos return home to take on Montreal Thursday and we take a look at two ball-hawking cornerbacks that lick their chops when the ball comes their way.
Similar to Byron Parker, Als’ CB Mark Estelle has garnered individual recognition for his outstanding play during his six years spent in the CFL. Estelle was named an East Division All-Star in 2008, 2009 and 2010, solidifying his place alongside Parker as one of the top cornerbacks in the league. However, Estelle has twice been able to capture one award that has eluded Parker throughout his career, the Grey Cup. Estelle played a major role in the Alouettes’ back-to-back championship seasons in 2009, and last year in 2010. Last season, he tied for second on the team in interceptions (4) and finished sixth on the Alouettes in tackles (36), including one of his best performances in week 7 against the Argos when Estelle tied a season-high with five tackles. Through five weeks of the 2011 season, the Als’ boundary cornerback has picked up right where he left off.
Heading into Thursday’s battle with the Argonauts, Estelle has an impressive 19 tackles, tying him for second on the team behind LB Chip Cox, who has 22. Therefore, Estelle is on pace to finish with 68 tackles, which would shatter his previous career-high of 54, established in 2008. Even if Estelle slows down considerably, if he can manage to stay healthy then 2011 will likely be a banner year for the already three-time East Division All-Star.
Estelle will be going against an Argos passing game that has been unable to stretch the field with consistency. The Boatmen are last in the CFL in total passing yards (1,085) and average yards passing per game (217). Toronto’s inability to pass the ball allows the opposing secondary to creep up and assist in stopping the Argos running game. That is exactly what happened in week 3, when the Alouettes limited the Argos to just 52 total yards on the ground. For the Argos to snap their four-game losing streak they will have to extend the Als defence by completing more passes down the field. Unfortunately for the Argos, that’s a daunting task against the supremely talented Alouettes secondary.
Mark Estelle’s 2011 Stats
Defensive Tackles: 19 Special Teams Tackles: 0 Interceptions: 0
Cornerback is a job reserved only for the best athletes on the football field, which is why in his seven-year career Byron Parker has made a living at the field corner position. Before Parker realized his full potential as a football player, he made a name for himself as a basketball star at Tulane University where he won the 2003 NCAA Slam Dunk Contest. That same athleticism displayed eight years ago has helped Parker become one of the true shutdown corners in the CFL.
Parker is in his second stint with the Argos, returning in 2010 after he was traded to the Eskimos near the end of the 2009 season. At 30 years of age, Parker has shown no signs of slowing down. While he wasn’t recognized as an all-star last year, his stats were very similar to the 2006 and 2007 seasons when Parker was named an East Division All-Star and a CFL All-Star. In 2010, Parker had more defensive tackles (33 in 15 games) than he had in either 2006 (26 in ten games) or 2007 (31 in 18 games). This year, Parker has nine tackles through five games and is on pace for 29 total defensive tackles.
Interceptions are the only aspect of Parker’s game that seems to have suffered any sort of drop off since his first tenure with the team. He had eight INTs in 2006, six in 2007, only two in 2010 and none through six games this year. Yet, it is entirely possible that given his success in ’06 and ’07, teams are choosing to stay away from Parker’s side of the field and would rather limit the production of their wideouts than risk being intercepted. For example, in week 3 against the Argos, the Als did not start injured SB Jamel Richardson, so the other wide receivers figured to have a larger role in Montreal’s passing attack. Parker and the rest of the Argos secondary shut down the Alouettes wideouts, only the rest of the defence struggled to contain RB Brandon Whitaker and SB Brandon London, who combined for 17 catches and 176 yards.
The Argos head into their week 6 rematch with the Als knowing that Parker has the ability to shut down whomever lines up at receiver on his side of the field. The rest of the team can spend the week preparing for the other many weapons in the Alouettes’ arsenal.
Byron Parker’s 2011 Stats
Defensive Tackles: 9 Special Teams Tackles: 1 Interceptions: 0