June 18, 2024

Hogan: Brinkman Coming Into His Own

It’s not a particularly difficult question, but Jared Brinkman turned it into one for his positional coach.

The defensive tackle is entering his third season, second full year, with the Toronto Argonauts. The more that people learn about him, the more they’re paying attention to what the 25-year-old is bringing to the CFL’s best defensive line.

One of those getting to know the Northern Iowa product is Demetrious Maxie, the team’s first-year defensive line coach. Argonauts.ca asked the coach to play word association and say the first word that came to mind when he heard the name Jared Brinkman.

It seemed like a simple task.

“Power,” the coach known as D-Max responded. Then, in an homage to a potato chip commercial from back in the day, he couldn’t stop at just one word. “Athletic. Loyal. Willing. There are so many things I could say about that young man because he’s a hard worker and he does everything right.”

That’s the reputation Brinkman has built within the organization, and a two-sack, three-tackle, one forced-fumble performance in the season opening win over the BC Lions may get him some much deserved buzz around the league.

Being PFF’s top-ranked defensive player in the CFL for Week One doesn’t hurt.

“It was really cool,” Brinkman said of his performance in the opener, speaking through his omnipresent smile. “Opening up the season with a good game, the whole d-line played well, the whole defence played with good energy. Hopefully we can just continue, keep working and continue that throughout the whole season.”

The two sacks doubled his season total from 2023.

Brinkman’s two best attributes are his strength and his hard work, both on and off the field. The former is something his opponents may not realize until lining up against the 2016 Iowa high school heavyweight wrestling state champion. His strength may have been his secret weapon a year ago, but that superpower is now common knowledge around the league.

“The first time playing someone, they don’t know how strong I am,” Brinkman told Argonauts.ca. “This year I really want to bring a presence to the pass game, so run or pass it doesn’t matter, (I want) to be the most dominant guy in the league.”

His strength was apparent from the get-go. Your humble typist was sitting with members of the Argonauts staff in Regina, a couple of nights before the Grey Cup game versus Winnipeg. They had revealed that Brinkman was going to dress in the championship game, a stunning decision to say the least.

It was during that discussion that Brinkman’s strength and ability to stop the run became the primary talking points.

His making the championship game roster was a surprise to almost everyone. After all, he had but one game of CFL experience after signing with the Argos in late September of that year, playing in the season finale against Montreal, a game that meant nothing in the standings.

The Iowa City, Iowa native was a headache for the Alouettes on that day. His quickness was one element that opponents had to deal with, but his brute strength was something that surprised many, if not most.

The success of his debut led the Argos to insert him into the lineup for the biggest game of the season and he played well, registering a pair of tackles and making the Bombers think twice about running up the middle.

Maxie wasn’t around that day but has quickly come to appreciate the skills that Brinkman brings to the table. The coach is comfortable lining Brinkman up opposite the centre, or opposite the gap between the centre and guard.

Brinkman is equally okay with that.

“I think this year we’re going to have a lot more vertical presence,” said the tackle. “We did lots of good things last year, but I think we’re going to be pushing the pocket a lot more and squeezing the edges, and I think we all work well together.”

The Argos starting tackle duo of Brinkman and Jake Ceresna will provide nightmares for opponents. Double team one, the other will invariably have an advantage over his opponent. Pay too much attention to them and players like Flo Orimolade and Robbie Smith will see less attention off the edge.

A year ago, the Argos led the CFL with 68 sacks, 13 more than second place BC. With a half-dozen sacks Week One against BC, the Argos put the league on notice that they’re back for more.

That kind of production is worth the price of admission, and merits the drive to Toronto for Brinkman’s two biggest fans, his parents, who travel a spell to see most of their son’s games.

They live in Iowa.

“My mom and dad made the trip (for the BC game). They drove up from Iowa, about 11 hours, they’re troopers like that. They might come up seven or eight times. They come to as many games as they can, they’re up here a lot.”

Brinkman’s goal is to continue to make their drives home happy ones.