CFL: Chris Edwards has a chance to return interceptions for TDs


He hasn’t played offense since high school, but Chris Edwards still knows what to do when he gets his hands on a football.

The Toronto Argonauts linebacker/defensive back has returned his two interceptions for touchdowns this season. He has had five TDs in his five-year CFL career, four of them in the last two seasons alone.

The 29-year-old Southfield, Michigan native played on both sides of the ball (including quarterback) and also returned kicks. He transitioned to running back and receiver at Southfield High School before becoming a full-time defensive end after enrolling in Idaho.

But the six-foot-tall, 217-pound Edwards is still savoring the opportunity to get into the end zone. He is the only player in the CFL this season to return multiple interceptions for TDs.

“I love touchdowns,” he said with a big smile after practice on Wednesday. “There is no better feeling.”

Edwards and the Argos defense have made a habit of getting into the end zone this season. Toronto has scored seven defensive TDs — five from interceptions — to be tied with the Calgary Stampeders for the CFL lead.

The Argos record is eight, set in 1992 and tied in 2000.

“That’s the goal every time we touch the ball,” said Edwards. “That (defensive TD) helps the offense and can change the game.

“As you score on special teams or defense, the percentages go up for your team to win. It’s a 14-point swing, then we’re right back on the field to do it all over again.”

Toronto also boasts one of the most stingy defenses in the CFL. The unit allows 20.8 offensive points per game, surpassed only by Winnipeg (19.8).

The Argos are also tied with the Bombers for fewest offensive TDs allowed (27) and have forced 43 turnovers and 81 two-and-outs, both CFL highs. Toronto defenseman Jamal Peters has the league’s best six interceptions, returning one for a TD.

But while Peters can brag when it comes to interceptions, Edwards has more TDs.

“There’s definitely friendly competition going on,” Edwards said. “I talk rubbish to them because I have the most touchdowns, but (Peters) has the most picks.”

Corey Mace, a former NFL/CFL defenseman, is in his first season as Toronto’s defense coordinator. Mace said while the Argos triggered returns from turnovers, he credits his players for having a nose for the end zone.

“We try to have a plan laid out once we have sales and the guys have been working hard on that since camp,” Mace said. “But really, you have to give credit to the players.

“Once they get their hands on the ball, some guys have a special talent for making it go. We’ve been lucky enough to have a couple of guys bring him back into the house and if we can continue that that’s always a plus.”

Edwards added: “We’re playing an aggressive style of defense but I feel like it’s the playmakers in the room at the moment. Our mentality, the brotherhood we have, the friendly competition. It all just keeps us going.”

But Edwards credits Mace in his second season with Toronto for bringing more structure to the Argos defense.

“We understand the details better so we can play faster,” he said. “That’s what I’m looking forward to.”

Toronto (10-6) leads the East Division ahead of the Montreal Alouettes (8-8). The two teams end the regular season with a home-and-home series that begins Saturday at Molson Stadium.

The Argos need just one more win to cement their top spot for the second year in a row. It would also secure Toronto’s home field for the November 13 division finals.

“We want the two wins, we don’t want to lose a game,” said Edwards. “But if we get this one, we’re one step closer to our goal.”

Montreal quarterback Trevor Harris is third in the CFL in passing yards (3,744) and has completed a solid 71.3 percent of his passes. His favorite target was Eugene Lewis, who is third overall with 85 catches for 1,231 yards and nine TDs.

The Alouettes are also sixth in rushing (90.3 yards per game). But William Stanback, the leader of the CFL ’21, recently returned to the lineup.

“A guy like that (veteran receiver Jake Wieneke, who had 11 TD-Grabs last year) isn’t talked about much, but he’s been a guy for the last few years,” Mace said. “Your O-Line is blocking well, you have to stop the run and you have to stop Trevor and Gino (Lewis).

“Any team that can put a stanback in the lineup can cause problems for opposing defenses. But hey, he’s playing for them, we’re playing against him, so it’s our job to stop him.”