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BC Lions to Detroit Lions: Detroit Works Out CFL Sack Leader, What Mathieu Betts Can Bring to Detroit

Mathieu Betts was among 3 players that the Detroit Lions worked out this week as they also looked at cornerbacks Thomas Graham and Jace Whittaker. Betts is a defensive end with a very quick first step that allows him to gain the outside edge and generate pressure. If he is able to attain a small portion of what he was able to do last year at the CFL level then Mathieu Betts and Aiden Hutchinson could be a very dangerous pass-rushing duo.

Mathieu Betts started all 18 games for the BC Lions this past season as well as both of their playoff games at defensive end. Over the 18-game regular season, Betts had 44 tackles, 18 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and a pass defended. His 18 sacks broke a CFL record for most sacks in a single season by a Canadian.

Per Pro Football Focus’s Bryson Vesnaver, Mathieu Betts had by far the most pressures generated over the 2023 CFL Calender with 95, 23 more than second place. He also had the highest Pass Rush Grade among defensive linemen in the regular season at 90.2.

Mathieu Betts was recognized as the Defensive Player of the Year by the CFL in addition to being a CFL All-Star this past season. PFF also recognized Betts in their CFL Awards as the Most Outstanding Pass-Rusher. Per PFF, Betts had 95 total pressures which was 23 more than second place. He also had the highest pass-rush win rate in the CFL regular season at 19.4%.

Over his 2 playoff games this past season he had 1 tackle on the stats sheet but still had a big presence in the pass rush department. By my count, he had 10 QB hurries over the 2 playoff games. He had a highly impressive performance in the Western Semi-Final against the Calgary Stampeders generating 8 QB pressures.

The Detroit Lions currently have the 4th highest Pro Football Focus Run Defense grade among NFL teams at 77.4. The Lions however may want to improve their pass rush to be a more well-rounded Super Bowl contender. Detroit is currently graded 16th by PFF at 72.9.

Betts is a player who makes his presence felt physically. Quarterbacks around the CFL would likely agree that he will not often pass on an opportunity to put a quarterback onto the ground just because the ball is out of his hands. Betts oftentimes would close in quickly on the quarterback arriving just after the ball was thrown to shove the passer to the ground just early enough to not draw a flag from the officials.

Betts’ impactfulness was a big reason I considered the BC Lions’ defense to be the top-performing defense in the CFL at the midpoint of the season as well as predicting them to win the Grey Cup in an article in September. 

Betts had a massive game in week 13 playing against the Alouettes on the road in front of over 100 friends and family in his hometown of Montreal generating 2 tackles and by my count, 8 total pressures.

Near the midpoint of the season, Betts had 11 sacks over 10 games as well as 2 forced fumbles and a knockdown. His sack rate and pressure rate made it an easy decision to list him on our CFL Midseason All-Star Team.

Betts was arguably the most impactful lineman in the CFL in week 10. He generated 6 pressures by my count and also made a great special teams play blocking a punt against Calgary.

Betts set the tone early in BC’s 27-0 victory in week 8 against Edmonton on the road. He generated pressure on both of the very first 2 plays playing a big part in ending Edmonton’s initial drive. Betts frequently chased Edmonton’s quarterback Taylor Cornelius out of the pocket and was a big reason Edmonton was limited to 187 passing yards and 2 interceptions. Additionally, there were several plays throwing incompletions to avoid a sack. 

Mathieu Betts’ best game of the season was arguably against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in week 3 when the Lions shocked Winnipeg in their own building winning 30-6. Up to that point, Winnipeg had only lost 4 meaningful games over the past 3 seasons at home. In week 3 Winnipeg’s left tackle was unable to contain Bett’s speed as he generated 6 pressures and sacked Zach Collaros 3 times. Collaros was held to under 200 yards and 0 touchdowns on the day.

Betts was also a major factor in BC’s first meeting against Edmonton in week 2 when they won 22-0. During that game, BC’s pass rush was insurmountable and a critical reason why Cornelius was limited to 13 of 22 for 103 yards passing as he had no time before the Lions were ready to pounce upon him in the backfield. Betts had a sack and 5 pressures in week 2.

Betts has played in 55 CFL regular season games with 45 starts compiling 83 tackles and 27 sacks. He has  He entered the league with the Edmonton Elks in 2019. He joined the BC Lions ahead of the 2022 season. He has played in and started every game for the Lions since joining BC.

Betts played his collegiate football for Laval where he was the U Sports Most Oustanding Rookie in 2015 when he led the nation in sacks with 12 over 8 regular season games. He won the Vanier Cup, Canada’s National Championship, with Laval in 2016 and 2018. He also became the first player to win the J.P Metras Trophy 3 times which is awarded to the most outstanding lineman in a season at the U Sports level. 

Betts was the highest-rated prospect by CFL Central Scouting ahead of the 2019 Draft. He signed a 3-year contract with the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent in 2019 but was released among the final roster cuts before joining the CFL.

Betts is 28 years old and measures 6’3,250 lbs. 

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Jonathan Clink Reporter
Jonathan Clink joined CFL News Hub in early April of 2023. His primary responsibilities are covering the BC Lions and Montreal Alouettes. He self awarded himself the CFL Rookie Journalist of the Year in 2023 following the 2023 CFL season. He also proclaims himself to be a "really cool guy". He was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba and lived a large portion of his childhood in Northwest Ontario. He currently lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan and misses being being able to have 4 months of skating every winter. Clink has written over 240 articles for CFL News Hub. He was the publication's boots on the ground at the 2023 Grey Cup in Hamilton. Clink has always had an obsession for sport and has a background in other sports as well having played hockey all his life and soccer, basketball, and lacrosse in high school. As a young child he used to log his hockey statistics after every game which is either an indication that he was destined for the role or perhaps and indication that he is rather strange.
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