A boring exhibition

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:02 AM ET

When you have 33,708 fans in the stands on a beautiful Edmonton evening isn’t there just a teensy weensy, itsy bitsy, tiny, puny, wee, little responsibility to try to entertain them?

Just a tad?

Not every initial preseason game is going to reveal a guaranteed Canadian Football Hall of Fame talent like happened when Edmonton first set eyes on Bryan Kelly in 1979.

But to intentionally put in a package of conservative plays which make it almost impossible for anybody to send the fans home talking about a player or a play is no fun at all.

Football is supposed to be fun. Especially Canadian football. And Sunday’s 23-21 loss to the Calgary Stampeders was no fun at all.

The Eskimos not only didn’t win (which is pretty much irrelevant, they didn’t seem to find out a whole heck of a lot about many players, at least in positive terms of somebody going out and standing out, either.

It was a boring bunch of business at Commonwealth Stadium and was the complete cure for any loose talk going around the league that it’s time to add a third preseason game.

The idea is that two preseason games do not provide enough opportunity to give new players a good look. And now that the league is healthy, at least outside the Southern Ontario market, the teams might be able to afford the extra expense of an extra game.

My own idea is to have a football festival to start the season in one city in the east and one city in the west where mostly new talent is brought together early and you put together a half of football featuring the four teams in a schedule that would look something like, Edmonton vs. B.C., B.C. vs. Calgary, Calgary vs. Saskatchewan and Saskatchewan vs Edmonton, on a single afternoon.

But I withdraw that idea after what we watched Sunday.

Subjecting yourself to even one half of what we witnessed was bad enough without suffering through four of them.

“It was a very vanilla game plan,” admitted offensive co-ordinator Kevin Strasser.

“I’m not concerned about entertaining. We had four formations and that was it.

“Our running game never got going, Jared Zabransky made a horrible decision to turn the ball over. We had two poor decisions by quarterbacks that turned the ball over,” said Strasser.

Zabransky started with a four-play, 43-yard drive for a touchdown and was the only one to attempt anything resembling a big play. He showed a good arm but a bad aim. It ended up a down day for the second-year QB who carried a clipboard with the team last year. Newcomer Floyd Haigler completed one for eight passes but his completion was the Eskimos longest of the day at 26 yards. Starter Ricky Ray finished second at 10 yards. Everything was OK with Ray other than that his new helmet radio didn’t work. Everybody else didn’t have that problem.

“A couple of times the radio went out,” he said of the new QB helmet communication system the CFL has finally adopted this year (it’s been in the NFL since the early ‘90s).

“The first series it wasn’t loud enough and the second series we had to go back to hand signals.”

Ray was given two series early and spotted the team to a 7-0 lead and, after recent years of being forced to watch back-ups, clipboard-carriers and cuts take all the reps, said thank you very much.

“It feels so much better. When you don’t play the first game you feel you have so much rust compared to everybody else.”

Ray said there wasn’t much to work with in terms of a play list.

“It was pretty conservative. It was kept simple for the guys. The idea was just to execute but for the most part we just didn’t.”

Head coach Richie Hall admitted the obvious.

“We had a small package. I didn’t want our guys to think a lot.”

Asked if anybody stood out, he thought a second.

“Not off the top of my head.”

On offence, he said, the stats said it.

“Our longest run was four yards. Our leading ball carrier was Jason Maas,” he said.

Jason Maas running the football does not qualify as entertainment.

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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