Eskimos are 'predictable': Pless

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:55 PM ET

Willie Pless, the great ex-Eskimo linebacker, has a quick-hit commentary gig with Sportsnet this year and, in the most recent episode, he hit hard.

Pless suggested the No. 1 thing the Eskimos had to deal with during their bye week break was obvious.

"For sure I'd change up the offensive schemes and the defensive schemes. They are so predictable. Heck, my nine-year-old kid can predict, 'Please don't throw it to the flat.'

"And sure enough, they throw it to the flat. Guys who watch a lot of film to break it down can tell exactly what's going to happen. In the Eskimos case, they're throwing it right into their game plan."

So, with the 1-6 Eskimos back to work preparing for Saturday's visit by the 5-2 Saskatchewan Roughriders, the No. 1 question is this:

Did they do it? Did they fix it?

The problem with trying to determine the answer is that if the Eskimos are going to come out with different schemes, altered philosophies, major adjustments or minor tweaks, they aren't likely to announce it to the Roughriders.

And there was a lot of double talk around the subject after Eskimos practice Tuesday which made you wonder if they did a lot or did nothing at all.

It's the kind of thing a coaching staff should do on a regular basis. It's called self scouting.

The reason offensive line coach Mike Bleamer was fired in mid-season was the belief that it was the schemes which were the problem more than the personnel beyond the departed Joe McGrath.

So it stands to reason to expect to see change there.

Quarterback Ricky Ray, who took starting quarterback reps yesterday although it looked like he was working on a pitch count, was careful on the subjects of schemes and philosophies and the changes Willie Pless, his nine-year-old son and pretty much everybody in the press box have found predictable.

"The coaches got some time to assess things and maybe make tings a little more refined," he said of tinkering and tweaking.

"The offensive line is going to be different because they have a different coach.

"But it's more than schemes," he said.

"When it comes to things like our problems on second and long and in the score zone, we can't have any mistakes. We can't have dropped balls and missed reads," he said, not mentioning missed blocks which get him sacked and penalties and the long list of other factors which cost coaches jobs.

"Coaches don't drop passes or throw interceptions," he said. "Coaches don't jump off-side."

Head coach Richie Hall suggested work was done.

"Some things we have reassessed and re-evaluated fundamentally and technically," he said.

But in looking at something like the second-down conversion rate (second worst in league at 35.8%) or touchdown percentage from the red zone of 20 yards and in (second worse in league at 61%), Hall said the breakdown reveals mostly a lot of breakdowns.

"It's never one thing all the time."

As defensive co-ordinator as well as head coach, did he use the bye week to figure out how to stop the run?

Allowing a ridiculous 163.7 yards per game rushing is, other than the Eskimos record in the first and fourth quarters, one of the ugliest stats of the season.

That's a lot of tweaking.

There's also the league's worst giveaway/takeaway stat (minus 14 to Winnipeg's minus seven and B.C.'s

minus two, with all others in plus territory) and the league high per-game penalty total of 102.9 yards per game.

That's not go-back-to-the-drawing-board stuff, that's grab-a-stick-and-go-out-behind-the-woodshed stuff.

Hall said there were some signs of a new atmosphere and attitude with players at practice.

"I think the break came at a good time. They came back and seemed like they missed each other."

Can't wait to find out if Willie Pless's nine-year-old kid thinks they used their break well.


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