EDMONTON - They’ve given up the most points in the league.
They’ve surrendered the most net yards.
They’ve allowed the most yards passing.
Nobody has surrendered more rushing touchdowns or total touchdowns.
And they’re dead last in the league in quarterback sacks.
Gimme a D!
Gimme a fence!
This season, in addition to being head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos, Richie Hall made himself defensive co-ordinator. And it’s that Richie Hall who has to get the job done against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers tonight.
If the defence is co-ordinated enough to stop fourth-string quarterback Joey Elliott, who arrived in Winnipeg July 20, fifth-string quarterback Zac Champion, who showed up Thursday, and sixth-string quarterback Justin Goltz who joined the team Tuesday, the magic number for the Esks to clinch a playoff position will be one.
Goltz and Champion are the ninth and 10th quarterbacks the Bombers have brought in this season — surely some sort of CFL record.
View it this way: the Eskimos have reservations to dine Saturday night at Joey’s Only.
A ‘D’ and a ‘fence’ and a team that was once 2-9 this season will have won five of their last six and be one Edmonton win or one loss by the B.C. Lions from making it into the playoffs as the hottest team in the land.
All the focus this week has been on Ricky Ray’s injured serratus anterior, the arrival of 2007 CFL Most Outstanding Player Kerry Joseph and health issues on the offensive line.
But it’s up to the outfit that has graded a D this year to get it done against the 4-12 Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who haven’t won a game on the road all season.
Indeed, if there’s to be anything resembling a happy ending here, you’ll need to hear the names T.J. Hill, Chris Thompson, Greg Peach, Rod Davis, Mark Restelli and Elliott Richardson on the P.A. system a lot.
And if you believe in body language and other forms of non-verbal communication, the guys on the defensive side of the room offered a lot of indications that they’re going to be dialed up for the start of a football game for a change.
They were bouncing all over the locker- room after Friday’s practice.
“It’s a nice atmosphere,” said Hall.
“We’ve given ourselves a great opportunity. We’ve been given a second life.
“Two months ago, we were at the other end of the spectrum. I like our emotion. I like our attitude. We definitely want to be on edge when we go out there,” added the nice guy who may not finish last after all.
“Everybody is excited to play. We know what we’ve got to lose,” said defensive leader Dario Romero, as other members of the defence danced around the media scrum pretending to hold microphones in front of his face.
Despite the fact this team hasn’t won three games in a row since 2005, playing an out-of-the-playoff team with fresh meat at quarterback has them having fun interacting together for the first time since the endless days of long-faced depression.
“We know what’s on the table here. We know their quarterback situation. We know they have a hell of a fullback in Fred Reid. We know we have to start off strong in the first quarter,” Romero continued.
“With a new quarterback, there’s lots of opportunities for us to take advantage of in this game. We definitely need to stop the run and get after the quarterback and jump on him,” said Peach, the defensive lineman who has made a huge difference since returning from injury.
“Getting to them right from the start, that’s the key,” added Hill, who leads the Eskimos in tackles and is likely their nominee as outstanding defensive player.
“We don’t want to give this team any confidence. We need to put them in second- and-long and then give our offence the field position to put Zee in a position where he can be confident,” Hill added of Eskimos starter Jared Zabransky.
That’s the thing.
Zabransky has a grand total of one full game of CFL starting experience himself. It’s the same story on the other side.
Despite the fact they’ve been eliminated from the playoffs, the Blue Bombers’ defence is first in the league in sacks and the best way for them to have a little fun tonight is to go after this Zee-bra guy like a bunch of lions.
That, of course, would be very much appreciated by the B.C. Lions.