Former colleagues match wits

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:53 PM ET

There isn’t anything the Edmonton Eskimos offence can throw at Chris Jones he hasn’t seen coming.

Then again, the Calgary Stampeders defensive co-ordinator isn’t going to surprise Kevin Strasser, either.

The two former co-workers will match wits Sunday when the Eskimos come calling to McMahon Stadium.

For five seasons with the Montreal Alouettes (2002-07), Jones was the co-ordinator on defence and Strasser ran the offence. They developed a close friendship based around football.

“I know him as well as anybody,” Jones said. “He knows me probably better than I know myself.”

Strasser took over as Edmonton’s offensive co-ordinator from Rick Worman after the Stamps beat the Eskimos 32-8 on Labour Day 2009.

With only a day or so to get ready for the rematch in Edmonton, the two teams put on an offensive shootout as the Stamps won 35-34.

Now, Strasser is under the gun to get the 1-5 Eskimos on track.

A year ago at this time, Jones was on the hot seat with a defence that couldn’t stop the run. Right after the Stamps went into Edmonton and lost 38-35 Aug. 13, the team airlifted in some veteran help in the front seven.

This season, the Stamps are the top defensive club in the CFL through six weeks as they have allowed just 21.2 points per game.

When Jones looks at the Eskimos, he sees just a few missed opportunities making the overall production look bad.

The Eskimos suffered through dropped passes that would have been touchdowns — Fred Stamps and Kelly Campbell both had one of those against the Montreal Alouettes in Week 2 — or costly turnovers at key times.

In Week 3 against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Stamps and running back Calvin McCarty each had fumbles on would-be scoring drives and it cost the Eskimos dearly.

“Everybody in coaching long enough has teams that don’t finish,” Jones said. “If you look at the their numbers, they have had success statistically. If they don’t have those drops, they are probably above .500 or better.”

Jones understands the heat Strasser is under.

He felt it last year despite coming off a Grey Cup win.

“It’s part of coaching,” Jones said. “We get the blame when things go bad. We get the blame when things are good, too.

“Two years ago, I was a genius. Last year, I was an idiot. This year, I’m a genius again. Hopefully, I can maintain my genius status.”

The Stamps defence has a lot of new starters this season, but there is a level of consistency within the group.

Every player who is a starter right now had previously started games for the Stamps, albeit not at the same position as he is now.

They are dominating on a weekly basis.

The Eskimos are also in a position where they basically have a veteran group, but they are hurt this week in that Stamps won’t play due to a shoulder injury.

“The one thing is they always put speed on the field,” Jones said. “Tremayne Kirkland, the kid who will probably be on the field for them, has 4.3-speed. They have plenty of speed. We know what (running back) Arkee Whitlock can do.

“I’m not even mentioning the guy throwing the football (Ricky Ray). They have plenty of weapons doing what they do.”

Despite their friendship, Jones said he hasn’t talked to Strasser since the season started.

“I’ve been on teams that lost a few games in a row,” Jones said. “It’s harder when people call you and offer condolences. Everyone struggles at some point.

“It’s easier to see him in person. I will talk to him in the next couple days.”

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca


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