Last chance to impress

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

After 18 days of training camp, it's the last chance for the Boys on the Bubble to shine.

With CFL clubs required to trim their rosters to 40 men by 2 p.m. local time Saturday, Edmonton Eskimos head coach Danny Maciocia will have to pare 14 names from the current list prior to the deadline.

Of that group, a few will be asked to hang around and be placed on the practice roster. The remainder will clean out their lockers and head home.

Non-import receiver Scott Robinson's future with the Esks could be determined by his performance in tonight's pre-season finale versus the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at CanadInns Stadium.

Ditto for sophomore receiver Andrew Nowacki and rookie slotback Robert Leblanc. Like Robinson, Nowacki and Leblanc are non-imports.

"Everyone has been counting me out, it's been like that my whole career," offered Robinson following yesterday's walk-through, which marked the official end of training camp. "Hopefully, it's like that again. Hopefully, I'm back again and I'm not the odd man out."

Historically, injury played havoc with Robinson's ability to perform during training camp. Knee surgery and an Achilles injury put a damper on the wide receiver's two previous camps.

"This year, I've been healthy for pretty much the whole camp," said the Simon Fraser product, who began his CFL career with the B.C. Lions.

"I've done everything I can do. This is probably the most competition I've had in my five years of playing. It's a great group of guys and competition brings out the best in all of you."

Brock Ralph's departure for the NFL leaves the three Canuck receivers as well as Deitan Dubuc chasing one job. Dubuc is pencilled in as a fullback but has the size, speed and hands to line up at the wide receiver spot.

How things shake out will be determined by the ratio and the manner in which Maciocia plans to deploy his receivers for the June 24 season opener versus Ottawa.

There's also nine men looking for work on the defensive line. Only a handful of jobs are ear-marked for Canadian players.

"I compete with myself," said non-import defensive tackle Clinton Wayne, acquired from Ottawa last August. "When you start worrying about the other things, it just gets too difficult.

"You control what you can. You can control your effort and how much you bring to the table. I can't control what other people do."

While there's likely to be a couple of sleepless nights for several Esks hopefuls, veteran quarterback Jason Maas' only worry is how his surgically-repaired throwing shoulder will hold up tonight.

"I expect the balls to come out the way I want them to," said Maas. "I'm not going to hold back just because it's a pre-season game or anything like that.

"I'm not going to be afraid of being hit, being afraid my arm won't do this or that. I'm going out to play football and do everything I've always done.

"I believe it's going to hold up and I believe I'm going to do just fine. Until I do it, there's going to be people that question it."

As for his ability to air the ball out, Maas says he'll endeavour to test that by laying up a long ball or two.

"I haven't thrown a ton of them in camp in team and skelly situations pretty much because our defence has done a pretty good job of taking it away," he said.

"If it's there in the game, I'm not going to hesitate to throw it. I feel like I can make all the throws I need to make."

Khari Jones and Jason Johnson will follow Maas in the quarterbacking rotation.

Although Maciocia still has a few unanswered questions, the team is slowly taking shape in his head.

Naturally, Maciocia isn't about to spill the beans at this point.

"It's an interesting puzzle," smiled the coach. "Having all these Canadians gives us many, many options."


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