Are Eskimos in trouble?

Ed Hervey might be sidelined for the rest of the Eskimos season after results from an MRI revealed...

Ed Hervey might be sidelined for the rest of the Eskimos season after results from an MRI revealed a tear on his right medial collateral ligament. (Edmonton Sun File/Perry Mah)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:47 AM ET

Their running game is last in the West, covered in cobwebs and rust.

They're drawing more flags than the United Nations building.

Their field goal percentage is worst in the league, injuries are eating away at their core and they could barely squeak by Winnipeg and Hamilton, a pair of CFL punching bags with a 1-10 record between them.

If you didn't know any better, there's enough evidence out there to suggest the Edmonton Eskimos are a team in trouble.

But for every nit that you pick with this club, the Esks have a zinger of a comeback - they just point to the only statistical category that really matters and there they are, 5-1 and one victory away from first place overall.

So what are we watching as the Green and Gold head into the toughest stretch of the season? A powerhouse that's doing just enough to get by until it's time to make a charge for the Grey Cup, or a disorganized all-star team that's about to be exposed by the undefeated B.C. Lions?

"People are always going to criticize and try to find things," said defensive back Kelly Wiltshire. "Why aren't you 6-0? You got lucky here and lucky there. We could say that Montreal got lucky when they beat us. All that stuff is for the fans and the media to argue about.

"As a team, we feel good. We've played maybe 70% or 80% of where we need to be, but we've got five wins and that's something to be proud of at this stage of the game."

NEAR FLAWLESS RECORD

It's hard to argue with a near flawless record, but it's even harder to argue that the Esks don't have some very serious flaws right now.

And the areas where they're stuttering most - ground game, field goals and discipline - are the areas that separate good teams from championship teams.

"I think we're in a pretty good position, sitting at 5-1," said head coach Danny Maciocia. "But we obviously have to address the penalties, the silly ones. Jumping offside, it eats at me like you can't imagine.

"I discussed it the other day with the team. Procedure calls, receivers being offside, time count violations, those are penalties that are caused by a lack of discipline. The aggressive ones I can handle, the other ones are sheer stupidity."

DEFENDS RUNNING BACKS

Maciocia defends his running backs (Edmonton averages just 65 yards a game) by saying it's tough to establish yourself on a team that leads the league in passing attempts, completions, yards and TDs. But he admits you can't win in winter averaging 65 yards a game.

"Is it a concern that we're not as balanced as we have been in the past? Absolutely, I'm not going to deny that. Playing in Edmonton when October-November rolls around, it's not going to be an ideal situation to go out there and run routes, so you're going to have to depend a little bit on the running game. We'd like to be a little more balanced but we're not there yet. Having said that we're only six games in."

And Sean Fleming's 56.3 field goal percentage?

"I can't coach him," said the coach. "He's going to have to coach himself as far as getting his technique down. The only thing I can do is give him all the support in the world. We're going to keep plugging away with him."

All of these concerns have been covered up nicely by that 5-1 record and the fact they don't give Grey Cups away in August.

But they'd better get some of this stuff figured out in a hurry because the next seven games are against B.C., Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Calgary, Saskatchewan and B.C. - a stretch that's going to determine home field advantage in the Western Final.

"Between B.C. Calgary and Saskatchewan we have eight games against western opponents and those teams are pretty good," said Maciocia. "That's where we're going to find out what kind of football team we've got."


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