Not many happy returns

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:56 AM ET

Just minutes after Edmonton's 16-11 loss to Calgary last Friday, Eskimo punt returner Tony Tompkins might have issued the understatement of the night while discussing the Stamps' special teams unit.

"They had a good strategy containing me," said a frustrated Tompkins, "and they did a good job on special teams."

The Stampeders did a phenomenal job containing Tompkins.

By the end of the night, Tompkins's stat line read: four punt returns for a total of -10 yards.

In back-to-back games against Calgary, the 22-year-old Texas native had 11 punt returns for a grand total of 32 yards, giving him a 2.9-yard average.

It's a stark contrast to earlier this season when Tompkins was one of the most productive special teams players in the league.

Before Labour Day in Cowtown, the CFL rookie was averaging 15.4 yards per punt return.

With a struggling Eskimo offence - and the possibility of incredible wind gusts at Taylor Field in Regina - field position after punt returns will be ultra-important during Sunday's key game against Saskatchewan.

STILL THE GO-TO GUY

But Edmonton will not be removing Tompkins from the lineup for another speedy returner. He will remain the team's go-to guy.

"There is no question about that," said Malvin Hunter, a defensive assistant on the Eskimo coaching staff who calls the special teams plays.

"Personally, I don't think Tony is even close to being our problem.

"He's one of the better guys in the league, but none of the guys (in the CFL) - no matter how good you are - can do it alone.

"We just got to get a little bit more effort out of our guys blocking for him.

"(Calgary) outplayed our guys up front. It's not something we accept."

Hunter foresees personnel changes on his special teams unit for Sunday's game against a rejuvenated Rider squad, winners of two straight games.

"I'm sure we will have some changes, but what they might be I really can't say yet," said the former defensive standout for the green and gold in the 1990s.

WHO'LL BE AVAILABLE?

"I've got to see how the roster shakes down and who's going to be available.

"We've got to make sure we put a group of guys around (Tompkins) that are going to get the job done for him."

The Eskimos will also be changing blocking schemes for their first matchup against the Riders this season.

"We are just going to make sure the changes are going to allow us to do a little bit better than we have," said Hunter.


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