Davis hits town running

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:49 AM ET

From last place in the CFL's East Division to the heart of a wild playoff scramble on the other side of the country in the span of one day.

Welcome to Troy Davis's new life.

On a whirlwind first day as an Edmonton Eskimo, the league's leading rusher in 2004 met his new teammates yesterday after an early morning flight from Toronto and a lunch-hour medical.

After a quick round of handshakes in the locker-room, he hit the practice field before hitting the playbook last night with head coach Danny Maciocia.

"We got a quarterback here, receivers and we've got a back, so it's going to be hard to stop this offence," said Davis, who was traded from Hamilton on Wednesday.

Maciocia isn't sure if his new star rusher will be the feature tailback when the Eskimos play Monday in Toronto against the Argos, one of the weakest teams defending the run.

MORE THAN WILLING

A decision on Davis's grasp of the playbook won't be made until a few hours before the team flight Saturday afternoon. But Davis is more than willing to carry the ball.

"I can play right now," he proclaimed, before adding, "It's not really the running game that I have to learn, but I don't know how the pass game goes."

With the CFL's leading quarterback in Ricky Ray and deep receiving core, Maciocia didn't acquire Davis to catch the ball.

He brought him to town to carry the mail and Joe Montford - who knows Davis better than most - believes he'll be able to learn the offence by Monday.

"If he was a receiver, it might be a little more difficult," explained Montford, who played with Davis the last two years in Hamilton before coming west, "but being a running back - the CFL is zone strong, zone weak and a couple of inside plays, but most of it is pretty simple."

Like other teammates, Montford is thrilled to have Davis in green and gold: "I think he is the best back in the league as far as blocking, durability and being able to catch the ball out of the backfield," continued Montford, Edmonton's sack leader.

"You watch TSN, you see some knockout blows (with his blocks)."

Added middle linebacker A.J. Gass: "Year in and year out he gets my all-star vote.

"But for me, this trade came a week too late."

Davis rumbled for 108 yards and two touchdowns against Edmonton's top-ranked run defence last Friday in Hamilton's 40-14 pounding of the Eskimos.

It marked the first time in nearly a year a running back topped the century mark against the Eskimos.

RUNS WELL AT COMMONWEALTH

And Davis has already proven he can run well on Commonwealth's grass, racking up 128 yards last July.

More importantly for the Green and Gold this week, the diminutive five-foot-eight, 180-pound back has also proven he can torch the Argos.

On Labour Day last year he burned the Toronto defence for 233 yards on the ground.

Davis wasn't nearly as successful against the Argos this year on Labour Day, but still gained almost 70 yards.

The Eskimos - with the lowest-ranked rushing attack in the league - haven't had a tailback reach the 70-yard mark in the last 12 games.

Maciocia knows the high expectations that can be placed on traded players like Davis - he even feels sorry for players in that spot - but he also knows the importance of the run game.

"That's the reason you make a move like this because deep down inside you know that you are going to have to get it going if you are going to do any damage," he said, knowing some critics are calling him a passing guru who doesn't know how to run.

"In two of the three years we went to the Grey Cup," he continued, referring to 2002 and 2003, "our running game was huge."


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