'D' won't let 'em down

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:26 AM ET

The Edmonton Eskimo offensive unit isn't the only group having trouble scoring TDs.

The B.C. Lions, Saskatchewan Roughriders and Toronto Argonauts have had major difficulty in the last month finding the end zone against the Eskimo defence.

In fact, the Green and Gold defence has only given up three TDs in the last three games.

It's almost like opposing teams need a map to find the end zone, as Edmonton is home to the best defence in the league at the moment.

"They are carrying us now as we are plugging through our inconsistencies at times on offence," said receiver Ed Hervey.

The Eskimos have won their last three games by a whopping combined total of eight points.

The offence is averaging just 19 points a game during the stretch.

Thankfully for the club, the defence repeatedly saves the day, as the unit is allowing a meagre 16 points a game.

No defence in the league has given up fewer points in the last month.

The three consecutive nail-biting victories have suddenly given the Esks a realistic shot at finishing first in the CFL West Division.

And this has all happened even though the D-line receives a facelift on a weekly basis.

Edmonton has not had the same starting line up on the D-line for consecutive games in the last 30 days. Eight different players have been used across four positions due to injuries.

FILLING THE VOID

Half of the starting line was missing Friday night. But young guns - like rookies Charles Alston and Antico Dalton and sophomore Jabari Issa - are filling the voids.

"They are stepping up huge," said veteran linebacker A.J. Gass of the young trio.

"These guys are coming into the game and we don't miss a beat. The D-line is one of the most important - if not the most important - parts of the defence."

Obviously, coaching is also playing a significant role in the defensive success - and head coach Danny Maciocia isn't beating around the bush on that topic.

"For some strange reason in this town, a lot of people are missing out on a great story," said Maciocia.

"I am must be the only one that thinks it is great.

"We have four coaches (Rick Campbell, Dan Kepley, Dennis Winston and Malvin Hunter) that have come together and put a scheme together that week in and week out is giving people fits."

HAD A HOT HAND

B.C. Lion quarterback Casey Printers rolled into Edmonton Friday night with eight TD passes in his last six quarters.

He left Commonwealth Stadium after throwing just one.

The Riders entered the Esks' turf on Oct. 15 with the most feared running game in the league, but left with just 72 rushing yards combined from Kenton Keith and Corey Holmes.

And Damon Allen - who is torching defences these days - had just one TD strike on Thanksgiving Day in Toronto.

"I think out of 25 defensive categories, I think we lead in 16," said Maciocia.

The defensive unit used to be prominent in an unflattering category: penalty yards against.

While being embarrassed in front of a national TV audience in Hamilton on Sept. 30 - which marked the last Edmonton loss - the Eskimo defence was flagged 13 times, including seven for being offside.

In the last three games, that unit has been flagged a combined total of 10 times.

"There were times (Friday) when we were up on the line of scrimmage ... and I'm saying to myself that these guys will never jump (offside)," said Maciocia.

"There was a point in time (earlier in the season) where we would jump four or five times during the game and keep drives alive."

Now the defence is killing drives.

Just ask the Argos, Riders and Lions.


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