Sport utility players

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

In baseball language, they are known as utility players.

Perhaps it's a bit of lingo that football should pick up as well. At least some members of the Edmonton Eskimos don't have a problem with the term. And they shouldn't because it could lead them to full-time employment.

"I was always taught the more you can do, the more you can bring to the team," said Antico Dalton after yesterday's practice on Day 8 of training camp at Clarke Park. "It's very important to me to be able to play more than one position. It's a great opportunity."

PENCILLED IN THIRD ON DEPTH CHART

Dalton played in 14 games for the defending Grey Cup champs last season but was pencilled in at this training camp in third spot on the depth chart at middle linebacker. But under the utility-man philosophy, Dalton has been a linebacker and a defensive end during scrimmages and lined up on the line on special teams.

"On the line you're going forward," said Dalton of the utility man-challenge. "But at linebacker, you have to take a read and step up on the run or drop into the secondary on a pass."

For a player such as J.P. Abraham, getting more than one routine down pat is important to his status. He's played down the middle of the linebacking core on some plays and switched to the weak side for others. The Laval University product has also hustled around on special teams and even taken a turn as the long snapper.

"I think that special teams are the most important thing on a CFL team," said Abraham, the Esks' fourth-round pick in this year's Canadian College Draft. "I'm ready to contribute on special teams. I think I fit well in the defensive system, too, but I will really work hard on the special teams and on the long snap, too.

"The more things I can do, the better it will be for the team and then for me, too."

Throw Quincy Stewart into the mix and the Eskimos are getting yeoman service out of their linebackers. After playing one game last year, Stewart now has to be considered among the leading candidates to win the job in the middle, especially with the absence of A.J. Gass, who is still attending to family business following the passing of his mother. There's a job waiting for Gass when he returns, but the team has to move on, which is where Stewart comes in.

"It's a real good situation for me, but we do miss A.J.'s leadership. He was helping me out a lot more on how to run and control our defence," said Stewart, who has three seasons of NFL play under his belt. "It's given me more looks and the chance to step up to the plate. A.J.'s done a great job the last three or four years and they know what they get out of him. In order for me to get on the field more I have to show that I'm able to duplicate that."

STEWART COULD MOVE TO SPECIAL TEAMS

When Gass gets back, Stewart's speed and size could make him a useful tool on special teams. As for right now, the Eskimos are in good shape with their utility guys.

"Quincy has had a pretty good camp," said head coach Danny Maciocia. "Antico has been very impressive with the way he can cover a lot of real estate out there. And Abraham is a pretty sharp young man. Athletically, as long as the game isn't too fast for him, which I don't think it is, he'll do real well."


Videos

Photos