Jason's challenge

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

Coaches will often use subtle tactics to get a point across to one of their players.

There are rare occasions, though, when a more obvious approach is the best course of action.

More times than not, Danny Maciocia utilizes the low-key style because that's just in his nature. But the Edmonton Eskimos bench boss came right out and admitted yesterday he's using the media to light a fire under the backside of quarterback Jason Johnson.

"I'm pushing him. I'm going to push him and I'm going to push him hard," said Maciocia after the Day 12 workout. "And you're helping me push him. I'm using you guys to push him a little bit harder."

Right after talking about how he valued players' character on the same plateau as their talent, Maciocia admitted a personal friendship can't get in the way of a business decision as important as who will back up starter Ricky Ray.

"I like Jason Johnson, but

I need to think that's there going to be a possibility during the course of the season that a No. 2 quarterback will play," explained Maciocia.

"I may like him, he may like me, we may lose all our games with our backup quarterback in and then he'll send me a Christmas card when everything is said and done because I won't be here.

"I can't pick someone based on whether I like them or not. He's got to be able to show it on the field."

Game action key

Johnson, who will see over a quarter of action tomorrow in the Esks' first preseason game against Saskatchewan, didn't play a single down last season and was 3-for-5 for 25 yards in his only relief appearance during the 2004 campaign. The 26-year-old denied feeling any additional heat from his coach or the media in his attempt to move up from being the clipboard-carrying No. 3 QB.

"I put so much pressure on myself that I don't need somebody else trying to motivate me," said Johnson. "If you try too hard you can just tighten up. I'm just going to relax and give it my best shot.

"You try not to get caught up in that stuff. Everywhere I've been, I've faced competition. (Training camp) is a long process. It's not about how you start but how you finish."

Because of Johnson's erratic play in camp, Khari Jones seems, at least for now, to be pencilled in as the No. 2 man with Steven Jyles playing the role of understudy. Between Jones, who will start against the Roughriders, and Johnson, the most successful candidate during the exhibition tilts will win the backup job and the loser will be headed for the unemployment office.

Jones playing it cool

But as a nine-year veteran and former league MVP, Jones doesn't feel caught up in any sort of pressure-cooker atmosphere.

"Just go out there and throw completions and try to win the game," Jones said of his own game plan.

"I came into this league as an afterthought and nobody ever thought I'd make it. I got up pretty high and now I am where I am, but I feel pretty good. I've always felt like I could play and I still do. Now it's about going out there and showing that again."

CUTS ON TAP: The chopping block will be out after tomorrow's game and newcomers aren't the only ones in danger. Maciocia said again yesterday there will be big-name veterans among the casualties - and suggested that more than one or two familiar faces will not be wearing Green and Gold again.

"You've got two preseason games but you'd better not depend on the second one," was the message from Maciocia. "Every snap will count. They need to fly around and make plays."


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