Line dancing

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

How the new-look offensive line would hold up was among the most pressing questions heading into this training camp for the Edmonton Eskimos.

Gone from Ricky Ray's protection detail were veterans Bruce Beaton, Chris Morris and Kevin Lefsrud. In their place, and charged with guarding the quarterback and creating holes for the running backs, were mainly unknown faces who didn't instil much confidence.

The outside view was that the Eskimos needed to upgrade the personnel along the line. But from the perspective of the huddle, the questions have been answered already.

"No one likes change," said third-year lineman Joe McGrath.

"Everyone was nervous and wondering about this revamped offensive line and whether we'd be able to perform or whether we would be crappy. I think we're going to prove that this is maybe the best offensive line in the CFL."

THANKLESS JOB

It's virtually a thankless job being in the trenches. When things are going well for the offence, the credit is heaped on the quarterback and his favourite targets. But when the quarterback is on his backside, that's when the o-linemen become whipping boys.

"In this business there's always going to be questions. As far as I'm concerned, there are only two answers - relief or depression," said Esks o-line coach Bill Macdermott.

And so far, Macdermott doesn't seem the least bit depressed.

Macdermott feels he has the right people in place to get the job done. Dan Comiskey, who came back to the Esks in the Troy Davis deal, brings five years of experience to the left side and Tim Bakker was reacquired from Hamilton in the off-season to bolster things in the middle. Glen Carson, who appears to be back in the form of 2004 when he played in all 18 regular-season games, drew a strong review after his performance against Saskatchewan's Nate Davis.

If there is a looming question, it is casting a large shadow - all six-foot-six and 340 pounds of Patrick Kabongo.

CONDITIONING STINT

A defensive lineman at university, Kabongo had a handful of stints on the o-line last season with two starts at tackle and more than a game and a half at guard. Kabongo arrived in Edmonton in January to begin a conditioning stint with Macdermott.

From those study sessions Kabongo has earned a passing grade.

"He's doing good, but he's still a ways away from being what he can be," said McGrath. "The potential is there and that's a good thing. All you can do now is teach technique. Hopefully he'll get it down."

"I'm working hard every day," figured Kabongo. "If the o-line does well, everybody's doing well. It's not about one person."

Kabongo will be on trial Friday against Saskatchewan.

"I think that's what he needs," noted Macdermott. "The dedication and work ethic is there. The easier he adjusts when the bullets start, the better he's going to be."


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