Very fine line

Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray throws a pass during a team practice at Commonwealth Stadium...

Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray throws a pass during a team practice at Commonwealth Stadium on Tuesday. The Esks face the Winnipeg Blue Bombers tonight in Edmonton. (Edmonton Sun/Jason Franson)

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

Danny Maciocia isn't sitting still this year.

For the second consecutive game, the Eskimos' head coach is shuffling the deck on his defensive line, trying to kick start a group that is last in the league with just four sacks in five games.

After bringing Joe Montford back to the fold for the last game, Maciocia has now decided to bench defensive end Chuck Alston for tonight's game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and bring tackle Jabari Issa onto the active roster for the first time this year.

"When (Issa) has played, he has been pretty dominant inside," said Maciocia, who watched his hulking tackle through 10 games last year.

Issa will be part of a three-man rotation at the two tackle spots with regulars Robert Brown and Steve Charbonneau.

"Jabari's strong and he's quick off the ball," said Brown.

LINEMEN COULD PREY ON BATTERED OFFENSIVE LINE

And against a battered Winnipeg offensive line, that could be the ticket to success for the Eskimos. With the Bombers' two best linemen - Matt Sheridan and Dan Goodspeed - on the shelf after major injuries last week, the club will dress an offensive line that has never played together.

How they handle the Edmonton front four could be the key matchup of the game.

"They're definitely going to be challenged this game," said Issa. "Hopefully they'll mess up on (blocking) schemes and give me some free sacks."

A three-year veteran, Issa had been a healthy scratch - actually taken off the roster one-hour before kickoff - for every game this year until today.

THREE OTHER MAIN KEYS

The other three Eskimos keys to the game:

1. Exploit the secondary: Winnipeg will start raw CFL rookie Robert Bean at cornerback, meaning the Esks will attack that area with receiver Pat Woodcock.

It's a gutsy move by the Bombers, as Bean hasn't played a regular-season game in any league since the spring of 2004.

2. Springing Tony Tompkins: "I am a firm believer that there are a lot of teams that probably win games when they return a punt or kick for a touchdown," said Maciocia. "It changes the momentum of the game." Tompkins repeatedly provided that spark last year, but has been stuck in neutral this year.

3. Execute on field goals: Did the bye week come at the wrong time for Sean Fleming and his crew - holder Jason Johnson and snapper Taylor Inglis? Finally, just before the bye week, they put it all together in a perfect game against B.C. Will they be sharp tonight?


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