No panic button

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:55 AM ET

The 2006 edition of the Edmonton Eskimos has sunk to a level that is rarely seen in this city.

For just the second time in 34 years, the Green and Gold are below .500 after the first six games of the regular season.

But there is no sense of panic on the club, which is 2-4 and stuck in the West Division basement.

While some fans are steaming mad and questioning everything from the play-call selection to the running attack to the return game, the veterans on the club are staying calm.

THEY HAVE THE TOOLS

"I know we've got the tools," said fullback Mike Maurer. "I like our coaching staff, our players.

"We just have to cut down on the penalties and mistakes and we will be all right."

Eskimo head coach Danny Maciocia is also keeping his hand off the panic button.

"We just have a lot of work to do and hopefully we understand that," he said yesterday.

"And if we do, everything will be OK."

The Esks are stuck in this rut - losing three of their last four games - mostly because of mistakes that should be correctable. And that is the upcoming task for Maciocia and his crew.

Penalties at key moments, blown tackles, mental breakdowns and collapses in the red zone on offence are major reasons why this club has stumbled out of the gate.

"It is a long season and we have got to grind it out," said receiver Jason Tucker, who was upbeat as usual yesterday.

"I always tell people it isn't how you start it is how you finish.

"As long as we get things going in the right direction at the end of the year and make that playoff run (we'll be fine)."

And there is confidence that will happen.

"I kind of remember the same thing happening last year. Getting one (victory), dropping one, getting one (victory), dropping one - but by the end of the season, we pulled it together," continued Maurer, who watched the 2005 Esks win four of their last six regular-season games last year. "I have every confidence that we will do the same thing."

The club is also avoiding the panic game because of the recent efforts from its defence.

Granted, a portion of the secondary failed miserably on the final play against Winnipeg on July 20, but over the last three games, the club is giving up an average of just 22 points.

"Our defence is doing a (heck) of a job out there," said offensive lineman Joe McGrath.

TWO BIG REASONS FOR CALM ATTITUDE

But likely two of the biggest reasons for the relatively calm or controlled attitude on the team are the topsy-turvy West Division and their upcoming schedule.

The Esks will wake up this morning just four points out of first place.

Even better is the fact they have only lost to one western team through their first six games - which could help in tiebreaking formulas down the road - and play their next five tilts against teams in their division.

"Hopefully, we will get in there (in the next month) and make that push," said Tucker.

For the Esks, that hopefully starts Friday in Vancouver.

FINISH LINES: Rookie defensive back and special teams starter J.R. LaRose is definitely questionable for Friday night.

"He suffered a concussion (against Montreal), and we will see how it plays itself out," said Maciocia.

LaRose was KO'd by teammate Marcus Winn while trying to make a tackle on the special teams coverage unit.


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