Defensive stance

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

While the heat on Danny Maciocia is front page news in this city, Edmonton Eskimos defensive co-ordinator Rick Campbell is also under public scrutiny.

But Campbell firmly believes there is a silver lining with all the struggles and the criticism surrounding the defensive unit to start the 2006 season.

"This whole situation is going to make me a better person and a better coach," said Campbell yesterday.

"It forces you to be at the very top of your game and make sure you are paying attention to every detail so that when you do come out the other side (of this struggling stretch) you are performing at your highest level."

In his first year as official defensive co-ordinator - although he was quietly the man behind the Green and Gold's defence last year - Campbell doesn't mind taking heat from the fans, who are frustrated with a 2-5 start.

"I do not mind because when you are not winning, you deserve it. That is part of what you signed up for when it is pro sports," he said.

And there has been no shortage of criticism. The Esks became the talk of the league for calling a blitz on the final play against Winnipeg July 20.

As every Eskimos fan can tell you, Milt Stegall waltzed in for a 100-yard game-winning touchdown.

Fans are also frustrated with the club's inability to put pressure on the quarterback - the Esks are last in the league in the sack department, 14 sacks behind B.C. and Winnipeg.

But Campbell does get frustrated with criticism that is not accurate or in context.

Case in point: Geroy Simon's 92-yard TD run to put the Lions on top 17-0 last Friday while the Esks were blitzing on second and 29.

"I know one of the hot topics is Simon's long touchdown and we are in the wrong (defensive) call," said Campbell.

"That is just not the case.

"What we should be criticized for is we've got to get our players to make sure they can tackle and get in the right position."

Campbell's players took bad tackling angles against Simon and let him get to the sidelines on his 92-yard romp, which proved to be disastrous.

But don't expect his players to quietly be seething at their defensive coach, even though they have dropped three straight games and have just one win in six weeks.

"Last year we won the Grey Cup with his defence," said linebacker Singor Mobley.

"I like our schemes (this year). We have only had a couple of bad breaks in these last couple of weeks ... that have killed us.

"I think, for the most part, our defence is playing well."

And any further criticism that Campbell is just on the job because of his father - Hugh Campbell, CEO - will continue to fall on deaf ears.

"I understand where it comes from on the outside - if you have no idea who I am or you just look one time (at the program) and say they hired the guy's son (and) that is a bunch of b.s.," he said.

"But as long as the people I am working with and my peers around the league have respect for me, then I am OK."

SHORT HITS: The list of walking wounded hasn't changed for the Eskimos, as four veterans missed practice again yesterday: Kelly Wiltshire (hamstring), Will Loftus (hamstring), A.J. Gass (hamstring) and Malcolm Frank (ankle).


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