Off the mark

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:01 PM ET

The cellar-dwelling Edmonton Eskimos have reached the halfway point of the CFL season with a very unappealing 3-6 record in the West Division and a dubious asterisk stamped beside their name.

In the last 34 years, no Eskimos team has ever passed the nine-game mark with a worse record.

Only one other edition of the Green and Gold - the 1999 crew - has been saddled with such an ugly record since 1971.

"We are better than our record shows, but we have also played the way our record shows," said Sean Fleming in the aftermath of the last-play debacle against the B.C. Lions on Friday night.

A combination of incredibly costly big plays on defence and special teams, mental mistakes and poor execution on offence are to blame for the stunning first half.

But to be fair, the Eskimos are missing three huge members - A.J. Gass, Rashad Jeanty and Steven Marsh - from their stifling defensive unit from last year and are being forced to deal with inexperience at key positions.

Here is a first-half report card - complete with grades, awards and important questions needing to be answered.

OFFENCE

QB RICKY RAY

Entering this week, he's the only quarterback on pace to throw for 5,000 yards, but as the highest-paid pivot in the league, he's not leading the offence into the end zone enough.

-B-

WR ED HERVEY

His blazing speed still exists; you only need to look at that 52-yard bomb on Friday for proof. An invaluable member in the locker-room.

-B-

WR TREVOR GAYLOR

Could be a 1,200-yard receiver in this game with a full, consistent season. Was on pace for a D after being benched to start the season but came back with a huge TD vs. Saskatchewan.

-C-

WR PAT WOODCOCK

Costly drop in Winnipeg on Canada Day, but other than that, he's a clutch receiver who should be utilized more.

-B-

SB JASON TUCKER

In rare fashion he dropped three balls Friday night. But he remains a true all-star.

-A-

SB MOOKIE MITCHELL

Granted he dropped a touchdown catch against Saskatchewan last week, but 99% of the time he's Mr. Reliable.

-A-

RB TROY DAVIS

Perhaps a surprising grade since he hasn't had a 100-yard rushing game this year or made the highlight reels.

But consider the hard cold facts: 5.1 yards per rush and 8.3 yards per reception.

-B-

FB MATHIEU BERTRAND/ MIKE MAURER

They platoon at the position and are so valuable on offence and special teams.

-A-

OFFENSIVE LINE

Giving up an average of three sacks a game, they're behind last year's veteran-laden crew, which gave up two.

But Edmonton has faced the top two defensive lines - B.C. and Winnipeg - five times in the first nine games this year.

Supposedly a glaring weakness coming into the season, this young O-line has held together.

B-

Never playing together before this year, coach Bill Macdermott deserves credit for bringing them together very quickly.

Individually, tackle Joe McGrath has been their most consistent performer.

K SEAN FLEMING

Having to adjust to a new holder and snapper this year, Fleming has been outstanding the last seven games, missing just once.

P SEAN FLEMING

-A-

On pace for a lower mark until Friday, when he averaged 47.25 yards on eight punts.

LS TAYLOR INGLIS

C+

Knows improvement is necessary on punt coverage and deserves full credit for admitting to his weakness.

For political card playing, Inglis gets an A.

He knew his value as a young Canadian with plenty of upside and rejected a practice roster spot earlier this month - and two teams jumped to claim him.

D

Edmonton smartly changed its mind, leaving him on the protected roster.

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THE GRADING SCALE

A - CFL all-star/outstanding performer

B - Above average

C - Average

D - Needs major improvement


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