A softer touch

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:55 AM ET

Steven Jyles has the strongest arm of the three quarterbacks at Edmonton Eskimos training camp.

Because of that, he has a tendency to always throw the ball as hard as humanly possible.

However, it's becoming apparent to him that's not always the best way to complete a pass.

"This is how I relate to it - it's like having a pitcher that has just one pitch," said Eskimos head coach Danny Maciocia.

"If he just throws a fastball, hitters are eventually going to figure it out. I think - especially in (the CFL) game - there are times when you are going to have to stick it in there and that's when that arm strength is going to come into play. There are also times where you have to put some touch on it.

"That's one facet of the game that he has to work on and he's watching Ricky and Stefan (LeFors) and how they're throwing the ball.

"They have a little bit more touch on it then he does down the field. If he ever figures it all out he's going to be quite dangerous."

Jyles is trying to figure it out. He's coming to realize that less can be more when it comes to being an effective quarterback.

And while it's nice to be able to fire a ball down the field, sometimes you have to keep the gun in the holster.

"That's what I was practising this off-season," Jyles said. "When you throw shorter routes you want to throw it as hard as you can. But when you're used to throwing hard, when you try and take something off, you lose control of your ball sometimes. That's what I'm still working on, putting it there by taking something off it."

At times during training camp Jyles has struggled to hit the target as he searches for that balance between force and finesse.

The second-year quarterback is currently in a battle with rookie LeFors for the Eskimos backup spot.

"He's having a good camp. Clearly the second time around is a little easier for him," Maciocia said. "You don't have to sit down with him and go through all the rules as far as that extra guy on the field, the length of the field, the unlimited motion and the three downs.

"That's been huge, having been through that process the first time around and he's got a pretty good understanding of what the Canadian game is all about.

"He's got the ability to do many things for us. We've got ourselves an interesting competition right now at the No. 2 position."

Jyles discovered at a young age that he had an ability to throw a football further than most kids.

Although he's never tried it, Jyles figures he could toss the ball 70-75 yards on a good day.

The native of Independence, Louisiana graduated from the University of Louisiana-Monroe, having broken every passing record in the school's history.

Last season despite being the third-string quarterback, Jyles got into three games completing six of 11 passes.

"Up here, it's harder because the lineman are moving a lot faster and the linebackers are basically defensive backs and they're moving a lot faster, so you have to be a lot faster on your reads," Jyles said.

"Here you also have to have more of a full-field read, because of the size of the field."

With the retirement of Jason Johnson, the onus of backing up Ray now falls on two pretty inexperienced, albeit talented quarterbacks.

"We're still going to come out and compete," Jyles said. "But with Jason being gone we know that one of us has to be able to step up and take the No. 2 spot. It puts a lot of pressure on you knowing that you have to be ready to go in because you're always just one snap away."


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