Five Eskimos to watch

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:01 AM ET

Kevin Lefsrud

RIGHT GUARD

The seven-year CFL veteran and his family on the farm has passed the first test - surviving the grind of the long days during training camp.

But there are many more tests to be passed.

- Will his nagging left elbow injury become a bigger problem?

- Will his body accept the anti-inflammatory drugs to solve the elbow problem? (Oral pills no longer work with his body.)

- Will he really be able to balance the farm life and football when both seasons get crazy busy? (Practice in the morning, meetings through lunch, harvesting until midnight.)

If the answer is YES, the Esks will reap the benefits.

A non-import O-line gives the Green and Gold the luxury to play three imports on the D-line.

But by constantly communicating with starting right tackle Patrick Kabongo and already being in the ear of Terriss Paliwoda - the club's project of the future on the practice roster - Lefsrud is helping mould the foundation down the road.

"He is like a dad out there," said offensive line coach Carl Brennan.

ADAM BRAIDWOOD

DEFENSIVE END

After showing signs of significant development last year, will he suffer a sophomore slump?

With Rahim Abdullah showing in the pre-season that he hasn't lost his 2006 form of nine sacks, the answer should be NO.

Braidwood, 23, didn't have a solid, regular bookend to work with last year. A one-two punch at either end of the line could lead to Braidwood doubling his sack total to eight this season.

"It makes me happy. It looks like (Abdullah) is a big-time playmaker," said Braidwood. "That makes my job all that much easier."

But more important than his sack total is his health.

If he gets stuck on injured reserve, the Esks' roster ratio gets thrown right out of whack.

There isn't a non-import that can fill his starting role.

TREVOR GAYLOR

WIDE RECEIVER

So far, so good.

The report card reads:

Attitude - A

Hands - A

Productivity - A

In the final pre-season game, Gaylor led all receivers with six grabs for 162 yards.

More impressively, though, is the fact he didn't drop a single ball in his direction.

That is a big improvement from last year.

It's hard to imagine this is the same receiver who spent considerable time in Danny Maciocia's doghouse last year - even barking at him during a heated exchange during one practice.

If Gaylor continues to produce, defences won't be able to constantly key on Jason Tucker.

SEAN FLEMING

KICKER/PUNTER

Will this be it for an Eskimo kicking legend?

The rumblings suggest this will be the final season for Fleming, the Esks all-time leader in points (2,416) and field goals (519).

But Fleming has made no official decision on his playing status for 2008.

Currently fifth in CFL scoring history, Fleming has no shot of cracking the top three (Lui Passaglia, Mark McLoughlin, Paul Osbaldiston).

But there are two things to closely watch this season: his kicking efficiency with new holder Andrew Nowacki and his punting average with new rules.

No longer being instructed to constantly sail the ball out of bounds because of the 10-yard penalty for punting the pigskin in flight off the field between the 20-yard lines, Fleming can let loose this season.

In the second pre-season game, the 37-year-old had a 50.2-yard punting average while pounding one punt 62 yards.

The 16-year Edmonton veteran had a 40.5-yard average last season.

STANFORD SAMUELS

DEFENSIVE BACK

It was just three years ago that another No. 10 - Malcolm Frank - picked off seven balls in the Eskimo backfield.

Now the new No. 10 - Samuels - could equal or surpass that number based on his pre-season play.

Two interceptions against the B.C. Lions last week proved he has good hands.

And there will be no shortage of balls thrown his way this season by working against the opposition's prime inside receiver on a regular basis.

For what it is worth, it has been 23 years since an Eskimo defender (Laurent DesLauriers) had at least nine interceptions in a season.

"When you see the kind of speed he has and the attitude that he arrives with, that makes a whole lot of difference," said defensive coach Dan Kepley.


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