Trench warfare

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:32 AM ET

The fight is about to be fairer.

When Edmonton Eskimo offensive lineman Patrick Kabongo goes toe-to-toe with B.C. Lions sack master Brent Johnson on Friday night in Vancouver, the battle won't be so one-sided like last year.

"At times it seemed unfair (last year) because here is the defensive player of the year (in Johnson) going up against a guy that is playing the position for the first time (in Kabongo)," said Eskimos head coach Danny Maciocia. "That is a little bit of a mismatch, when you think about it.

"But I thought he did a pretty good job in the pre-season versus Brent - it is pre-season mind you - but, I think he understands Brent Johnson now a little bit better than he did last year as far as all the moves that come with playing the boundary end like Brent does."

At times last year, Johnson was a massive pain in the butt to the Eskimos. In one particular game he had two sacks and two pass knockdowns.

After dropping nearly 45 pounds in the Eskimo off-season, Kabongo vs. Johnson is one of the key matchups.

"Brent Johnson is a tremendous player," added Kabongo. "He is the top defensive player in this league. He is a very explosive player. And he has a lot of knowledge about the game."

Johnson had two sacks to open the regular season last week.

WAITING GAME: Ron McClendon has officially been told he will continue to sit while Tyler Ebell continues to be the starting running back for the Edmonton Eskimos.

"It is hard (to swallow)," said McClendon, who was the projected starting running back before he hurt his hamstring.

"I have been here before and I know how to handle myself in these situations.

"And when Danny calls me, I will be ready to go - if that is Week 18 or Week 5."

Starting Ebell is a no-brainer because of his 132 rushing yards last week.

But for McClendon, he has now been a backup running back behind Troy Davis, Michael Jenkins, Elvis Joseph, Reggie White and Ebell.

HOT UNDER COLLAR: Offensive co-ordinator Jacques Chapdelaine chewed out the offence not once but twice during practice yesterday.

Printing his tirades would not be good for young eyes.

"It was hot out there and guys were getting a little sluggish and you throw a couple of mental mistakes on top of that, coaches can get frustrated pretty fast," said quarterback Ricky Ray. "That is what the deal was (yesterday)."

At times, it might have been the ugliest practice for the offence in many days.

HOLD THE BALL: Maciocia is thrilled with Ray's offensive production, but wants his pivot to have a firmer grip on the ball.

"The last two weeks that he has played, he got stripped a couple of times and we got picked off a couple of times," said the head coach on his starting QB. "We've got to secure the football."

FINISH LINES: Nobody is saying it inside the organization, but hearts must have skipped a beat when Jason Tucker came limping off the field yesterday with a left leg problem.

The all-star receiver briefly injured himself trying to catch a low pass from Stefan LeFors.

"It is just one of those things - fall down the wrong way," said Tucker. "Everything is good."


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