Esks' trench warfare

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:17 AM ET

It's impossible to understate the importance of the offensive line for the Edmonton Eskimos this year.

If the Esks are going to make the playoffs for the first time in three years, the five hulking bodies in the trench will have to work together as a very good unit.

That is why every single personnel move on the offensive line during training camp will be closely watched over the next three weeks.

So that is the reason Patrick Kabongo is in the media spotlight. The former offensive tackle - who was voted an all-star last year by his CFL peers - has been moved to right guard in an effort to improve the front five.

New offensive line coach Ronnie Vinklarek knows his group has to improve from last year to give quarterback Ricky Ray enough time to throw the ball deep and open holes for an improved running game.

After giving up 52 sacks - second worst in the CFL - last season, improvement is a must for the Esks.

So, with two practices set for this morning during Day 2 of training camp, the first-string offensive line looks like this: Garrick Jones (left offensive tackle), Dan Comiskey (left guard), John Comiskey (centre), Kabongo (right guard) and Joe McGrath (right tackle).

In comparison to last year, McGrath played left tackle while Kabongo played right tackle.

Dan Comiskey is actually the only member of this year's current first string that remains in the same position from last season.

Jones and John Comiskey weren't even with the club in 2007.

"Day 1 - we are already making strides," said McGrath on getting used to playing beside Kabongo. "It is like we have been playing side by side for the last few years.

"(Kabongo) is the fire and I am the ice."

Head coach Danny Maciocia is trying to caution the media and the masses that the current first-string line isn't set in stone.

"(Kabongo) moved in at guard (yesterday)," said the coach. "At some point in time you will see him at tackle. We are going to move Joe McGrath inside at guard (too). We are trying to find the best five.

"We are just going to play with this a little bit because we have got some depth, some talent."

But it seems fair to assume that the Esks would have started training camp yesterday with the unit they are most excited about.

At the moment, Kabongo has to adjust to his new role.

"There is a little adjustment because you are a little closer to the guys (on the defensive/offensive line). But so far so good," remarked Kabongo.

Jones is the only import on the line. Maciocia could go with five non-imports if he moved Tim Bakker or Aaron Fiacconi up the depth chart.

In the first season of a three-year contract, Fiacconi would love to be starting but gives the Esks a perfect back-up because he can play guard and centre.

"At the moment, I have to bide my time and be content with where I am at," said Fiacconi.


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