A jockeying of positions

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:21 AM ET

The Edmonton Eskimos need Agustin Barrenechea or Adam Braidwood to step up in training camp.

With the strict non-import/import CFL roster ratio rules, the Esks need to find a starting non-import on defence to allow import Stanford Samuels to play safety.

That means the Green and Gold need a non-import starter at middle linebacker - where Barrenechea is lined up - or on the defensive line, where Braidwood could grab a tackle position.

With Braidwood still not allowed to participate in back-to-back practice sessions because of tearing an ACL last year, the spotlight is on Barrenechea as the Esks are in the first week of main training camp.

"If you can't handle pressure you are in the wrong business," said Barrenechea after yesterday's first two training camp practices. "Competition, pressure - that just makes me elevate my game."

The 29-year-old Argentina native (six-foot-two, 235 pounds) is getting a second chance to be a starting middle linebacker in the CFL after losing that job in Hamilton last year.

The Eskimos are just hoping he returns to his 2005 form when he finished third in the CFL with 96 defensive tackles for the Tabbies.

"It is unfortunate because it is almost (like) there is a mentality out there that certain positions have to be occupied by imports," said head coach Danny Maciocia, knowing some football experts like to have an import at middle linebacker. "And I don't necessarily subscribe to that point of view."

Import A.J. Gass occupied the MLB spot for several years for Edmonton before retiring this off-season.

Import Thaddaeus Washington is second on the depth chart behind Barrenechea right now, but suffered some sort of minor leg problem yesterday.

So, Barrenechea has the physical and experience edge at the moment.

Washington is a CFL rookie out of Colorado, where he was named to ESPN's "All-May Day" team in 2006, which recognized the toughest players by position in U.S. college football.

However, he didn't stand out in Day 1 of training camp yesterday. In fact, offensive lineman Patrick Kabongo eliminated the rookie during one offensive play.

"I just got to keep on seeing the receivers, the running back and O-line," said Washington.

If Washington manages to become the starting MLB at the end of training camp on June 20, Braidwood will have to be a defensive tackle starter with non-import Michael Jean-Louis on the roster as a back-up.

Right now, the Esks have imports Ron Warner and Dario Romero as the top choices on the depth chart for the two defensive tackle positions.

The Esks need seven non-import starters and will likely have six on the offensive side of the ball.


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