Ralph may be right on target

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:39 AM ET

Brock Ralph was a little surprised to be the centre of attention yesterday in the Edmonton Eskimos locker-room.

The Eskimos receiver has had better seasons, and so far this year, has only caught five passes.

But with the injury to Jason Tucker, questions centred as to who would be able to help pick up the slack? And the underachieving Ralph looks to be the perfect candidate.

"First of all, you know Tuck is going to be missed by everybody," Ralph said. "But we have to try and replace what he left and fill his shoes collectively as much as we can. We have to improve and pick up the rest of the slack.

"We all have to take on some more responsibility and it will probably involve me a little bit more in the things we do. But I'm ready for that and hopefully I can bring something for this offence."

Ralph, 28, is a product of Raymond and was the Hamilton Tiger-Cats leading receiver last year. But he has yet to find his form here this season.

Part of the reason is because, heading into the year, the six-foot-three, 190-pounder was not the team's go-to player.

He's been overshadowed by Tucker, Kelly Campbell, Kamau Peterson and Fred Stamps.

The Eskimos also have three running backs with more catches than Ralph this season.

"Brock's going to get an opportunity here," said Eskimos head coach Danny Maciocia.

"He's going to have a chance to bounce around in certain formations that we're going to use and hopefully he'll be able to cash in.

"I know our quarterback doesn't really care who's running the route. If you're open, he'll throw you the ball. If he finds himself open, he'll get the ball."

Last season with the Ticats, Ralph had 50 catches for 721 yards with three touchdowns.

It was his most productive season in the CFL rivalled only by the 49 catches and 634 yards earned in his second season as a member of the Eskimos.

He was traded to Hamilton in 2005, and brought back for linebacker Michael Botterill and defensive back Chris Thompson.

"As a receiver you want the ball and everybody knows that," Brock said.

"It's easier to swallow not getting the ball when the team is winning and you're moving the ball up the field. That's always the kind of guy I've been.

"If we're doing the things offensively I don't care who's getting the ball.

"But it's still early, I'm trying to be patient and we have a lot of play-makers at the receiver position."

A graduate of the University of Wyoming, Ralph is simply too talented a receiver not to be utilized by the Eskimos. So far this season he's been forgotten on the wide side of the field.

It's expected he'll be moved to the near side tomorrow when the Eskimos host the B.C. Lions (8 p.m.) at Commonwealth Stadium.

"In football, the closer you are to the ball, the more looks you're going to get," Ralph said. "It's that inside, out read. Definitely, getting a little closer to the ball should get me involved a little more and I'm ready for that. I'm at a point where I feel I can handle a little more of a work load."

Against the Lions, the Eskimos are going up against the second-best pass defence in the league.

"They're a secondary that we've seen a lot of and are very familiar in the league," Ralph said. "When you're around the league for a while it means you're a solid player that's why they kept you around and all those guys have been around.

"But we like the way we match up against them. The speed of our core will keep defences thinking, and if we can push those guys off the ball, it's going to be tough for anybody to defend us."


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