Egos secondary among versatile Esks defenders corps

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:58 AM ET

EDMONTON -- They've been shuffled around more often than a deck of cards.

Yet somehow, the Edmonton Eskimos defensive secondary keeps getting the job done.

"That's a testament to the type of football players we have here," said cornerback Jordan Younger. "We have some versatile guys. It's just that versatility. We have some good football players on our team."

During a 27-10 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders Thursday night at Commonwealth Stadium, the Esks gave up just 176 yards through the air.

They frustrated Roughriders quarterback Marcus Crandell, who completed only seven of his 24 passing attempts.

"I thought we did a pretty good job of mixing it up out there," said Eskimos head coach Danny Maciocia. "You can't give Marcus Crandell a steady diet of one particular coverage and think you're going to get away with it.

"We mixed it up, at times we brought pressure, and at times, we just rushed three. We played some variations of zone, sometimes we played man. We just tried to keep him off balance for the most part, and if you take the first quarter away, after that, we were perfect."

The Riders only completed two passes over 20 yards in the loss. Both came on the same series as Crandell found running back Wes Cates out of the backfield, connecting on a 27-yard gain.

On the next play, Crandell hit slotback Weston Dressler, who ran away from defensive back Jonte Buhl and safety Siddeeq Shabazz for a 35-yard touchdown. Aside from that, the Eskimos defence kept the Riders in check, and the secondary didn't give up another pass over 16 yards

"I think what people are seeing is that our coach is starting to trust us a little bit more and we're starting to understand where we need to be," Younger said.

"Our coverage is starting to mix things up a little bit better. I think we had their quarterback (Crandell) a little bit confused.

"He didn't know where to go with the ball right away. If we keep building on this, we're going to have a real good defence."

Even more impressive is the fact the secondary has been different almost every week.

On Thursday, Younger returned to his cornerback spot after missing the last two games with a bad hamstring, but safety Trey Young sat out with an ankle injury. That forced Shabazz to step in at safety -- a position he had never played with the Eskimos -- and Ken Onatolu to take over at outside linebacker.

Jason Goss' versatility allows him to play anywhere in the defensive secondary.

"It's not an easy task, but that's what you have to do in football," he said. "When a person goes down, you have to go in and fill their position and anyone here can go in and play another position.

"We work well together. Even though we shuffle a lot of guys around, we help each other out. That's what helped us out (Thursday). The chemistry was there. Regardless of who was playing what position, the chemistry was still there. We've moved around a lot of people and we were still able to make plays out there."


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