The defence never rests

CON GRIWKOWSKY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:56 AM ET

If you can't put pressure on the quarterback, it's going to put pressure on your defensive secondary.

It would be easy to point the finger at an Edmonton Eskimos secondary that has given up a league-high 24 TD passes.

As usual, there's more than meets the eye.

Much of the defence's woes can be attributed to a front-seven whose ability to bring pressure on opposition quarterbacks has been hampered by injury.

Defensive end Fred Perry, one of the CFL's prime pass rushers, is only now coming back from an ankle injury that's taking a frustratingly long time to heal.

When the Eskimos coaching staff pondered the problem before Saturday's game against Winnipeg, they came up with a solution.

Figure out a way to bring the heat. Their solution was to figure out a way to best utilize the players they had.

"Personally, I was frustrated with the pressure we were getting from the front four," said head coach Danny Maciocia. "We sat down and said to ourselves 'let's take a look at the top four pass rushers we have. Let's put them on the board and can we find a spot for them on the defence?'

"Obviously, one of the best ones in the business is, hopefully, back soon. Fred Perry. We knew (Jim) Davis could rush the passer and he played defensive end at Virgina Tech.

"We're really high on Eric Taylor and what he's able to do, bouncing around the NFL the last three or four years. We know Dario Romero is a force and that Brandon Guillory can rush the passer.

"We turned them loose and we were able to generate a pass rush and make things difficult for Kevin Glenn."

It seemed to work. Winnipeg could not punch the ball into the end zone for the last 55 minutes of the game. The Esks sacked Glenn three times, and two second-quarter interceptions helped spark a 31-point explosion.

One difference in the upcoming home-and-home series against the B.C. Lions is that Geroy Simon will be in the lineup.

"To come back from Montreal and losing in Winnipeg, two road losses, this victory was very big for us," said defensive back Jonte Buhl.

"It lets us know what we're capable of and gives us a lot of confidence going into the next game."

Coming together as a unit is a big deal as the team tries to get into playoff form during its last four regular-season games.

They've come through a rough patch and may have found the right chemistry that gives them a better chance.

"We're coming together, like we were at the beginning of the season," said Buhl. "It seems like we're back to our old ways and that will be a builder from this past week.

"When you get pressure on the quarterback, it's easier for DBs to make the plays and when the DBs can hold the receivers longer, it's easier for the D line to make their plays."

And, when both parts are working like they were on Saturday, they could be scary to any offence.

"Definitely," said Buhl. "I have to give credit to our defensive line. They put on pressure like we haven't seen all year.

"It was great for us DB's, because any time the ball came out, it was easier for us to make plays."

Defensive end was a more natural position for Davis, who only switched to the interior line in his senior year of college.

"It was nothing I wasn't used to," said Davis. "It was like going back home. I feel like I can play anywhere on the line."

Davis understands that defensive backs appreciate it when there's good upfield pressure.

"Yeah," said Davis. "And we appreciate when they cover, so it's a give for both of us. We love it when they cover, they love it when we get pressure.

"We wanted to play our best ball because it's a close race in the West.

"If you're going to play good, now's the time to play good. I think the D line understood the situation at hand."


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