Diversity on defence

CON GRIWKOWSKY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:36 AM ET

There's an old adage in football: offence sells tickets and defence wins championships.

While Ricky Ray and the rest of the Eskimos' offence put up yet another 400-yard performance against the B.C. Lions, Edmonton's defensive turnaround has emerged as one of the big storylines of the past two weeks.

The Esks' defensive front got more turnovers, more sacks and more hurries than their more publicized B.C. counterparts.

COMFORTABLE

The secondary has done its bit with knockdowns and interceptions. And that's allowed for a more comfortable performance by the offence, which has been on cruise control once a big lead is built up.

"Our defence is doing an awesome job," quarterback Ricky Ray said yesterday.

"They're giving us a lot of extra opportunities to go in there and score points. That's been the biggest difference these last two games.

"Defensively, they're giving us a lot of opportunities and we're able to cash in on them."

Ray understands there's still room for improvement in the giveaway part. In wins against Winnipeg and B.C., the offence has needed just three second-half points when it goes into ball-control mode.

"Obviously, we want to try to limit some of the turnovers we're making," said Ray. "The second half, we've got to start scoring more points."

The Esks faced a relatively inexperienced quarterbacking tandem of Buck Pierce and Jarious Jackson in Vancouver - the same duo that has to figure out a way around the personnel Maciocia has gone with in an attempt to improve pass rush productivity.

"Another reason for the pressure getting there is because the back end is holding up to their part of the bargain," said Maciocia about the secondary.

"Just by the way we're disguising things in the back end, we're doing our jobs."

Against an explosive offence like B.C., that's meant having to changing up the look of the secondary.

"You can't just run the same coverages all the time," said veteran defensive back Shannon Garrett.

PRESSURE

"We've been mixing up the coverages a bit, not giving the quarterback a pre-snap read. That makes him hold onto the ball a bit longer and that's how you get pressure.

"When we were playing man-to-man, we got our hands on the receivers and disrupted the timing. That's football."

Over the past two weeks, the units have come together.

"We do our job in the secondary and the defensive line's going to do their job," said Garrett.

"We depend on each other. If we play well and the offence plays well, we have a good opportunity to win the game."

The defence has been as tight as it has at any point in the season and heading into the stretch drive facing a rematch against the Lions, it has a chance to make a statement.

"Everything is really connected,' said linebacker Agustin Barrenechea.

"What happens in the front end is going to pay dividends in the back end.

"We're definitely going in the direction we need to go. You just need to build on every game, every game you need to improve and, having said that, building up a full head of steam going into the playoffs.

"Football is a 12-man game and everybody's dependent on each other.

"Guys have been able to step up and do the job they have to do."


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