It’s been feast or famine for Edmonton Eskimos linebackers.
After undergoing a complete overhaul in 2009, the corps returns this season as the only unit on defence whose starters remain the same.
Once again, Maurice Lloyd quarterbacks the defence out of the middle and is flanked by T.J. Hill and Mark Restelli. Having played together for the majority of 2009, the trio brings a familiarity to the defence.
“It’s a wonderful thing because I know how T.J. plays, I know how Restelli plays,” said Lloyd. “Last year was a little different because I’m a more aggressive linebacker than normal, but I also can play finesse as well.”
The group is on the same page this season, at Lloyd’s urging.
“When I feel that a linebacker should do something that is natural for me, I tend to jump on them,” he said. “Now that Mark, T.J. and I came to an understanding that inside this box we’re going to be the most dominant three in the league regardless of our size and weight, we don’t care who comes to block us, we don’t care who’s running the ball, we will put helmet to helmet to somebody.
“We will be forceful, we’ll be authoritative with our hits and we will be demanding of ourselves to be the best.”
No one will be more demanding than linebackers coach Dan Kepley.
“Being able to come into camp with veteran linebackers — all but one that has been on the team last year — know the defence, has been through the program before,” said Kepley, who has welcomed former B.C. Lions veteran Javier Glatt into the fold. “This is a smart, intelligent football player that certainly wants to make something happen and make sure the Edmonton Eskimos feel they made a good choice in bringing him here.”
The Eskimos also brought back the services of backups Rod Davis and Tim St. Pierre, who both filled in for an injured Lloyd last year.
In all, the continuity will benefit the overall defence, which brought in new bodies in the secondary and along the defensive line, said Kepley. The coach and former player has a unique perspective on the challenges the team went through while rebuilding last season.
“It’s that old saying, ‘same pig, different dress,’ ” he said. “But there were a lot of different dresses, so it had to become more familiarizing to me as a coach that gave me the ability to communicate with the linebackers what’s expected of them. So for all of us it was a learning process.”
This year, they can focus on playing against the opposition instead of learning how to play together.
“Now we all have an opportunity to be more comfortable with this defence,” Kepley said.
IN AND OUT: OL Jeremy Parquet (knee) went down at the end of practice, MLB Maurice Lloyd (knee) left early after aggravating his injury, but is expected to dress Sunday, LB Javier Glatt was back in pads after missing the last half of the preseason with an undisclosed injury.