Seven is a lucky number — unless that’s how many games it takes the Edmonton Eskimos to get their first interception of the season again.
Former Eskimos defensive back Bobby Keyes got the first one in Week 8 against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, but Eskimos secondary coach Stacey Hairston would bet the farm it won’t take nearly that long this time around.
“I am a gambler. It won’t be seven games,” Hairston said. “We’ve got some guys that I feel very confident that if they get a chance to make the play, they’re going to make the play.”
Eskimos dime linebacker T.J. Hill had one against the B.C. Lions in their final preseason game two weeks ago, which he returned for a touchdown on the opening drive to give his team an early 7-0 lead.
As good as it looked, it didn’t count toward league stats or standings, but it helped instill confidence in a secondary that hasn’t played together before.
“Over the last few weeks our guys have jelled together very well,” Hairston said. “Sometimes you have players who don’t work well with other players. I think across the board — I mean, I’d hate to jinx us — but across the board it’s like the perfect match, the perfect person they’re playing beside.”
The only returning starter from last year is cornerback Jason Goss, who is mirrored by Lawrence Gordon on the other side of the field. The two played together in Hamilton in 2006. Gordon is next to defensive halfback Chris Thompson, whom he played with in Hamilton last year, while Thompson played his rookie year here with Goss in 2007.
Former Calgary Stampeder and Winnipeg Blue Bomber Lenny Walls fills the other defensive half spot, while the safety position features former Blue Bomber Jason Nugent.
“Our communication level has been very impressive to me and a lot of it has to do with guys being veterans, so everybody seems to be on the same page,” said Hairston, who saw a plethora of rookies try their hand in the secondary last year.
“We’ve got guys that are used to being in the game situation and used to making big plays,” he said. “Our job is to force the quarterback to be perfect and if the quarterback makes a mistake, our job is to make him pay for it.”
Last year’s Eskimos secondary must have been relying on I-owe-yous for the first seven games.
“The media brings that up,” Hairston said of the interception gap. “You’ve got to remember several times we had drops. Several guys should have intercepted the ball and just didn’t make the plays.
“They were in position to make the play, at that point, the coach’s job is done and it’s up to the player to make the play.
“(This year,) I’m very confident that if our guys are in position to make plays like that, we’re going to make them.”