They’ve got the Toronto Argonauts’ number, and it’s zero.
For as much heat as the Edmonton Eskimos offensive line has taken on their way to a 3-9 record this year, they haven’t allowed a sack in two of those 12 games, both of which came against the Double Blue.
“We had a really good game against them the first time and it’s a perfect team to get some carryover against and continue the success we had,” said Eskimos centre Aaron Fiacconi.
While quarterback Ricky Ray hasn’t been as lucky in their other 10 games so far, he’s only too happy to be coming off a week where he wasn’t pressured to the turf.
“That was a pretty uneventful game for me,” said Ray. “We ran the ball really well and that took a lot of pressure off. They weren’t a real pressure team, but they have a good front four, so to go through there without taking too many hits or any sacks is big for us.”
Besides displaying pristine pass protection, the Eskimos O-line’s run blocking helped account for 173 yards along the ground.
“We’ve been under the gun all year. As far as one-on-one matchups, I think we’ve held up pretty good,” said Fiacconi. “We’ve been blitzed quite a bit this year. Some games we’ve risen to the challenge, other games we’ve totally collapsed. It kind of caused some trouble in our own group here.
“The guys that are still with us stuck together and we found some cohesion through the storm. We’re just going to try and build week in and week out.”
But there is only so much an O-line can do. Although Ray wasn’t sacked in their first game against the Argonauts in a 29-28 loss in Week 6, he was upended on a broken play as time ran out, having his feet do a complete 360 in the air while attempting a lateral pass.
“That was one of the most hellacious hits,” Fiaccioni said. “But to his credit, he’s Gumby, man. He bounced right back up after that one. He got folded in half.
“He’s resilient and he’s had our back all year. He’s never questioned our ability up front and he’s never questioned us.”
Fortunately for Ray, he hasn’t had to be reminded of any of the big shots he’s taken so far.
“Yeah, I’ve taken a few ‘fun’ hits this year, one against Toronto and a couple against Calgary,” said Ray. “It’s nice to be able to go through a game and be able to have that kind of run game and not have a lot of pressure. It makes your job as a quarterback a lot easier.”
This week, the Eskimos will have their hands full with 2009 CFL sack co-leader Stevie Baggs and the Hamilton Tiger-cats.
“He was a pretty good force last year in Saskatchewan so definitely he just adds a lot to that defence,” Ray said. “He’s very active, he’s a smart player. They’re all good up front so we’ve got to do a good job of protecting.”
IN AND OUT: LB Maurice Lloyd, RB Calvin McCarty and DE Randee Drew returned to practice after sitting out to rest Wednesday. DT Dee Sterling (knee), SB Kelly Campbell (ankle), DE Kai Ellis (undisclosed) and DB Lawrence Gordon (elbow) remained out and are doubtful for Sunday.