O-line juggling pays for Esks

GERRY MODDEJONGE, Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:03 PM ET

Perhaps no one has felt more under the Edmonton Eskimos’ microscope this season than the offensive line.

After the release of a pair of tackles as well as unit coach Jeff Bleamer already this season, Patrick Kabongo was pulled in favour of newcomer Kelly Bates in last week’s 24-6 victory over the Toronto Argonauts.

While it might appear like the remaining O-liners are on a short leash, they’re not the only ones.

“I don’t look at it as a short leash, just that we’ve got to play consistently better week in and week out, play in and play out,” said Eskimos head coach Richie Hall. “Whether it’s Pat or whether it’s other positions, because the bottom line is some positions are easier to massage in that manner than others.

“But the bottom line is that we want consistent play out of everyone at a high level.”

On that note, enter Kelly Bates, who came up with a relief effort to help the Eskimos rush for 173 yards and allow quarterback Ricky Ray to escape without getting sacked for just the second time this season.

“It was just nice to contribute again,” said Bates, a nine-year CFL veteran. “It’s been a while since I’ve been able to earn an opportunity like that, and to get on the field and feel like I fit in and play against some pretty good D-linemen, I just enjoyed myself.

“I find that that’s what I’m doing more often than not is enjoying myself.”

It was a much better outcome than a loss to Montreal the week before, when Bates made his first start as an Eskimo filling in at left tackle for Jeremy Parquet, who returned home to deal with a serious health matter with his young son.

“That was the first and foremost thing on everyone’s mind and that’s a crappy situation,” said Bates. “That was my first experience in the full ranks of left tackle and I just tried to have fun with it.”

Kabongo was back taking first-team reps in practice Friday and is expected to get the start this week. But the depth Bates provides could allow for more shared time between the two.

“That wasn’t the intention last week but the play dictated it,” said Hall. “We wanted more out of it and I think we got more out of it.

“It’s still up in the air who’s going to start and they’re going to go as long as they can. Hopefully it’s for the whole game. If not, then we’ve got another guy to go in there.”

SOUND OFF: Sunday’s game will be broadcast on CISN 103.9 with Morley Scott and Dave Campbell, with the pre-game show beginning at 1:30 p.m.

BOOK ’EM: Sixty Grades 5-6 students from Delton School were invited to watch practice at Commonwealth Stadium before taking part in a Stay in School presentation by Kabongo and fullback Graeme Bell. Each student received a Playbook for Success, an interactive school activity book geared toward literacy, CFL knowledge and nutrition information. The book launch coincides with the upcoming Read-In week, Oct. 4-8, during which Eskimos players will visit 32 local schools.

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca


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