Esks far too charitable

CON GRIWKOWSKY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:38 PM ET

EDMONTON - HAMILTON — Minus 20. Sensational if the game you’re playing is golf.

Trouble is, the game is football and this year’s version of the Edmonton Eskimos have taken giving the ball away to an art form.

Minus 20. Congratulations, runaway leaders. The only CFL team in double figures in the giveaway/takeaway category after Friday’s net minus-three fiasco in Hamilton.

An endzone interception. A couple of untimely lost fumbles by Mathieu Bertrand and a late pick. Hey, at least Tristan Jackson managed to recover his fumble.

It’s been a season-long march to the bottom, a greased pig contest with the pigskin.

A coach-killer on something that can’t be coached.

Short of issuing his players crazy glue, it’s driving head coach Richie Hall crazy.

“That’s been our demise this season,” said Hall. “When we’ve won the giveaway/takeaway, we’ve fared very well. What do we have, four wins? So, we haven’t fared very well with the giveaway/takeway when all is said and done.”

Hall and his assistants can put up all the X’s and O’s, game-plan like the second coming of Vince Lombardi and make all the right game-time calls and it just doesn’t matter.

With this crew of players who take generosity to a fault, the solution is not an easy matter.

“Ball security,” is the message Hall keeps trying to pound into his players’ heads. “I mean, you have to protect the football. We got one turnover (takeaway).

“They got a couple of picks, one at the end zone and another when the guy (Geoff Tisdale) made a great play in the end zone. It happens, but at the same time, they made plays.”

As Hall continues to point out, it’s been a season-long concern.

“It’s a concern regarding our football team all year long,” said Hall. “It’s not turning around. We didn’t protect the football. We didn’t make enough plays. This is Week 14 into the season and this is why we are where we’re at. We haven’t been consistent enough. We haven’t made enough plays to come out victorious at the end.”

When it comes to taking the ball away, the Eskimos are near the bottom of the bottom but close enough to average with 29 takeaways.

They’ve actually turned around their problem area from early in the 2009 season with a league-leading 20 interceptions.

And, when Chris Thompson created a fumble, T.J. Hill jumped on the ball for the Esks’ only takeaway on the night.

“They had more turnovers than us and that’s what it came down to,” said Thompson. “They had more chances and made the best of their opportunities. We didn’t do that.”

On the minus side, quarterback Ricky Ray’s TD to interception ratio took another hit. His nine TD passes is the only single figure among CFL starters and he’s thrown 14 of the team’s league-leading 20 interceptions.

When the team can win the turnovers battle, like they did last Sunday, they give themselves a chance to win.

Unfortunately, what that does is put even more pressure on the defence to raise their big-play game.

It’s tough to figure out how much more ball-hawking the Esks secondary can be.

A quick-release quarterback like Kevin Glenn can be tough for a defensive line to harrass and the good news is that the Esks have seen the last of that style this regular season.

Right now, the biggest challenge for the Eskimos players is to find a way to hold onto their jobs.

con.griwkowsky@sunmedia.ca


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