EDMONTON - The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are going to need a bigger boat.
After losing two quarterbacks to injury last week, their offensive line will look to keep fourth-stringer-turned starter Joey Elliott afloat against an Edmonton Eskimos defence that can already smell blood in the water.
“As a defence, when you have a new quarterback back there you want to challenge him right away,” said Eskimos defensive tackle Dario Romero. “That means giving him different looks, sending pressure.
“We know that he is more apt to hold the ball a little longer because he’s not as quick with his reads so we’re looking forward to it.”
The Eskimos, who trail the CFL with just 29 sacks, will look to break through the Bombers pocket like the Toronto Argonauts did last week.
But they’re expecting the opposing offensive line to be ready.
“That’s the goal of every O-line is to protect the quarterback. They’re down to their last over there,” Romero said. “So what I’m thinking is they’re going to run the ball, slide protection, play action just to keep him safe.”
The Bombers brought former CFLer Zac Champion back to the league this week after losing Steven Jyles and Alex Brink for the season.
“That was unfortunate, just the way they went down,” Romero said. “Guys get tackled every game, it was just the way they hit the ground.
“They were getting after the quarterback. I’m not going to give it away, but there are some things that we could take advantage of, for sure.”
But it all begins with getting a handle on running back Fred Reid, who is second only to Toronto’s Cory Boyd in rushing yards this season.
“You always try to find the chink in everyone’s armour, that’s why you game plan,” said Eskimos defensive end Greg Peach.
“It all comes down to the same thing every week: you stop their top back and you get after the pass.”
Reid has 1,255 yards on 198 carries for a 6.3-yard average and six touchdowns, while Terrence Edwards is the second-leading receiver in the league, which is surprising for a team with so many weapons to be the first ones knocked out of playoff contention.
“Their O-line looks good, they’re a good team,” said Peach. “They lost a lot of close games, it could be a completely different story for them this year. They just had some bad breaks, so they’re going to be tough. We know that.”