Riders look for Esks’ Porter

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:45 PM ET

REGINA — The CFL’s leading tackler is getting another crack at Daniel Porter.

The Edmonton Eskimos rookie running back caught the attention of Saskatchewan Roughriders middle linebacker Barrin Simpson two weeks ago while rushing for 121 yards on 19 carries.

It was one of Porter’s three 100-plus-yard performances in as many CFL starts, but the Roughriders aren’t about to let it happen again.

“He’s definitely a good back and he’s made some plays with his opportunities, he’s made the best of them and probably solidified his place on the team for next year,” said Simpson, whose 102 tackles leads the league. “You don’t approach him differently, you prepare for what they do schematically. The key is to go out there and stop the run first and then get after the pass.”

It’s an adjustment defences have had to make against the Eskimos, who have rediscovered their ground game on the way to winning five of their last six games. The last time an Eskimo rushed for 100-plus yards in four consecutive games was 2002 by John Avery.

“I think they went back to the old Edmonton Eskimos with run and shovel,” said Simpson. “They are a run-and-shovel team now, they threw out everything else and said, ‘Let’s go back to what worked’ when they went to the Grey Cup. That’s what they’re doing now.”

But the Roughriders are coming off a week where, despite a loss, they only surrendered 64 rushing yards to the B.C. Lions.

“Our defence did a great job, particularly against the run after three weeks of not playing very well against the run, so that was a tremendous improvement,” said Roughriders head coach Ken Miller. “Hopefully our defence will play against the run similarly to how we played last week, and we’ll just see how that scheme goes.”

If he doesn’t see that happen, Miller will be watching Porter run away with the game.

“He has brought a new dimension to our running game, certainly,” said Eskimos running backs coach Terry Eisler. “He’s a bit like Arkee (Whitlock), he’s going to make the first one miss and he has a little bit more downhill power than we’ve seen before.”

Straight out of Louisiana Tech, the late addition to the Eskimos roster sits 13th overall among league rushers, with 450 yards on 67 carries in just five games. As far as running backs go, Porter sits second overall with a 6.7-yard-per-carry average behind Jon Cornish.

“He has the ability to make plays and he’s been very stout in protection,” Eisler said. “He’s done a real good job for us so far.

“He’s a smart kid in terms of understanding what’s expected in terms of picking up the system.”

But Eisler expects the Roughriders defence to start keying more on Porter the second time around.

“I think they have to and I think Winnipeg tried to do that (last week),” Eisler said. “As long as we stick with it and give him an opportunity I think at some point he’ll bust loose.

“It’s one of those things, if they take him away other things in the offence will open up. We have to be smart how we use him and use him as a decoy as well.”

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca


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