Esks beef up O-line

Julius Coston watches during Edmonton Eskimos training camp on June 19, 2011. (CODIE MCLACHLAN/QMI...

Julius Coston watches during Edmonton Eskimos training camp on June 19, 2011. (CODIE MCLACHLAN/QMI AGENCY)

Gerry Moddejonge, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:22 AM ET

EDMONTON - The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

But the old saying never mentioned anything about just how many would fall.

With Cliff Washburn sidelined with an injured finger that may require surgery, Gord Hinse healing a broken thumb and, most recently, Brian Ramsay banging up his knee in last Friday’s game, the Edmonton Eskimos have rolled in a pair of imports, Stefan Rodgers and the freshly signed Junius Coston.

But the American players may play more of a role in the team this year than simply filling in, should the Eskimos decide to go with two import tackles instead of one this year.

“The added import, it gives you some flexibility with the lineup,” offensive line coach Tim Prinsen said. “If we can start two imports there, typically they’re a little more polished than, say, a younger Canadian.

“So it allows you to maybe upgrade your talent at the time and it gives you a chance to develop your younger guys.”

Canadian draft picks have been a top priority in recent drafts, with Scott Mitchell and Hinse honing their craft behind veteran non-imports, while 2008 selection Greg Wojt rose to the starting ranks last season. But the Eskimos are seeking a quick fix to a problem that plagued them last season — too many quarterback sacks.

“Having two solid guys on the outside is very important,” said head coach Kavis Reed. “We made a commitment to protecting Ricky Ray, so we’re going to look at (all options). Nationalities are out the window, we’re going to make certain we have the best players there.”

It’s not, Reed said, a case of the Canadian players being unable to get the job done.

“We said we’re going to keep Ricky upright as best as we possibly can and the best athletes are going to win in those positions,” he said.

But committing another import position to the offensive line means the Eskimos need to make up for it with Canadian talent elsewhere.

“We’ve studied carefully how we’ve committed to the ratio,” said Reed. “The kicking game is going to have a part in it, as well. As well, we’re starting a Canadian corner(back), we’re also starting a Canadian defensive lineman. So we have some ratio flexibility, it’s not going to leave us in ratio peril.

“We know what our situation is.”

The coaching staff has been pleasantly surprised in another area of training camp, as well.

“Calvin McCarty is doing quite well, so he may also change the ratio,” Reed said of the B.C. running back. “Training camp is about us as coaches finding the combination that works best for the team and then we’ll manipulate the ratio beyond that.”

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: While he didn’t work out with the team Sunday, Coston said he likes what he saw at his first practice.

“It looks like we’ve got a good team here. I haven’t even been here 24 hours, but I like what I see,” said Coston, who was surprised by the mid-camp trade from Calgary in exchange for future considerations. “I came in (Saturday) morning and I was told I was traded.

“You know the business, so you know what to expect. It’s definitely better than sitting at home.”

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/Gerry_EdmSun


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