Esks' Nowacki could get more looks

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:58 PM ET

EDMONTON - Andrew Nowacki understands his role.

As a Canadian wideout, the Stony Creek, Ont., native is responsible for creating space in the defensive secondary, giving inside receivers more room to operate.

This is accomplished by running a lot of clear-out routes.

However, Nowacki has been one of the few constants on the Eskimos receiving corps, and heading into his eighth season, he’ll be counted on to be more than just a decoy.

“We do a good job of motion with this offence and we’ll be able to get him into the slot position a little more, instead of always having him on the outside and running different routes,” said Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray. “Sometimes being that outside receiver you can get lost out there and you don’t get a ton of balls. I think with this offence, we can move people around a little bit more and get everybody involved.”

Last season, Nowacki caught 21 passes for 259 yards without a touchdown. Despite having started 17 of the 18 games the Eskimos played, it was his lowest total in four years.

This season, he would like to see a few more balls thrown in his direction.

“In years past we tried to take advantage of different things, but that was then, this is now and I’m hoping I am a little more involved and I’m ready to get a few more looks,” Nowacki said. “But I also understand my role with this team and I’m happy with that and I’m fine with that. I’ll do whatever it’s going to take to get a few more wins.”

It’s not as though Nowacki is incapable of catching more passes during the season. Ironically, the rare times he’s been a primary target, the Eskimos have gone on to have success.

In 2007, Nowacki caught a career-high 47 passes for 465 yards with two touchdowns.

But with five different offensive co-ordinators in five years, all with their own offensive schemes, Nowacki has been unable to build on those totals.

“You can’t really worry about that,” Nowacki said. “Every receiver wants to get the ball and wants to touch the ball more. I just have to be patient and stay focused, because when the ball does come my way, I’m expected to make the most of those opportunities and that’s my mindset again this year.”

As one of only three returning receivers this season, Nowacki is expected to take on a bigger leadership role both on and off the field.

He’s done a good job at camp so far, helping the new receivers familiarize themselves with the Canadian game.

“He’s been here for a while and is one of the leaders for our team,” said Ray. “He’s the guy that comes out here every day and shows the young guys how to practise and put in that extra time.

“He’s just one of the core guys that helps show the other new guys that are here, the Eskimo way.”

With so many new faces on the team and a new offensive system to incorporate, it’s expected to take time before everyone is on the same page.

“I think for any group, getting that chemistry and that timing back is going to take a little while,” Nowacki said. “But the new guys have caught on real quick. We’re just fine-tuning now and making sure we’re paying attention to the details.

“As veterans, all we have to do is set a tempo and let the new guys know how we want to practise. We want to practise hard and we want to practise fast and we want to be going at full speed, as close to game-like conditions as we can. Hopefully all the young guys follow and so far, they have been.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

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