Ray key to Esks' success

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:23 AM ET

EDMONTON - Edmonton Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed was not shy about overstating the importance of quarterback Ricky Ray to his football team this season.

“Every night, my wife prays for Ricky Ray, because she knows our lifestyle depends on it,” joked Reed. “The guy is vitally important to our success. We know he’s a high-completion percentage guy and he needs to be standing upright in order to do that.”

Heading into his first season as the team’s head coach, Reed is charged with turning the club’s fortunes around, having missed the playoffs last season.

Ray’s progress during the preseason was closely monitored and he was kept out of the team’s first exhibition game for precautionary reasons as protection assignments were being worked out.

“He makes good decisions, he’s still a championship-calibre quarterback,” Reed said. “So if we can protect him, and we can establish a running game, I think we’ll have the success we expect.”

The Eskimos only managed 35 yards on the ground in last week’s exhibition loss to the Calgary Stampeders.

However, Reed said that was due to the gameplan, which wanted to let Ray throw the ball as much as possible, allowing him to get into a rhythm.

Now that the team has established its roster, Ray will have better opportunity to work on developing a strong rapport with his receiving corps.

“It’s nice now that you can get out and work with the same guys and develop that kind of chemistry,” Ray said. “In camp it’s a little bit more difficult, because there are so many guys and you’re not getting as many reps with them, so it’s hard to develop chemistry. Now that the roster is set, we can kind of be comfortable with each other.”

The Eskimos are looking to get the year off to a good start with a strong performance in Regina. There are a lot of questions heading into the season with so many new faces on the roster.

“This training camp was a lot different than year’s past,” Ray said. “There are a lot of new guys, I felt like a new guy coming into a new team. But it’s been good, training camp went pretty well, now we have to get some things cleaned up and head into Regina and try to get a win this week.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

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