Esks plan new-look defence

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:26 AM ET

EDMONTON - The Edmonton Eskimos were not eager to tip their hand during the CFL exhibition season.

So despite losing both of their preseason games, and struggling to keep the opposition offences in check, the Eskimos are confident in their new defensive system heading into the opening weekend of the regular season.

The Eskimos kick off the year Sunday, on the road, against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

“We like the athletes that we have on defence,” said Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed on Tuesday. “I’m confident in (defensive co-ordinator) Rich Stubler’s scheme. I did not like the way we played the first two games in terms of stopping the run, but coach Stubler was very vanilla in terms of playing calling and that was intentional.

“Hopefully our game plan this week is a solid one and we can go out and execute it and maintain a good defence.”

The Eskimos have adopted a three down-linemen system this season, which gives them more options when it comes to moving around their linebackers.

It seems to be the shift in the CFL from the traditional four down-lineman and three-linebacker scheme.

“It’s completely different than what we’ve had here for the last couple of years,” said defensive end Greg Peach. “But after four weeks of it, I’m very comfortable with it. The guys that are here are comfortable with it.

“We do a lot of stuff with our linebackers, we’re coming from all different areas. We’re playing fast, we’re moving around and we have a lot of young guys.”

While the Eskimos defence appears to be of the high-risk, high-reward variety, Reed is reluctant to labeling it as an aggressive defence.

“I’m very careful to use that term, because aggressive can sometimes be interpreted as out of control,” Reed said. “Rich is one of those guys that is going to send pressure in different directions because of the 30-scheme and having more athletes on the field.

“We’re smartly aggressive in the way he does it on the field, and hopefully, that smart aggression will put (Roughrider’s quarterback) Darian Durant on his back.”

In their exhibition game against the Roughriders over two weeks ago, the Eskimos gave up 70 yards rushing and 196 yards passing in a 23-22 loss.

A week later, they gave up 282 yards through the air and 133 yards on the ground as they fell 37-22 to the Calgary Stampeders.

“We didn’t run the defence in camp that we’ll be running during the season,” said defensive lineman Joe Sykes. “We had a lot of players around and we didn’t know who was going to be here. But (Monday), we got the rundown on the new stuff. I don’t want to give it away right now, but we ran basic stuff in the preseason. We were more conservative and laid back.

“On Sunday, there is going to be different personnel, there are going to be changes on the defence, and there are going to be a lot of people moving around.”

They key to the Eskimos’ success defensively this season will be their ability to put pressure on a mobile quarterback such as Durant.

The defensive unit has spend as much time in the meeting room as they have on the field in order to try and accomplish that.

“Learning a new defence is always different, so we put in a lot of hours,” said Sykes. “But coach Stubler’s defence is good, I like it, I can make a lot of plays in it.

“He gives us a lot more freedom. He wants us to make plays and the linebackers can read off us. This defence suits me well. The offensive tackle, doesn’t know whether I’m going to go in or outside, so I have him thinking all game. So I feel good about the season.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SUNdvandiest


Videos

Photos