Defensive shift pays off for Eskimos

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:50 AM ET

EDMONTON - They were outmanned, but not outperformed.

Despite going from four down linemen to three this season, the Edmonton Eskimos defensive frontline was able to get pressure on Darian Durant in last Sunday’s 42-28 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Playing nose tackle in between defensive ends Joe Sykes and Greg Peach, Etienne Legare recorded his first CFL sack deep in the Roughriders’ end early on.

“It’s going to be a great souvenir,” said the six-foot-three, 261-pound Laval product who came to Edmonton last year along with linebacker Damaso Munoz, in a trade to Toronto for Noel Prefontaine. “It just gave the defence some good momentum and gives a lot of confidence at the beginning of the game.”

It was also living proof for the players involved in the fundamental shift in formation to a 3-4 defence, which uses four linebackers instead of the usual 4-3 set.

“Our defence is kind of special, we’re moving a lot on the line. It’s all about speed,” Legare said. “We don’t have big defensive tackles, we’re focusing more on speed and moving people on the line.

“It was just the one game played, but so far it has been good for us.”

There is added pressure that comes with trying to get pressure on quarterbacks with fewer D-linemen, but it’s all about group effort, Legare said.

“With just three against five, it’s sometimes kind of hard,” he said. “We try really hard with the (extra) backer and the D-line and our DBs giving us some time in the coverage … so we can flush the QB on the other side and get sacks that way.”

Middle linebacker Rod Davis added a second sack for the Eskimos, who held Durant to a pair of touchdowns to go along with three interceptions.

“It’s huge, any time you can get pressure on the quarterback, hurry throws, rough him up a little bit,” said defensive line coach Kit Lathrop. “We had several knockdowns plus the sacks. It was outstanding up front, in the box.

“They’re catching on really quickly.”

Which can’t be said for the Roughriders, who appeared to have been caught off guard by the Eskimos’ different look on defence.

“I think so, like running the option or anything people aren’t familiar with seeing week-in, week-out, it’s a little bit hard to practise or simulate when they don’t see it very often,” Lathrop said. “I think a lot of teams try to get in and out of it but when you can play it first-down, second-down and third, we’re pretty effective with it.”

WATER BOY?: A head coach’s work is never done, apparently. Kavis Reed was spotted running around the field passing out water bottles to his players during drills.

IN AND OUT: RB Arkee Whitlock was not in pads Wednesday and is not expected to play Sunday, while Calvin McCarty, Daniel Porter and Jerome Messam will platoon the position. WR Marcus Henry (hamstring) remained out, along with OL Jeremy Parquet and DL Julius Williams (elbow). Joining them was DT Etienne Legare, while OLs Brian Ramsay (knee) and Cliff Washburn (broken finger) returned to the field for limited participation.

“Everything’s going all right. It’s still healing, there’s no rush it’ll be ready when I’m ready,” said Washburn, who used a playing cast that looked more suitable to flipping pancakes than securing a broken ring finger sustained at the beginning of training camp. “I may have to wear it in games when I start playing or they may make something else.”

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

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