Esks turn D-fence into D-wall
By Gerry Moddejonge, QMI Agency
|Eskimos Delroy Clarke goes after Ticats Jamall Johnson during Saturday's game in Commonwealth Stadium. (Reuters)
Forget the fence, it was more like a D-wall.
The Edmonton Eskimos gave up just 10 points to the Hamilton Tiger-cats last Saturday to start to the season 2-0.
They won by 18 points, but it was what the Eskimos didn’t do that was impressive: they didn’t allow more than one touchdown and one field goal, they didn’t give up 50 rushing yards or 220 passing yards and they didn’t surrender more than 20 first downs.
“We were able to maintain a lead throughout the game. We didn’t concede any big plays to them, really,” said the Eskimos’ Kavis Reed. “Those guys showed a lot of poise.”
Defensively, it was a vast improvement over the 28 points the Eskimos allowed the Saskatchewan Roughriders to score in the season-opener.
And they did it last Saturday without the benefit of the four turnovers they forced in Regina.
“It’s not all about turnovers,” said Eskimos linebacker T.J. Hill, whose teammate Jykine Bradley’s interception was their only takeaway of the game Saturday. “If it’s second-and-nine, they’ve got to punt the ball. That’s just like a turnover because we gave our offence another opportunity to put points on the board.
“It’s nice to have turnovers, but if they punt the ball, that’s just as effective as well.”
But ‘effective’ is hardly the word any of the Eskimos would use to describe an 0-2 preseason, which was a mirror image to the way the regular season has begun.
“We’re playing as a group,” said defensive co-ordinator Rich Stubler. “Preseason is to identify the kids that we could have and personalities and such. I didn’t know anybody.
“I had to find out what kids did when I didn’t call defence, when I just let them play.”
Where there was room for improvement, there will always be room to continue improving.
“They still scored 10,” Stubler said.
But last Saturday was at least a step in the right direction.
“Basically, we just wanted to get off to an early start,” Hill said. “Pretty much make them play catch-up, because when you do that from a defensive perspective, you can dictate a lot of things the offence is going to do.”
IN AND OUT: RB Arkee Whitlock donned pads for the first time since suffering a hamstring tear in training camp. But don’t expect to see him suit up Saturday.
“He practised a bit (Tuesday),” Reed said. “Not a lot, we’re going to be smart with him. He got in, he assimilated a little bit. We want to be smart because he’s coming off the tear, not something that we’re going to be stupid about.
“We’re going to push him a little bit more (Wednesday). There is no hope to get him into this game this weekend. We’ll let him play when he’s ready.”
RB Calvin McCarty sat out Tuesday because of a sprain but will be back practising on Wednesday.
OL Cliff Washburn, who has been out since the preseason with a hand injury, replaced Junius Coston at LT in Tuesday’s practice.
LB Rod Davis (hamstring) and DT Etienne Legare (turf toe) remained out after getting banged up last Saturday.