Esks’ Crandell does offence like a vet

Marcus Crandell during CFL football at McMahon Stadium. (Al Charest/QMI Agency)

Marcus Crandell during CFL football at McMahon Stadium. (Al Charest/QMI Agency)

Terry Jones, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 7:57 PM ET

Two games is hardly enough evidence to declare Marcus Crandell a successful offensive co-ordinator.

Two seasons, maybe.

But so far so good, for the guy who was once given a live satellite video press conference as the next Warren Moon quarterback signing by the Edmonton Eskimos from Nebraska, and failed to find success, only to return as a rookie CFL offensive co-ordinator here.

Crandell is out of the gate with a 2-0 record and some sensational statistics on his side of the ball.

OK. Maybe it turns out that the two teams the Eskimos beat in the first two weeks — the 0-2 Saskatchewan Roughriders and the 0-2 Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who play each other Saturday — are the worst two teams in the league. But last year the Eskimos were one of the worst two teams in the league with an offence that couldn’t function against a dozen mascots or mini-donut concession staff members.

Edmonton leads the league in points with 70. The Eskimos are tied for the lead in touchdowns with eight. They lead in time of possession at 35:17. The EE are first in net offence per game. And they’re first in plus 30-yard plays with seven so far. That’s not what we were watching here last year.

“When I hired him I expected Marcus Crandell to have an offence with very good statistics,” said head coach Kavis Reed, saying he doesn’t think there will be any dramatic change downward.

“Marcus is extremely impressive in the way he goes about game planning. He’s very open to ideas and inclusive of his other coaches. To date his game plans have been picture perfect.

“Marcus is very, very sharp when it comes to finding match-ups. His habits of film study are that of a 10-year veteran coach instead of doing it in two years,” he said of the guy who was an offensive assistant in Saskatchewan before graduating to a co-ordinator job here.

“He’s excellent at finding an area of weakness and exploiting it. I saw that in Saskatchewan when we were both there together as offensive assistants. And he was instrumental in the development of Darian Durant as a quarterback.

“His ability to work with a quarterback, I thought, would be a perfect match for Ricky Ray.”

And that’s been a key.

“The first thing I said when I took this job is that there was a lot of unjust criticism of Ricky Ray because of the Eskimos’ recent lack of success,” said Crandell.

“Give him time and he’ll get the ball down field and make those throws that makes him the MVP quarterback he’s shown to be in the past.

“Give him different guys to step up and make plays and he’ll make the plays.

“Ricky hasn’t changed. He’s the same quiet, confident, calm, smart quarterback, who doesn’t make bad decisions, that he’s always been.”

And Crandell laughs at the idea that Ray doesn’t have a good arm.

“He throws one of the best deep balls I’ve ever seen in all of football. His timing is almost impeccable.

“On certain routes he throws better than some of the top guys in CFL history.”

But the point is that it starts with protection and giving him the weapons to work with.

“So far the guys are buying into the system. They’re learning it and then they’re going out and playing fast.

“From Ricky’s stand point, he’s seeing the field.

“It’s the beginning of the season. Generally offences start off slow. I don’t know how much you can read into anything this early in the season. We’re putting in a little bit at a time.

“The thing that really seems to be working for us so far is the attitude of everybody. They’re willing to play with urgency.

“These guys have worked hard. You’ve seen how hard they worked at training camp. Now they’re starting to see how everything unfolds and how everything works if you’re in the right spots and that’s what we’re doing right now.”

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terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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