Esks offence lets Ray play

Terry Jones, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 7:59 PM ET

Suddenly Ricky Ray is good again.

One local TV guy told him that Wednesday.

This week, iat’s being widely reported around the Canadian Football League, that the ninth-year Edmonton Eskimo quarterback has remarkably rediscovered his old form.

Another local microphone carrier informed him of that as well.

It’s quite clear.

Ricky Ray has been born again.

He has remarkably risen from the refuse and the rubbish.

Suddenly he’s smart again. He’s the only quarterback in the league who hasn’t thrown an interception so far.

Overnight his arm is live again. His average pass has been for 16.2 yards.

It’s a minor miracle.

When the crowd had cleared in front of his locker, I asked Ray if it didn’t frost him off, these suggestions that he’s got good again and remarkably rediscovered his old form.

“It does,” he said.

“I see myself as the same guy in different circumstances.

“It’s been a little bit frustrating when people doubt you. You go from them saying you’re the best quarterback in the league to saying they should be starting another guy.

“But it comes with the territory. It’s a performance-based business. You go from the penthouse to the outhouse any time the team isn’t playing well. Criticism can be unjustified. It works that way. Is your team winning? Do you have the stats?

“Last year we weren’t winning and I didn’t have the stats.”

Two weeks into this season the Eskimos are 2-0 with a chance to go 3-0 against the 0-2 B.C. Lions Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium, and Ray’s numbers are ridiculous.

The guy the 10 TSN commentators and 10 football writers around the league ranked as the 16th-best player in the league in the network’s top 50 — and your correspondent was one of them and ranked him third, which tells you that the other 19 had him even lower — want their ballots back.

It’s only two weeks into the season, but Ray is 42 for 58 for 682 yards and 72.4%, with four touchdown passes against no interceptions, and has the league’s highest pass-efficiency rating at 134.4 — slightly ahead of Anthony Calvillo’s 132.8. The other starters — Saskatchewan’s Darian Durant (85.0), B.C.’s Travis Lulay (78.7), Calgary’s Henry Burris (78.1), Toronto’s Cleo Lemon (74.5), Hamilton’s Kevin Glenn (63.7) and Winnipeg’s Buck Pierce (61.5) — are way back.

Ray has three receivers in the top six — Fred Stamps second, with 10 catches for 212 yards, Adarius Bowman fourth, with 11 receptions for 173 yards, and Jason Barnes sixth, with eight grabs for 169 yards.

His top three receivers have caught passes for 68, 37 and 33 yards.

“It takes 12 guys,” said Ray.

“This offence is dramatically different.”

Ray won’t say it unless you read between the lines, but he hasn’t seen any protection in three years, hasn’t had any real weapon beyond Fred Stamps and has had brutal conservative and predictable dump-and-dunk offensive game plans, with highly debatable offensive co-ordinator play calling.

“The emphasis was getting the ball out quick to help the guys up front,” he said. “That made us conservative.

“So far this year I’ve had a little more time. I’ve been able to go through more reads and not worry about getting the ball out in a hurry.

“Another thing is, guys are making plays and that makes you want to go down the field and get them the ball.

“We’ve been a pretty balanced team so far on offence. We’ve controlled the line of scrimmage giving me time to throw it.

“We’re not relying on any one guy to get the job done. In the first game Adarius Bowman and Jason Barnes had big games. In the second game Fred Stamps and Jerome Messam had big games. We haven’t had this kind of balance for quite a while.

“I just try to do my job and make good decisions and accurate throws.”

Or he’s got good again. Remarkable return to his former form.


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