Kabongo to be El-Kabongo'd?

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:27 AM ET

EDMONTON - Is Patrick Kabongo, in the words of 1960s cartoon character Quick Draw McGraw, about to be El Kabongo’d?

Is the offensive lineman, who Danny Maciocia made the second-highest paid player on the Edmonton Eskimos roster, about to be benched?

“I spoke to Pat Sunday,” said head coach Kavis Reed prior to practice Monday as he brought his Humpty Dumpties back from the bye week break to try put them back together again, after they gave up 18 sacks in the last three weeks.

“I told him we’re opening the left guard position up to competition.

“He knows we’re now looking at that position.

“There are things, technical things, involving Pat we have to address.”

The technical things, he said, involve Kabongo’s hands.

“He’s taking a lot of holding penalties,” said Reed.

“It’s been a cause for concern.

“Drive. Drive. Drive. Penalty,” he said.

Or as the referee has phrased it so many times in Kabongo’s career: “Holding. Edmonton. Number 56.”

Kabongo, reduced to a backup for the Labour Day series? It would emphasize yet again what a mess Danny Maciocia made of this team in his time as general manager.

Do you think the Eskimos could use Dimitri Tsoumpas, arguably the league’s best offensive lineman, right now?

A local product who won three high-school crowns with the Strathcona Lords, Tsoumpas was in the Eskimos office (media relations man Dave Jamieson had his sweater, complete with name bar at his desk in preparation for the media photo op) on the 2008 draft day.

Instead, Macocia traded the second selection of the first round to the Calgary for what has turned out to be nobody.

With the same selection, second overall in 2011, the Eskimos picked Scott Mitchell. He’ll be involved in the competition for Kabongo’s starting spot. Dylan Steenbergen, a Lethbridge native picked in the first round of the 2009 draft, acquired in a trade with Montreal this week, will also be involved in the competition for Kabongo’s starting spot.

It’ll be interesting to keep track of the number of reps each of the three will be given during practice this week.

“We’re going to be extremely careful with Mitchell, throwing him into the fire. We don’t want to have anything happen that could really set him back,” said Reed of developing a future long-term starter.

“Steenbergen, I’d say, is probably a little bit ahead.”

Kabongo had been challenged in the off-season by Reed and showed up to training camp having lost a remarkable 75 pounds. But clearly he’s back on the bubble again, quite likely about to be a back-up player for the Labour Day double header.

And with this happening at the same time as Kyle Koch is forced to move to centre and the Eskimos’ top offensive lineman Aaron Fiacconi has been declared out for the season with a torn rotator cuff shoulder injury …

As the offensive line goes, so go the Eskimos, it seems. And first-day-back news would suggest Edmonton will have gone from bad to worse on the Job 1 front of protecting quarterback Ricky Ray.

Reed admitted that the Eskimos could end up with three import offensive lineman, if that’s what it takes to keep Ray from getting sacked every series.

“We can go three,” he said of the import/non-import numbers with a team which has traditionally gone all Canadian at those positions.

They can’t do that until after the NFL cuts, however.

But Reed said a complete, honest, critical self-examination of the team during the break indicates the offensive line problems don’t start and end with the offensive line itself.

“We’re adjusting our schemes and expanding our protection package. And when we’re healthier, I’d expect our protection to be better.”

Not many teams lose their starting four receivers at the same time. But two, Adarius Bowman and Marcus Henry, are expected back for Labour Day and Fred Stamps for the Friday rematch in Commonwealth Stadium.

“Because of the new receivers not being in spots they were supposed to be, Ricky was holding the ball longer.

“They’re not playing as poorly as it optically seems.”

Well, except you, Kabongo.

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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