Esks running game stalled

Daniel Porter is stopped during the Eskimos' Aug. 19 game against the B.C. Lions. (PERRY NELSON/QMI...

Daniel Porter is stopped during the Eskimos' Aug. 19 game against the B.C. Lions. (PERRY NELSON/QMI Agency)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:09 PM ET

EDMONTON - Kavis Reed is looking for a commitment.

Having been pounded in their two previous outings, the Edmonton Eskimos head coach returned from the bye week looking to get his running game back on track.

It starts by actually trying to run the ball.

“I believe the answer lies in patience with it,” said Reed as his team prepares to take on the Calgary Stampeders on Monday.

“My mandate and message to the offensive coach is that a three-yard gain is a positive. That may sound as if we’re settling, but if you’re in a second and medium situation, that’s a good thing. It’s OK sometimes to be committed to the running game even if you have to punt the ball.”

The Eskimos became one-dimensional in lopsided losses in Montreal to the Alouettes and at home to the B.C. Lions before taking last week off.

A running game that was so effective in the first five weeks of the season, helping the Eskimos build a 5-0 record, has gone dormant.

The Eskimos amassed just 38 rushing yards in a 36-1 loss to the Lions, and had an embarrassing minus-one yard in total rushing against the Alouettes.

“There are really no excuses, we really haven’t got the job done,” said Eskimos running back Calvin McCarty. “Whether it’s being down early and having to go away from it, or having guys in different spots, we’re not sticking with it and not committing to it like we can.

“Whether the situation determines that or not, it’s been a struggle the last few weeks. We have another week in front of us now and we have to get it going.”

Having fallen behind early in their last two losses, it’s natural for a team to abandon the running game in order to try and get back in the contest.

However, that’s a tendency the Eskimos are looking to get away from in Calgary this week. They want to continue to run the ball regardless of what the scoreboard reads.

“It’s almost at the point where it’s like Russian roulette without the bullet in the gun,” Reed said. “If I know as a defensive lineman that you are going to pass the ball, I’m in pass-rush mode and nine times out of 10, you’re going to have success because I know what I’m anticipating.

“But if you continue to be committed to the run game and mix it up, it confuses them and makes them have to play honest in terms of pass-rush situations, so it helps us regardless of the scoreboard sometimes to be committed to the run.”

It could be noted the Eskimos running game has struggled since the club cut Arkee Whitlock following a Week 5 victory over the Toronto Argonauts.

However, with McCarty, Jerome Messam and Daniel Porter on the roster, the team still has plenty of backs who can run the ball effectively when given the opportunity.

But with a banged up receiving corps that gives defenses a chance to focus more attention on the run, and with a beat up offensive line, those opportunities have not presented themselves.

“That’s all about being good on offence, having good balance, controlling the line of scrimmage, trying not to be one-dimensional out there,” said quarterback Ricky Ray. “That’s going to help us out. That’s what we did early in the season. We were able to run the football pretty well, make plays and not turn the football over. Those are the key ingredients for us to get back on track.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

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