EDMONTON - Move over Patrick Kabongo. There’s somebody else checking into the Edmonton Eskimos’ doghouse with you.
Jerome Messam, the running back who won two Gibson’s Finest Canadian Player of the Week awards, ripping off 335 yards in the first third of the season and very much looking like he was progressing forward to a future of being a 100-yard-per-game ball carrier with a Canadian passport, has regressed.
No. He hasn’t punched out a teammate in a dispute over a parking pass.
No. He hasn’t had anything happen like breaking the B.C. Lions training camp rules about no females in the dorm.
And no, he hasn’t repeated any of the other incidents from his checkered college career.
This is about football.
In the past two games, Messam has produced minus one and minus four yards rushing, with a fumble.
And in the bye week evaluation, head coach Kavis Reed came to the conclusion that Messam’s negative yardage wasn’t due to the play of the offensive line but part of the Ricky Ray protection problem.
And if you read between the lines here, Reed might be saying that Messam had a couple big games and suddenly thought he’d become the second coming of Normie Kwong.
“Jerome needs to understand that when some success comes, you have to work harder,” said Reed.
But mostly it’s about turning pro.
“It’s part of growing up. It’s my job, my choice, to help with his growth, to help him understand what a professional day is,” he said.
General manager Eric Tillman big-pictures it.
“Jerome is a tremendously talented young man, but far more than talent will determine how much he achieves.
“Right now he’s like a lot of young players — a combination of strengths and weaknesses.
“Running backs, or the best ones, do a lot more than just carry the football. One of the most underappreciated aspects of the complete backs is how well they pass protect.
“Mike Pringle was one of the best. Wes Cates, too. So many of Darian Durant’s big plays these past few years have been because Wes always picks up the extra guy. And he doesn’t just get in the way. Wes stones the blitzer!”
Messam, the Eskimos knew, was going to be a work in progress. And it looked to be progressing so well. But having some success in pro football doesn’t mean you’ve turned pro.
“Look, a big part of the growth and maturation of young players is film study,” said Tillman.
“And those of us in the fraternity respect the heck out of backs who spend hours preparing off the field, watching film and getting tips who to block in different looks and schemes.
“Protecting Ricky Ray is a collective responsibility. Right now, that attribute — blocking — is one of Calvin McCarty’s greatest assets, and it’s probably why you’ll see him getting more playing time.
“Good backs are created via technique and film study. And this is a case where Jerome can learn from a quality vet like Calvin.”
McCarty may not have Messam’s upside. Few do. But he’s a pro. And he’s an Eskimo.
Tillman says all of this doesn’t mean the Eskimos aren’t still upbeat about Messam’s chances of becoming everything he’s capable of becoming.
“We’re still very high on him. Of course, he could make a mistake this week, next week or next month,” he said of his his history.
“That’s why some people termed the trade a risk.
“But so far mostly good.
“When you’re developing young players and building a winner, there are ups and downs. We’ve seen both this season.”
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