Eskimos target Burris

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:11 AM ET

EDMONTON - The Edmonton Eskimos are not kidding themselves.

Heading into Calgary for Monday's Labour Day Classic, the Eskimos know they'll be up against a different Henry Burris than the one they faced earlier in the year.

The Calgary Stampeders quarterback has found his stride, and is going into the contest coming off a 422-yard, three-touchdown passing performance against the Montreal Alouettes.

"Those guys have really found their rhythm offensively," said Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed. "Before they had a bit of an injury bug where (Ken-Yon) Rambo wasn't available to them for part of the time. And now that they've had those guys together for a few weeks, they've really found a rhythm.

"For us defensively, we have to go back to not giving up the big plays, making certain we keep things in front of us and tackle very well."

In their first meeting this season, the Eskimos did a good job of mixing up their blitzes and coverages, keeping Burris off balance.

He still finished the contest with 372 yards passing and a pair of touchdowns, but the Stampeders were only able to put up 19 points in the loss.

"We made it a game where they had to earn everything they got and that was the reason we were able to be successful," Reed said. "If we give them points, if we give them big plays, I think it'll be a long day for us."

Burris is averaging 307.75 yards passing per game this season with 13 touchdowns on the year. He has thrown for just two less overall yards than Anthony Calvillo, but outduelled the Alouettes quarterback in a 38-31 win last Saturday.

Burris also has 226 rushing yards this season, second only to Joffrey Reynolds for the Stampeders team lead.

"It's always tough to defend a guy that can make stuff happen outside of his arm," said Eskimos defensive lineman Jermaine Reid. "It's hard because Henry is a big quarterback, he's a guy you have to wrap up to take down, you can't just arm-tackle him.

"It makes it a little more difficult, but as long as we remember our fundamentals and stay in good football position, I don't see it being that much of a problem."

Defensively the Eskimos have been solid this season, despite heading into Monday's contest on a three-game losing skid.

They have given up more than 30 points just once this season, that coming in a 36-1 loss to the B.C. Lions two weeks ago.

Having adopted a four-linebacker system has allowed the Eskimos to be creative with their blitz packages. It's one of the reasons the team got off to a 5-0 start.

Despite facing a team loaded with offensive weapons, the Eskimos are still looking to be aggressive defensively this week.

"I think we have to be who we are, we shouldn't change that," Reed said. "We will be aggressive, we will be smartly aggressive. We know they're well-versed in the protection plan, they have a very good plan against aggressive teams in terms of their protection schemes, so we have to be smart and know what they are capable of doing and know whether or not they are capable of handling what we're going to throw at them."

History is not on the Eskimos' side heading into the Labour Day Classic.

Last season, the Eskimos suffered their worst defeat in the history of the annual match-up, losing 52-5.

They've also dropped three of the last four editions of the contest.

"They're a good offensive team, they're a good physical team," said Eskimos linebacker Damaso Munoz. "You just want to be sound fundamentally and keep doing the same things that we do.

"We want to stay aggressive and dictate the daylight that their running backs have. Our job is to try and make that daylight smaller for them."

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

@SUNdvandiest


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