Hard corps: Esks receivers back
By GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency
|Edmonton Eskimos Jason Barnes rolls into the end zone for a touchdown against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during CFL action in Winnipeg Friday August 05, 2011. (BRIAN DONOGH/QMI Agency)
EDMONTON - Talk about a warm reception.
The Edmonton Eskimos are welcoming back Jason Barnes with open arms as they set to take on the Montreal Alouettes on Friday.
“Exceptional news for us, having him back,” said head coach Kavis Reed. “It’s been four games we’ve missed Jason. He last played against Montreal when he got hurt and we’re looking forward to having him back.”
The slotback, who is returning from an injury to his ribs suffered against the Alouettes in Week 7, completes a corps of import receivers who haven’t been healthy since Week 4.
After getting off to a 4-0 start in that time, Barnes, Fred Stamps, Adarius Bowman and Marcus Henry were all injured over a span of the next three games.
“That’s just football, but it was kind of weird having four Americans go down. I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Stamps. “It was a tough time through the month of August but we’re all getting back, slowly but surely and our team is getting stronger.”
While the Eskimos eked out a one-point victory over the Toronto Argonauts in Week 5, their unbeaten streak would not only end there, but usher in a three-game losing streak.
Their lowest point of the season, a 27-4 loss to Montreal, was followed up by sinking even lower in a 36-1 loss to the B.C. Lions at home.
But since the bye week, the receivers started coming back. And so, too, have the wins.
Coincidence? Their quarterback thinks not.
“No, I mean, those are good players,” said Ricky Ray. “You want to play with your best players out there. The last time we’ve had all those guys was in Calgary in Game 4.
“We definitely had our struggles there, missing some of those guys and definitely with some guys up front as well. For the middle part of the season, we’ve been trying to shuffle guys around and just balancing the injuries that we’ve had.”
With the same offensive line intact for the past three games, the Eskimos have gone 2-1 since the three-game skid and are currently tied for first place in the West Division with the Stampeders.
As they head towards the stretch, their focus shifts from salvaging victories to gorging on them.
“With our receiving corps being healthy, our protection is a lot better, our run game is a lot better,” Reed said. “Things really work.”