Esks mismatched in the trenches?

Edmonton Eskimos Chris Patrick (L to R), Patrick Kabongo, Gord Hinse, Brian Ramsay and Devin Tyler...

Edmonton Eskimos Chris Patrick (L to R), Patrick Kabongo, Gord Hinse, Brian Ramsay and Devin Tyler on Nov. 17, 2011. (AMBER BRACKEN/QMI AGENCY)

Terry Jones, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

EDMONTON - There’s almost always a game within the game at the big game. But there’s a double whammy of one in Sunday’s Western Final.

There’s a highly visible mismatch between the Edmonton Eskimos offensive line, which has featured 13 different players this year, and the B.C. Lions CFL All-Star studded defensive front seven.

There’s also the flip side of this twin spin. Or is it a double death spiral?

The Eskimos defensive front has done well this season against everybody in the league, except the Lions.

The most obvious mismatch is the former, as Edmonton’s patchwork offensive line faces CFL All-Stars Aaron Hunt, Kalif Mitchell and Solomon Elimimian.

Quarterback Ricky Ray knows the kind of heat he’s likely to experience Sunday in B.C. Place.

“Their defensive line will win a lot of plays. But they’re not going to dominate the whole game. They’ll get in and get some sacks. We really don’t want them to get into a rhythm or be in a situation where we’re throwing it every down and those guys can just come.”

G.M. Eric Tillman says you can’t pretend it doesn’t exist.

“B.C.’s front four has shown the ability to dominate multiple games. They don’t have to blitz to collapse the pocket, and, as such, when you can create pressure with only four rushing and dropping eight, it makes it very difficult to push the ball vertically.

“Additionally, their interior guys just gobble up blockers, allowing their middle linebacker Elimimian to sprint to the ball, often untouched. He’s a force, too.

“Tim Prinsen has done a heckuva job coaching that group, but we are only playing with one lineman who started for us in the season opener. Under those circumstances, our offensive line has been very solid. But like I said, the Lions’ front four is dominant. So without revealing our approach, you don’t have to be Albert Einstein to figure out it’s hard to pound the ball successfully against the Lions,” adds Tillman.

“Those guys — Hunt, Mitchell and Eric Taylor — are arguably the best in the league,” said Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed of the defensive linemen in front of linebacker Elimimian.

“They’re very powerful. and very good pass rushers. Especially on second-down pass situations, they are very effective.”

And the Eskimos don’t have Jerome Messam.

Not having him doesn’t seem to be a worry because, for this game, the Eskimos may actually be better off. While the ex-Lion ran all over the rest of the league in becoming the first Canadian in a decade to have a 1,000-yard rushing season, he couldn’t run a lick against his old teammates. In four games against B.C., Messam carried 33 times for a mere 140 yards, including a minus-one-yard game in Edmonton. He was ejected from his first game in B.C. place when his ex-teammates got under his skin and was held to just 17 yards on nine carries the last time.

Import Hugh Charles will replace him as feature back.

“Hugh might provide an advantage for us going against those guys up front for the Lions,” said Reed.

“His 5’9” stature might actually be a benefit, hiding behind the line and be able to find cracks Jerome might not be able to find.”

And the blocking?

“No disrespect to Jerome, but Hugh is a little better in protection right now. He’s a pretty good blocker in pass protection.”

As for the flip side of all this, Greg Peach said there’s a challenge there, too.

“We’ve lost three straight to them and watching film of the games we played, it was mostly a matter of terrible tackling and not executing. If we come out and really execute and dominate, if we come out and don’t make mistakes, we might be able to win this game.” Kavis Reed seconded the motion.

“It has to be a dirty game defensively. We have to make it a grimy fight.

“We can’t let Travis Lulay operate without stress. We need almost a carbon copy of the game plan we used for Drew Tate.

“This team is good enough to beat the B.C. Lions if we execute.”

One thing for sure: Reed and staff are really going to have to coach ‘em up for this one.

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos