February 9, 2012
Esks receivers must deal with loss of Ray
By GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency
You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the job of the Edmonton Eskimos new receivers coach.
While former Eskimos receiver Derrell ‘Mookie’ Mitchell has inherited a skilled and athletic group of playmakers, the facts of life heading into the 2012 CFL season is theirs will be the unit most affected by the off-season trade that sent Ricky Ray to the Toronto Argonauts.
After all, they will no longer be on the receiving end of passes from the 10-year CFL veteran and future Hall of Famer.
“That’s the part that’s going to be a battle for me,” said Mitchell, a long-time Argos and Eskimos receiver who won the 2005 Grey Cup with Edmonton. “The one thing that I’ve started doing with my guys is making the phone calls now and letting them know that, ‘It’s part of the business, so guys, we’ve got to be professional. We have to move on.’ ”
At the same time, Mitchell is coming in at a time when the club is turning the page on the Ray era, getting in on the ground level of setting up their new aerial attack.
“I still have a young group in my receiver corps,” Mitchell said of a group led by slotbacks Fred Stamps and Adarius Bowman, who tied for the team lead with 1,153 receiving yards. “Those guys have a lot to learn and there is a lot of talent there.
“The huge thing that I told (head) coach Kavis (Reed) is I want the bulk of my guys back because the less teaching there is, the better.”
Especially with adjusting to a new quarterback in Steven Jyles, who returns to the Eskimos for his second stint with the club — except this time, he comes into training camp this spring as the starter.
“There is going to be a huge adjustment because Ricky had more of a touch on his pass, where Steve has a little more zip ,” said Mitchell, who will see some relief in the passing game due to the emergence of a rushing attack that came into its own last season.
With most outstanding Canadian Jerome Messam coming off a 1,000-yard season and American rusher Hugh Charles joining the backfield late last year, the Eskimos are focusing on improving an offensive line built towards chewing up yards on the ground as much as protecting the pocket.
“From the offensive standpoint, we’re so excited about the new things that we’re going to try to implement this off-season and going into the season,” Mitchell said. “We’ve got running backs that can start anywhere in this league, so those guys are going to be huge for our passing game.”
Mitchell joins a coaching staff where seven of its nine members, including Reed, all played professionally at the position they now instruct.
“There is a familiarity there, we understand each other’s styles,” Reed said. “Not that someone who hasn’t played the position can’t coach it, but it helps tremendously because players will see immediate respect in terms of what you are teaching them because you’ve done it.
“You are not asking them to do something you, yourself, haven’t done.”