Eskimos trim roster

Edmonton Eskimos Joel Bell is helped off the field during during pre-season CFL action against the...

Edmonton Eskimos Joel Bell is helped off the field during during pre-season CFL action against the B.C. Lions at Commonwealth Stadium on Thursday. Bell will start the season on the Esks nine-game injury list. (QMI Agency/AMBER BRACKEN)

Con Griwkowsky, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:07 PM ET

EDMONTON - If you’re trying to get a line on the 2012 version of the Edmonton Eskimos, look no further than the offensive line.

The entire seven-man unit has a Canadian birth certificate, a departure from how the team has lined up the past several years.

Import offensive lineman Mitch Erickson was among the 13 players cut by the team as the Eskimos trimmed its active roster to 46 players on the CFL’s final cutdown day.

Import OL Joel Bell will start the season on the nine-game injured list after suffering an ankle injury in Thursday’s game against B.C.

That leaves Canadian offensive tackles Dylan Steenbergen and Dale Stevenson to take care of the perimeters.

Steenbergen, Montreal’s first-round choice in 2009, impressed head coach Kavis Reed during both of Edmonton’s pre-season games and seems ready to step up into a starting role.

Stevenson steps into a starting role after spending the 2011 season on the team’s practice roster.

On more than one occasion, Reed has expressed his preference for an all-Canadian offensive line.

In addition to being a ratio-buster, it fits in to the Eskimo Way narrative that Reed has been promoting and is passionate about re-igniting. The Eskimos featured an all-Canadian line during Reed’s playing days here.

With the quarterbacking situation still unsettled, the spotlight is sure to be on the O line in an offensive set that will most certainly feature a QB with scrambling ability.

Saturday’s trim-down still leaves some questions unanswered. The roster will be finalized Sunday as seven players are expected to be added to the practice roster and some more to injured lists.

For example, are the Eskimos seriously considering opening the season with three kickers? Burke Dales, Derek Schiavone and Grant Shaw are still kicking around camp and chances are one of them could end up on the practice roster.

Ditto for one of the four quarterbacks still on the team’s position chart.

Even though there were no Eskimos veterans cut on Saturday, there are plenty of new and even familiar faces who made the final cut.

Among those is defensive end Rashad Jeanty, back from his five-year stint in the NFL. In his three previous seasons here, (2003-05), Jeanty’s play was a huge factor in the team winning two Grey Cups.

There’s also going to be a huge Canadian emphasis in the backfield, with Hugh Charles the only import to line up in the Green and Gold’s running game.

With Donovan Alexander leading an all-Canadian contingent at the safety position, it also harkens back to a more traditional defensive configuration.

On unanswered question will be at the slotback position, where Louisiana-born Cary Koch has made a favourable impression.

As of Saturday, three of the Eskimos’ 2012 draft choices are still in the mix — receiver Shamawd Chambers, along with linebackers Justin Capicciotti and Ryan King.

Still, it was a tough day for the 13 players released outright.

“This is always an emotional day as our decisions impact the lives of many quality young men,” Eskimos GM Eric Tillman said in a statement. “It’s important to emphasize that several of today’s moves are transitional and we will add some players to our practice roster soon.”

EXTRA POINTS: The Eskimos escaped training camp pretty injury-free. WR Marcus Henry, who had been placed on the nine-game list during camp, has been taken off the list and is now game-to-game ... Along with Bell, WR Tyler Scott will start the season on the nine-game list.

con.griwkowsky@sunmedia.ca


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