EDMONTON - The Edmonton Eskimos see themselves as a group which could be, and probably has to be, the best defence in the CFL this season.
They’ve had all week to look at the film and dissect the stats. They’re well aware that they’re going against a team that ran up exactly 500 yards of offence last week in scoring 43 points against the Tiger-Cats in Hamilton.
They’ve had the clickers out going forward and back, watching Darian Durant complete 25 of 34 passes for 390 yards with 13 of them thrown for 180 yards to Weston Dressler.
If the Eskimos are going to be able to win as many as they lose this year, the defence clearly is going to have to lead the way. And Sunday at Mosaic Stadium in Regina definitely looks like a D-Day.
“That’s basically how I read it,” said defensive lineman Marcus Howard.
“I think we have the best defensive line in the CFL and one of the top defences up here and this is a game, in a hostile environment, to go out and try to prove it.”
Middle linebacker J.C. Sherritt, the Western nominee for rookie of the year at the CFL Awards last year and the defensive player of the week for his 11-tackle game against the Toronto Argos for openers, says it definitely sets itself up as a litmus test.
“They have some great weapons. We’ve been watching film all week and … I think we need to keep watching film.
“This is a defence which is going to hold itself to a really high standard. This is definitely going to be a test for us.”
Sherritt says it may only be the second week of the season and they definitely need to improve as the season goes along, but this is the kind of challenge they’ve been waiting to tackle.
“I was getting excited about the prospects for this defence in training camp … actually I was getting excited for what kind of group we could become even in the off-season.
“As the middle linebacker I look at the guys in front of me, the guys on either side of me and the guys behind me and I like everything I see. We don’t have the biggest guys in the league, but we may have the fastest guys in the league. We get to the ball pretty well.”
Defensive back Chris Thompson said they’re going to have to play the “fast football” head coach Kavis Reed requires.
“Durant did a great job getting the ball to the receivers.
“We know that communication is going to be a huge factor playing them because they use a lot of motion. They bring guys to a lot of different places. But we definitely have a fast defence. We have a lot of guys who know the game, play the game smart, watch a lot of film and make plays. Hopefully we just go out and play the game and have fun.
“It’s going to be a great test to see how our defence rates. We did a great job last week of giving our offence the ball in the middle of the field. Now we have to go over there and do it again.”
Reed said there were two things he saw from the Riders — a team which didn’t win a single game on the road last year — in scoring the blowout win in Hamilton.
“First, Saskatchewan had a very smart and very effective game plan. Second, Darian Durant was lazer-sharp. His accuracy was so sharp it was eye-of-a-needle stuff.
“We broke the films down from every angle and I have to give the credit to Saskatchewan. They didn’t do a lot but they were very efficient offensively. This is going to be an extremely big challenge for our defence.”
That’s how GM Eric Tillman saw it, too.
“I thought Saskatchewan was outstanding in Hamilton. That team was so well prepared. Saskatchewan was outstanding offensively and we’re going to have to be outstanding defensively because of it. And we feel we have one of the best defensive groups in the league.”
You don’t get many Irresistible Force vs. Immovable Object matchups in the second week of a season — and this isn’t one. But the game should definitely be in there somewhere.