Season start challenging for Eskimos D

Coach Mark Nelson instructs his players during Edmonton Eskimos training camp at Commonwealth...

Coach Mark Nelson instructs his players during Edmonton Eskimos training camp at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta on June 12, 2012. (Perry Mah/QMI Agency)

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:59 PM ET

EDMONTON - No one will ever confuse Rick Ray with Darian Durant.

The two quarterbacks are at opposite ends of the technique spectrum when it comes to their style of play, which makes the Edmonton Eskimos start to the season especially challenging.

The defence needs to shift gears from the pocket-protected sniper they faced in Ray’s Toronto Argonauts last week to the fleet-footed dual-dimensional Darian Durant when they face the Saskatchewan Roughriders Sunday (5 p.m., TSN, 630 CHED).

While Durant threw for nearly 400 yards and four touchdowns in their season opener, he is a constant threat to scramble up yardage on the ground to keep defenders guessing.

Facing them back-to-back will provide a good measuring stick for the Eskimos.

“I believe so,” said cornerback Joe Burnett. “That was a good game that Toronto played and I think it is going to be a different challenge with a lot of the things we’ve got going as far as coverage and scheme with this upcoming game.”

Especially considering the Eskimos allowed the highest percentage of completed passes last week against the Argos, where Ray was 74.4%. Durant wasn’t too far behind at 73.5%, while putting up a league-high 390 yards and four touchdowns.

Then factor in his athleticism.

“A lot tougher,” Burnett said of his responsibilities this week. “We were allowing our front to come home on blitzes and put pressure on the quarterback knowing that he can scramble. We’ve got great linebackers as well, who can cover East to West to contain him.

“Us in the back end, we’ve got to cover probably a little longer this week.”

But the Eskimos secondary can’t necessarily afford to keep Durant even in their periphery for the entire play.

“A little bit in the periphery,” Burnett said. “But they’ve got a good receiver corps, too, so if you take your eyes off them then it could be a long night again for us.”

Not to mention the long week of planning for coaches leading up.

“I’d like to have (quarterbacks) all be one mode: I’d like them to be slow, short where they can’t see over the pocket, and can’t throw and can’t run,” said defensive co-ordinator Mark Nelson. “That’s the mode I want to meet every week. If we had that, we’d be good.”

Of course, for the amount of bend the Eskimos defence did, they only broke for 15 points on the way to victory.

“I think the dust is still clearing,” Burnett said of the inflated stats they allowed. “We’ll actually even that up. We know where we made mistakes and have to have a lot of improvement. It was our first game that we were back out on the field and we’ll clean that up.”

IN AND OUT: OL Greg Wojt (knee) will not play Sunday … SB Matt Carter sat out with an air boot on his left leg after going down midway through Thursday’s practice … DE Rashad Jeanty did not participate Friday, nor did WR Aaron Hargreaves, unless you count tending the grill for the team’s inaugural barbecue day of the season.

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

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