July 9, 2012
Eskimos can't catch a break
By GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency
EDMONTON - The Eskimos are not only coming off a loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders — a game where they lost their leading receiver, Adarius Bowman, for the season — their win the week before over Ricky Ray’s Toronto Argonauts in the season-opener was a less-than-convincing 19-15 victory.
Edmonton has put together just one touchdown drive in two games to start the 2012 season — their first without former franchise quarterback Ricky Ray at the helm since 2004. While they’ve got a long way to go to match 2010’s 1-6 start to the year, things are shaping up to get worse before they get better. The Eskimos defence has carried the team so far, and likely will the rest of the way, or at least until the offence can figure out how to move the ball in a sustained drive on a semi-regular basis. While the defence is a bright spot, holding Saskatchewan’t potent offence to just one touchdown at the end of the game on Sunday, the offence has to start holding up its end of the bargain.
1. RECEIVING BAD NEWS
Slotback Adarius Bowman put together the biggest game of any receiver in the league last year, closing out the regular-season schedule with a 10-catch, 226-yard receiving performance against the Roughriders. But he will have to wait until at least next year to repeat the feat after having a defender roll up on his leg, tearing both the ACL and the MCL on the play. The club estimates recovery at 10 months, effectively putting him out for the season. Projected starting right guard Greg Wojt was already placed on the nine-game list with a knee injury prior to Sunday’s game — joining projected right tackle Joel Bell, who broke his ankle in the preseason — while wide receiver Greg Carr also injured his leg and is doubtful for this week’s game. Though it’s not time to hit the panic button like it was last year, when Edmonton’s four starting import receivers were lost to injury all around the same time, it definitely doesn’t help their cause. Fortunately, they are better prepared this time around to deal with the loss.
2. WE'RE NO. 1
Not in the standings, exactly, but by scoring only one point on Sunday and just a single touchdown so far this season. But one seems to be a recurring theme early on in the season, which has the Eskimos tied for third in the West Division with a 1-1 record.
The last time the Eskimos scored just a single point in a game was in Week 8 last season, when the eventual Grey Cup champion B.C. Lions came up with a 36-1 win in Commonwealth Stadium that the Lions used to turn around a 1-6 start to the season. B.C. lost just one game the rest of the way to hosting their own Grey Cup victory, while the Eskimos started the season 5-0 but could never catch up to the No. 1 Lions, losing to them in the West Division final. Will they be able to write a new story in 2012, or just a sequel?
3. QB CONTROVERSY?
He went into the game as the Eskimos QB1, but Steven Jyles was replaced not once, but twice by 38-year-old backup Kerry Joseph. But the sparkplug didn’t exactly ignite, with Joseph completing three of six for 25 yards to go hand-in-hand with Jyles’s uninspired 10-for-19 for 91 yards with an interception.
Then again, their stats were no doubt the farthest thing from their minds while they were running for their lives on Sunday against a pressure-heavy Riders defence that earned six sacks and routine hurries.
For a team that won whenever they ran the ball at least 20 times a game last year, focus needs to shift to the ground game. Instead, they have rushed just 31 times in two games — 28 if you don’t count quarterback scrambles. Then again, with the way the O-line is playing, if they can’t pass protect, how the heck do they expect to run block?
4. KEN'T WAIT TO PLAY
Linebacker Clint Kent will face his former teammates for the first time since being released by the Blub Bombers at the end of the preseason — despite having just been named a team captain. Defensive tackle Donny Oramasionwu is also playing against the Bombers for the first time after having risen through the minor, CIS and CFL ranks in his home province. This is the first year in his entire football career he is representing a city outside of Manitoba’s borders. Wide receiver Anthony Hargreaves and slotback Matt Carter are also facing the Bombers for the first time since playing for them last year. Unfortunately, both of those receivers were on the mend and didn’t finish out the week of practice leading up to the game in Regina. Winnipeg is also the most recent stop for Kavis Reed, who was their defensive co-ordinator before becoming the head coach in Edmonton.
5. TURNOVER TURNAROUND
Perhaps the most telling stat on a football game sheet, aside from the score and time of possession, is turnovers. After leading the league with a plus-16 giveaway-takeaway ratio, the Eskimos currently find themselves at the bottom of the barrel in an early tie for last place with the winless Hamilton Tiger-Cats at minus-three. Saskatchewan and B.C. share the league lead at plus-three and are, coincidentally, both 2-0. Some other stats: In one game, Ricky Ray threw for 407 yards, eclipsing Jyles’s 327 passing yards in two games … Edmonton has given up the third-fewest penalty yards in the league so far at 135 … The Eskimos earned four sacks and gave up six in a defensive battle in Regina Sunday, but the real story lies in the pressure the Riders put on Eskimos quarterbacks while manhandling the offensive line all game long.