EDMONTON - A week ago, before he was activated for the Winnipeg game, defensive end Shawn Lemon was just another name on the Edmonton Eskimos practice roster.
Lemon drew into the game-day lineup when an injury kept Marcus Howard on the sidelines.
After an impressive outing that included a knockdown, his first Green and Gold sack and a couple of pressures, Lemon made the most of his opportunity.
“It was exciting because coach Kavis (Reed) always stresses to our practice roster players to practise as if you’re a starter so if anything happens, like the injury Marcus has, the next guy comes in and can help the team out,” said Lemon. “It was exciting to come in and help this D line continue what we’ve been already been doing as a pass-rush unit.
“You’ve got to be ready when your number’s called.”
He proved he was ready and more, setting off a domino effect on the Esks roster.
Lemon’s play during the game only confirmed what the Eskimos coaching staff had seen of him since training camp.
“It was something we saw in practice,” said Reed. “We brought Shawn in (on June 14) essentially for depth when we started getting some injuries in training camp.
“Right away, we saw a young man that has some explosiveness. His pass-rush techniques were standout. We felt if the kid got an opportunity to play, he would do some good things and he didn’t disappoint us.”
Deciding that Lemon had more upside, the Esks released veteran defensive lineman Rashad Jeanty.
“We feel the upside is there,” said Reed. “Rashad is still a very good football player, very good teammate, very good student of the game. At 29 vs. 23, we looked at the potential of Shawn Lemon vs. what we already have.
“The potential Shawn has, the mitigating circumstances that we went with, is that he’s going to be kept around.”
Jeanty was unable to duplicate the magic he showed in his first go-round with the Eskimos, and he paid the price. Jeanty won a pair of Grey Cup rings after he first joined the Esks in 2003.
He latched on with the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals in 2006 and played with that team for three seasons before breaking his leg late in 2009 and sitting out the entire 2010 season.
He was never able to find his groove again and appeared in just two games this season.
“We knew it was going to be a bit of a learning curve for him again, having been away from the league for so long,” said Reed. “Getting used to the timing, getting used to a lot of things. We moved him to the strong side vs. being on the short side as he was used to when he left here.
“He tried everything to try to get back in the rhythm of it. He did some good things, but when we saw what Shawn Lemon could do, it’s a decision we feel comfortable in making.”
With Howard still recuperating, Lemon will be in the lineup when the Eskimos host Saskatchewan next Friday.
“Shawn Lemon is going to get the opportunity to prove he deserves to stay on the roster,” said Reed.
There’s a good chance Lemon will come through.
EXTRA ENDS: The Eskimos also release import fullback Evan Harrington, who dressed for the Winnipeg game. Reed said the position will be filled by a Canadian player.