Eskimos defence gets failing grade

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:59 AM ET

EDMONTON - The way the 2012 Edmonton Eskimos have been constructed, the defence has to do it.

If the defence isn’t great, the Eskimos lose.

Good isn’t good enough.

This is not a team where the offence, defence and special teams will take turns winning you football games.

It’s gotta be the D.

And on the morning the kids went back to school in Edmonton, head coach Kavis Reed came out of the film room, took out his marking pen and gave his D a ‘D’ for what happened on Labour Day in a 31-30 loss to the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon Stadium in Calgary.

OK, special teams were a mess, but Reed made it clear that what has to be fixed by 7 p.m. Friday for the 24th annual Labour Day replay, first and foremost, is the defence.

Part of that he did Tuesday by announcing that the team’s top defensive lineman last season, Marcus Howard, will be returning after missing five games with a hamstring injury. Unfortunately Ted Laurent isn’t ready to return from the injured list to join him.

That leaves a bunch of tinkering to be done inside 11 other helmets to get the defence back to keeping the score down to the combined average of 16.2 points it was in the five games they’ve won so far this season.

“We had a five-point lead with 2:42 left and gave up two consecutive plays for over 15 yards. Our tackling was not very good and the thing which was the most disturbing was that we misaligned for three different plays.

“Damaso Munoz misaligned for the play which left Jon Cornish out there to get free,” he said of the play J.C. Sherritt said he “100%” should have been expected to stop, failing to keep Cornish out of the end zone.

“The alignment mistakes were really problematic,” said Reed.

“We’ve had issues with alignment at other stages of the season but made up for them by playing fast.”

Donovan Alexander is the player responsible for calling the formations from the secondary and has done a decent job this year. But the Stampeders are a well-coached club and did some deception that won a football game from their side of the big green chess board.

“Calgary did a smart job switching personnel,” said Reed of moving Cornish out to receiver while moving Rob Cote or Matt Walker into his spot.

The alignment changes didn’t get called. Players started chasing different uniform numbers around. And the defence that has been the envy of the league at times this year, self-destructed.

“We did a lot of things we needed to do to win a football game. But we made mistakes, mental mistakes, that a very good Calgary club capitalized on. Our immediate priority is to eliminate or minimize those mistakes.”

There’s a reasonable expectation, with the people he has on defence and the coaching staff he has assembled to deal with them, that it might be able to be solved.

In the case of rookie long-snapper Ryan King, who blew two of them, Reed said he was impressed how the kid got his act back together in the wind and his first Labour Day to finish the game strong.

“He started off the game pretty shaky but he settled down. He snapped the ball very well after the first quarter. That was probably his first windy game as a professional.”

In the case of Joe Burnett on special teams, however, three days between game days might not be enough time to get it through his apparently thick head.

Burnett had a full week to do it and failed to eliminate the mistake he made in Toronto, which earned Reed a TSN Top 10 for coaches explosions on the sidelines.

The rookie who leads the league in interceptions, with four, and interceptions returned for touchdowns, with two, for a second week in a row, ran a punt out of the endzone instead of conceding a single.

Tuesday in his daily scrum session, Reed offered up about three minutes of gobbledegook about how complicated the Canadian kicking game can be for a young import and how the coaches have to do a better job with him, yadda, yadda, yadda before your correspondent finally interrupted.

“Isn’t it as simple as telling Burnett ‘Don’t bring the ball out of the end,zone unless we tell you to?’ ”

Reed gave up the run-around.

“Yeah,” he said.

And then the head coach confessed that in similar situations in key moments of the game Friday, the solution is probably to put somebody else, likely Cary Koch, in there who understands it.


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