Five things Eskimos need to work on

Hamilton Tiger-Cats Bakan Grant returns a blocked punt for a touchdown as teammate Nick Graham...

Hamilton Tiger-Cats Bakan Grant returns a blocked punt for a touchdown as teammate Nick Graham helps with a block on Edmonton Eskimos Matt Nichols in the dying seconds of the first half of their CFL game in Hamilton Saturday. (REUTERS)

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:18 PM ET

EDMONTON - Nothing like coming off their worst loss of the season to a team on a five-game losing streak and coming up against the top team in the league. But that's exactly what's on slate this week for the Edmonton Eskimos, who are in danger of losing four in a row themselves, against the visiting B.C. Lions on Saturday (5:30 p.m., TSN, 630 CHED).

Take our survey below. Come back after noon to see what readers think are the most important things the team needs to do to win.

1. ROUND 2

July 20th wasn't that long ago for Eskimos left guard Simeon Rottier, who

still hasn't fully recovered from a vicious armbar-like bit of

post-whistle violence at the hands of Lions defensive tackle Khalif

Mitchell. Mitchell appealed what was a two-game suspension he eventually

served, while Rottier was lost for much longer. And he likely won't be

back to 100% this season, after having his elbow hyper-extended

just before halftime in their first meeting of the season. This week,

coming off his first-ever loss as a visiting player at Ivor Wynne Stadium,

Rottier has all kinds of motivation to get a measure of revenge. And, this

time, he at least knows what kind of fight he's in for, in what will no

doubt be a grudge match along the entire line of scrimmage.

 

2. SPIDER'S WEBB

The Eskimos didn't have a leg to stand on Saturday, aside from the eight

points that climbed their way onto the scoreboard before getting stuck in

the Hamilton Tiger-Cats defensive web. Make that Webb, as defensive back

Demetrice Webb not only blocked a field-goal attempt by Edmonton, which was

returned for a touchdown heading into halftime, but earned his first

interception of the year on a Steven Jyles pass that he returned 98 yards

for six points as the last of many nails in Edmonton's coffin Saturday. While they have

managed to escape the silky bonds of Ivor Wynne Stadium, the Eskimos have to get

their offence unstuck by scoring early against the Lions this week — Edmonton

has yet to score a touchdown on an opening drive this season — but make

sure no ill effects of any spider poison remains.

 

3. GETCHA MOTOR RUNNIN'

You would think a team that traded away it's franchise player and future

Hall-of-Fame quarterback in the off-season would evolve into a run-heavy

offence — well, as heavy as it gets in three-down football, anyway.

Especially when their roster boasts three proven starters with the ability

to run through, around and over defences. Instead, the Eskimos are

attempting to pull off a mid-season quarterback switch while letting their

ground-pounders fall by the wayside. The team has rushed just 51 times for 226 yards

combined in the last three games since their last win, while crawling to a 1-4 record in their

last five outings.

4. MID-SEASON TRYOUTS?

Never mind the questions that surround a kicking game that appears to be

cursed by the 48 yard-line, but the Eskimos spun through their quarterback

carousel with four substitutions at pivot. Third-stringer Matt Nichols had

his bell rung on a penalty-filled drive and may force the Eskimos to use

their last remaining mulligan to pull Jeremiah Masoli off the nine-game

injury list early. Add to that a running game that, although has been

decided on paper with Reed finally naming Hugh Charles and Jerome Messam

his No. 1 and 2 tailbacks, has yet to show any results on the gridiron and

appears to have been all but abandoned. Then there is an injury-riddled

defensive line that is the root of the Eskimos defensive downfall, which

has added Lee Robinson to the list of wounded which already includes

Marcus Howard, Julius Williams and a still-not-100% Ted Laurent.

The pressure-heavy unit that helped label the Eskimos as the stingiest

defence early in the year has now allowed a 400-yard passing and 100-yard

rushing game against them. Who will line up where against the Lions is

something the Eskimos hoped to have ironed out well before the upcoming

playoff stretch.

 

5. OWNING UP

It seems everyone is willing to step up and take the blame, but at the

same time, nobody is taking ownership of this team.

With all the redundancy against injury built into a roster brimming with

talent thanks to some crafty salary-cap use, what the Eskimos look like is

a loose group of roaming mercenaries instead of a close-knit bunch of

teammates right now. To a man, they are all saying the right things about

their willingness to step in and do whatever is asked of them by the

coaching staff. That's all well and good, but no one is stepping up and

claiming a role on this team as their own - aside, maybe, from Hugh

Charles, who should be demanding more touches. As a result, there is no

obvious feeling of accountability at any position, as everyone simply

looks to teammates around them when things aren't working. Sure, they say

they must improve as a team, but that starts with each position

being owned and challenged for through competition, instead of being empty

spots filled by whoever is called upon.

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SunModdejonge

 


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