September 26, 2012
Jones: Eskimos QB Matt Nichols has to start Friday's game against the Calgary Stampeders
By TERRY JONES, QMI Agency
The Edmonton Eskimos have no choice but to start Matt Nichols at quarterback Friday in Calgary.
It's not that it's Week 13 — it was Week 16 when the Stampeders gave Drew Tate the start in Calgary last year, so it's certainly not too late to give Nichols the team to make his own now.
It's not that Calgary has an iffy quarterback situation of their own, with Kevin Glenn getting dinged last week.
It's not entirely that Kerry Joseph isn't good to go for the Edmonton Eskimos.
It's not that the Eskimos have no choice.
Steven Jyles is healthy enough to play. (If you've watched Jyles in his time in this league you know two things. He's borderline when he's healthy and confident and usually useless when he's nicked or lacking in confidence. Right now he's both. That's why with Jyles declared to be 95%, head coach Kavis Reed went with Joseph at 80% for the last game against Calgary.)
But forget all of the above.
The No. 1 reason to start Matt Nichols to open the final third of the regular season as the Eskimos starting quarterback is that his teammates can't wait to play for him to grab the reins and go.
And not just his Eastern Washington college teammate, 101-tackle man J.C. Sherritt, who's here to tell everyone who will listen up that Nichols is an-everyone-here-kindly-step-to-the-rear-and-let-a-winner-lead-the-way kind of inspiration.
These Eskimos player, on a four-game losing streak, saw how the team came to life in Nichols's hands for one series in Hamilton before he got his bell rung.
This team hasn't had a first-series touchdown all year and only four points on the opening drive all season. They're as ready as the fans to see somebody else in there to give it a go.
And that includes Joseph, who is employed by the Eskimos not just to be a QB but to be a mentor to Nichols.
"Matt's an awesome student of the game," said Joseph, who turns 39 next Thursday.
"The more reps he gets, the better he gets. The last couple days he really has done a great job, now that he's out there getting the first team reps."
Fred Stamps, the No. 1 receiver who has only caught 43 passes for 664 yards so far this season, likes what he's seen in the first two days of Nichols finally getting first string reps at practice, too.
"Nichols is a good quarterback. He throws a nice ball," said Stamps.
"He's had a great two days of practice and I hope he continues on.
"He brought a spirit to our offence when he came into that game in Hamilton. That's the type of guy he is. He brings spirit.
"Right now we're just trying to find victories and if he comes in and gives us spirit É we just want to win," said Stamps.
Reed sounded for all the world that he'd figured it out, going into last week.
"Matt brought energy. He really brought a lot of energy. He had a real presence moving the ball," he said.
But in the end the head coach chickened out and went back to Jyles, who played an excellent first half before doing nothing in the second half. He ended up basically throwing the game away.
After practice Tuesday, Reed sounded like he wasn't going to get cold feet when it came to giving Nichols his chance this week.
"Matt took most of the reps. Kerry tried but wasn't successful. Steven took a few reps and could go but not be potent scrambling."
And he concedes Nichols showed plenty.
"Matt is a very confident individual and that's one of the most important things a quarterback can have. I'm very pleased with what I've seen. Today he was more confident of his throws of more than 20 yards and was putting receivers in positions where they could catch the balls."
Nichols, who came to the Eskimos in October two years ago and spent last season on the injury list without so much as a hangnail, said you can carry a clipboard and take scout team reps and watch miles of film, but there's nothing like the real thing.
"It's huge getting first-team reps," he said.
"You can talk about things in the film room, but to get out there and do it on the field É
"I feel confident to do everything. Run the football. Stay in the pocket and throw the football. Everything. I'm an extremely competitive person and I have an overwhelming need to win and be successful.
"I feel I'm definitely ready to be successful."
Give him the reins.