Edmonton Eskimos fielding a dozen new starters in 2013 lineup

Esks head coach Kavis Reed talked to Edmonton reporters Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium. (IAN...

Esks head coach Kavis Reed talked to Edmonton reporters Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium. (IAN KUCERAK/QMI Agency)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:27 AM ET

EDMONTON - Count ‘em up.

A dozen new starters.

Mike Reilly QB. Gord Hinse C. Matt O’Donnell LG. Cliff Louis RT. Thaddeus Coleman LT. Isaiah Sweeney WR. John White/Calvin McCarty RB. Aaron Grymes CB. Marcell Young DB. Rennie Curran LB. Odell Willis DE. Almondo Sewell DT.

From Game 1 of the season last year to Saturday’s lid-lifter against the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Commonwealth Stadium, those are guys who won prime-time jobs who didn’t have them last year.

That’s half the starting lineup!

OK. White made it as designated import backing up Hugh Charles at running back. McCarty will be listed as the starter. But either way, Mathieu Bertrand started there last year.

And, OK. Curran will likely be listed as a backup to the veteran Damaso Munoz at linebacker, where the Eskimos have the luxury of starting four imports, but that looks like political correctness from my pew in press box.

Whatever, you get the idea.

This isn’t last year’s football team.

And there’s more.

Saturday night in Vancouver that rookie quarterback Jonathan Crompton appeared to win the job of No. 2 quarterback. Head coach Kavis Reed hasn’t officially made any such declaration, but unless your correspondent is guilty of totally reading the tea leaves wrong, it’s going to be Kerry Joseph carrying the clip-board and Crompton replacing injured Matt Nichols as Reilly’s relief mate.

After Steven Jyles/Kerry Joseph last year, I would suspect he’s not going to get a lot of second guessing about that.

Going into a season with a dozen new starters is seldom a recipe for success. But with most of them, it’s been obvious to the fan in the stands that they are upgrades.

In addition to the quarterbacks, players like speed demon Sweeney, ex-NFLer Curran, who authored the book ‘Free Agent’, 6-foot-8 offensive lineman Louis and cornerback Grymes, they simply showed up and claimed their jobs.

“Guys played themselves into positions. And guys played themselves out of positions. Guys made plays and guys didn’t make plays,” said the head coach.

That’s the way you want it. Seldom is it that easy.

Reed went straight from the plane to the Eskimos office and went through the day until the 8 p.m. deadline without sleep, so you can’t say it was easy. But …

“You can’t coach speed,” he said of Sweeney who looks to give the Eskimos a vertical big play threat.

“Grymes came from No. 3 on the depth chart.”

Compton came from No. 4 at quarterback.

“You look at the guys who are consistent at training camp. The guys who show you the flash in the pan are probably going to be a flash in the pan. These guys were consistent.”

One thing you don’t see every training camp is a team electing to go with four new starters on the offensive line and the fifth, Simeon Rottier, moving from the left side in the handful of games he played last year, to the right side this year.

“The reality is that we have an entirely new offensive line,” said Reed.

The offensive line has been under a great deal of heat during camp but Reed said they passed the test against B.C. starters Saturday night.

“They exceeded expectations,” he said. “The way they played allowed us to play Reilly at quarterback well into the third quarter.”

While it’s difficult to declare the offensive line significantly better at this stage, they are certainly significantly bigger.

From left to right they are 6-foot-8, 6-foot-11, 6-foot-4, 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-8.

You can’t coach size either.

One apparent failure was to find a return man. They thought they had one in Tavoy Moore, but the 5-foot-6 inch talent tore an ACL in the first pre-season game and won’t be around for the season.

All-Star Joe Burnett will return to return punts and start in the secondary.

“I’m very comfortable with not having changes to the core group,” Reed said of Fred Stamps, J.C. Sherritt, T.J. Hill and the other players he’s had all three years.

There’s no loss of a Ricky Ray to have to deal with now.

“I think we have quality depth, especially with our Canadian content” he added.

“I think we have the talent to make sure, game by game, we will play competitive football. Time will tell.”

Ed Hervey, in his first year as GM, appears to have dealt Reed a helluva lot better hand than he had to play with last year.

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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