O-line is Hudson's work bay

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:54 AM ET

Wisely, the Renegades have identified a priority by having preliminary discussions with George Hudson about a long-term contract extension.

Wisely, because they'd be in trouble without him.

Hudson, a 28-year-old from St. Catharines already in his sixth CFL season, is one of the best centres in the league. He is also the most versatile.

In Week 1, when rookie Marc Parenteau crumbled under the heavy pressure of the Edmonton pass rush, Hudson took over for him at left tackle. Tonight, with Obby Khan sidelined by a knee injury and those same Eskimos in town, Hudson will start at right tackle.

It will be his first start at the position since he was with the Eskimos in 2001.

"This is a big one for me," he said yesterday of the shift down the line. "But (right guard) Pascal (Cheron) has been helping me out and I should be okay."

The Renegades' offensive line was anything but on June 24, allowing seven sacks in a 41-16 embarrassment at Commonwealth Stadium.

"Hopefully, we're nowhere near like we were last time," said Hudson. "The whole reason we didn't win was that we didn't get anything going on offence, and that was on the offensive line."

Ever since, the Renegades have played significantly better as a team. They have won 2-of-3. They have outscored their opponents 101-91. Matt Kellett, who was 0-for-2 on makeable field goals in Edmonton, has connected on 11-of-13. The defence still is near the bottom of many statistical categories, but last week -- with 37 minutes to catch its breath on the sidelines -- turned in a gem.

"We want to show them the real Renegades," cornerback Bo Rogers said of the Eskimos. "I'm looking for the defence to play a whole lot better than we did in the first game."

The Eskimos, who will be without reneging receiver Ed Hervey and cornerback Davis Sanchez and are coming off a less than impressive 14-12 win over winless Winnipeg, might have trouble recognizing the current configuration of Ottawa's offensive line.

O-LINE SHUFFLE

With Mike Sutherland making his first start of the season at centre -- surrounded by (from left to right) Val St. Germain, Morris Unutoa, Cheron and Hudson -- the Renegades will be using their fifth different combination in five games. J.F. Roy will serve as backup on a unit that has allowed a league-leading 21 sacks but was also praised for helping running back Josh Ranek earn CFL offensive player of the week honours for 164 yards rushing on 20 carries against Calgary last Saturday.

Coach and GM Joe Paopao yesterday said the steadiness of the veterans on the line is largely responsible for the Renegades being where they are now -- and that is a win tonight from sitting atop the East Division.

No wonder Hudson -- who has slugged it out this season through a foot injury suffered in training camp -- is foremost on a list of eligible free agents (as of Feb. 15) that includes fan-favourite Ranek.

"I like Ottawa, I like the organization, I love the coaches and the players here," Hudson said when asked about re-signing. "If they want to come up with an offer that meets the figure in my head, if they want to come at me with free-agent money, sure, why not? But it's on them."

"Them" is the Gliebermans, and they frequently preach the importance of continuity, with both players and within the coaching ranks. Once they start re-signing players, the Renegades will try and lock up a number of individuals deemed key to the team's future.

As owners of the Rough Riders, Lonie Glieberman once offered local running back Darren Joseph a seven-year deal. Hudson admitted that proposed contract was brought up in his discussion with the team about a new deal.

Would Hudson sign for seven years?

"I don't even know that I'm going to be playing in seven years," Hudson said, laughing. "But if the seventh year is for $200,000, for sure."


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