June 28, 2012
Argos' Kuale here, there, everywhere
By MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency
Ejiro Kuale had a defined role all of last season.
First, he was the Argos’ starting middle linebacker. Then he shifted over and started at the weak-side linebacker when Jason Pottinger returned from injury and reclaimed the middle.
Under Chris Jones, however, few on the front seven will know that kind of certainty this year.
And according to Kuale every one of them is fine with it.
Even in Saturday’s opener in Edmonton against the Eskimos, there is a good chance you will see Kuale line up at defensive end on one play and be standing up behind the front four as a linebacker the next.
“It’s kind of a 4-3, 3-4 defence so, really, at any given time you can be lined up anywhere. You really need to know every position,” he said.
On the depth chart, Kuale isn’t even listed as a starter. That means absolutely nothing to him.
“Basically, we don’t know what’s going on,” Kuale said laughing. “We just go in when he tells us to and come out when he tells us to, but that’s cool. It’s our Grey Cup year so whatever needs to be done, that’s what we are going to do.”
What Kuale does know for certain is the defensive scheme Jones has brought to Toronto couldn’t be a better fit for himself.
“His scheme fits my style of play exactly,” Kuale said. “There is nothing about coach Jones’ scheme that I don’t like. I’m an aggressive, athletic linebacker. I’m not the prototypical big guy, but I make most of my plays on the run. In this defence, you can never play too fast and I am able to compensate for whatever happens.”
In 2011, the Argos defence was more reactive. This year, it strikes first.
“It’s like the best of both worlds,” Kuale said. “I have been rushing the passer since I was in high school. Now that is back in the game instead of just worrying about the running back and pass coverage responsibilities.”
Lined up with his hand in the grass, Kuale can’t think of many better feelings on a football field.
“Any time I can sack the quarterback, of course I love it,” he said. “In the scheme now, there are times where I’m in different positions but, unlike last year, now there are times I get to rush the passer.”
The scheme, though, also exacts a bigger toll. Where last season a defensive lineman might play 75% of the snaps, this year he’ll be subbed in and out for much more frequently.
“His scheme requires you to do a lot more, requires a lot more out of each position,” Kuale said.
The key is to keep everyone’s motor going at top speed and doing that means a more liberal substitution policy. And Kuale said that not only do they have the athletes capable of making that system work, they all have a similar mindset when it comes to getting the job done.
“The great thing about the team they put together is we have no selfish players,” Kuale said.
“Everyone is willing to do whatever it takes. If that means playing a role you don’t like, then you play that role to the best of your ability so we can get to this Grey Cup.”
The defence goes into the season opener with few question marks. Training camp has been an every day progression to the point where just about everyone on the defence is ready to get things started for real.
“If someone doesn’t know what he is doing, there are at least three or four people standing there and reminding him: ‘You have this and you have this.’
“(Safety) Jordan Younger is our captain but everyone on this defence has a voice.”
When it is put to Kuale that the offence might not be there just yet, and the defence might have to carry the load for a little while, he is quick to correct his interviewer.
“Not at all,” Kuale said. “We have a championship quarterback. He’s proven. I’m not exactly sure how many Grey Cups he has won (two) but he’s proven. When you have a proven quarterback, all it takes is time and repetition so basically, unlike last year, we’re not at all worried about the offence. We’re just worried about our defence.”
And with the season opener a day away, those worries are few and far between.