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CFL - Eskimos have far more to worry about than their starting QB
By Rob Soria
OurHometown.ca

CFL - Eskimos have far more to worry about than their starting QB
After dropping their fifth consecutive football game on Friday night, the Edmonton Eskimos find themselves firmly entrenched at the bottom of the West Division standings. With a potential playoff berth looking to be more and more unlikely, the time to examine what went wrong is at hand.
PHOTO CREDIT - Esks.com

Edmonton - September 30, 2012 - After dropping their third straight to the Calgary Stampeders during the month of September and having now lost five consecutive football games, the Edmonton Eskimos find themselves firmly entrenched at the bottom of the West Division standings. With a potential playoff berth looking to be more and more unlikely, the time to examine what went wrong is at hand.

While many will point to Eric Tillman’s decision to trade away long-time Eskimo pivot Ricky Ray, as the main reason the Green and Gold currently sit where they do, that would not be entirely true. Obviously, the fact they replaced the future CFL Hall-of-Fame quarterback with the likes of Steven Jyles, Kerry Joseph and rookie Matt Nichols, hasn’t exactly made the transition an easy or effective one. It is not the sole reason this club sits where it currently does.

It probably seems like an eternity at the moment but it has been just over four weeks, since the Esks were coming off their second win of the season, over Ray and the Toronto Argonauts. They were sitting pretty with a 5-3 mark on the season and looked to be a legitimate playoff team. Fast forward thirty-four days and suddenly the roof has all but caved in. Does putting that at the feet of the starting quarterback, really make any sense? In my opinion, it doesn’t.

However, there are a number of other reasons that have led directly to the Eskimos free-fall down the Canadian Football League standings. Those being:

• Injuries
• Offensive Line
• Lack of a running game
• Personnel moves


Most people will tell you, using injuries as a reason for poor play, is nothing more than an excuse. While to some extent, that may be true, in this particular situation, it is not. For the first half of the season, Edmonton had one of the top defences, if not the best, in the entire CFL. As things currently sit, one could easily argue they are the worst group in the league. What would bring such a drastic turn around, in such a short period of time? That’s easy. Injuries.

This D core went from routinely holding teams to under twenty points a game, to what Eskimos fans witnessed at McMahon Stadium on Friday night. Their D-line has been decimated by injury and they are now at the point, where they are not only missing their regular starters but have started to see their replacements fall by the wayside. At some point, it catches up to you and that time is clearly at hand. In all honesty, it has now reached comical proportions.

Which brings us to the Offensive line…which is frankly, not good enough. It wasn’t good enough coming into the season and after getting a little nicked up during the season, it definitely is not good enough at the moment. While many were calling for Nichols to take over as the starting quarterback for a number of weeks, did everyone else watching that game on Friday not notice the same old problem? Regardless of who your QB is, if they are pressured from the moment they snap the ball, more often than not, the result won’t be favourable. This is nothing new and it is something that has plagued this team for some time now. Think back to the last few seasons that Ray was at the helm, and how many times did this offence go two and out? It has been going on for years but still remains unaddressed.

They can’t pass block and apparently they can’t run block either. At least that is what one has to assume, since they continue to refuse to run the football. More often than not, the Esks D has been on the field for what seems to be at least two-thirds of every game. That was fine early on, as the D was fantastic and healthy enough to overcome the OL’s shortcomings. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case.

With the lack of success the Eskimos front line has had, one can understand offensive coordinator Marcus Crandell’s apparent hesitation to put the ball on the ground. Problem being, outside of Fred Stamps, this team’s playmakers are all running backs. Would it than not make sense to actually try and get the ball into the hands of your best players? Especially, when you consider how ineffective the Eskimos aerial attack has been.

If nothing else, it should at least keep the opposition honest and quite possibly, help open up the passing game. Granted, if the Esks did actually decide to commit to the running game, they have no clue as to which back should get the football. Bringing us to what has been a massive problem, throughout the season, employment of their personnel.

From the continued misuse of the three-headed monster they have in their backfield, to the ridiculous mind games they have been playing with kicker Grant Shaw and everything else in between. You would be hard pressed to show me a season in which another organization, and coaching staff, has treated so many of their supposed “key people”, as the Green and Gold have during the current 2012 campaign.

The aforementioned carousel in Edmonton’s backfield, has been nothing short of embarrassing. To have three of the best running backs in the Canadian Football League, in Hugh Charles, Cory Boyd and Jerome Messam, and not have at least one of them producing numbers, is flabbergasting. When the Eskimos decided to pick up Boyd off waivers, he was leading the league in rushing and Charles was inside the top five. Since then, the former Argos standout has dressed in four games and has carried the ball 18 times. You heard me right, 18! To put that number into perspective, Jon Cornish was given the ball 20 times in the Stamps beat down of the Esks on Friday night.

To make matters worse, Charles has rushed for over forty yards once in the last seven games, as the so-called “feature back” and has carried the ball more than seven times once in that same time span…which was, oddly enough, the last time the Eskimos won a football game. Messam, on the other hand, has seen the ball all of 19 times in his four appearances. Confused? You should be.

Perhaps someone should let Kavis and his staff in on this little nugget: Boyd and Messam were two of three running backs that rushed for more than 1,000 yards in the Canadian Football League last season. One would think they would be aware of this, with one of them being their own guy, but you have to wonder.

While I understand Messam is in the club’s long term plans and his NFL tryout didn’t do him any favours as far as his on field production goes but why was Cory Boyd ever picked up? In fact, the better question, is why he is still here? Did he do something to Eric Tillman and/or coach Reed in another life? Let the guy get on with his career in another city and not waste away on the sidelines. Not surprisingly, since they created this three –man mess in the backfield, Edmonton hasn’t won a single game. At some point, don’t you have to give the ball to someone?

As far as Shaw goes, the kid was one of the best kickers in the league this season until he missed those two crucial attempts against the Stamps. Instead of working with him and letting him know it happens to the best of them, this organization went out and acquired Brody McKnight from the Montreal Alouettes. Not exactly a vote of confidence. They then took it a step further, by calling Shaw off the field, after he ran out to attempt a late first half field goal against Hamilton. Really? Is this professional football or are they just playing out on some schoolyard field?

We all know how that field goal try went and ever since, Shaw has been downright awful. The 46 yard attempt he missed on Friday night was so bad it is not even worth mentioning. The kid’s confidence is shot and it was something that was easily avoidable. Maybe it’s karma coming back to beat the Esks in the ass but could this move have blown up in their face, anymore than it already has? Oh wait, I forgot. They gave up their 2013 first round draft pick in the deal to bring in McKnight.

Add all that up and you realize why the Edmonton Eskimos are where they are. There are those out there that want nothing more than a pound of flesh, with how this season has unfolded. They want Eric Tillman to pay the ultimate price and lose his job. Fair enough. Yet, if that is the case, at least want it for the right reason. It’s not simply for trading away Ricky Ray. It’s about much more than that.

While both Tillman and Kavis Reed have been dealt a crappy hand, with all the injuries, it’s everything else that is most concerning. You can’t control injuries. Football is a physical game and sometimes, it’s just not your year. In that situation, you mark it up to bad luck and take whatever comes your way.

However, the one thing you can control…Is how you use and treat your players. That, over all the rest, is the bigger issue. If you can’t do that, how can you be counted on to be the face of any organization?

When neither head coach nor General Manager can seemingly do what’s best for the club’s present and/or future interests, than the time to make some rather tough decisions, may be just around the corner.

Follow Me on TwitterRob Soria is the Edmonton Oilers' correspondent for OurHometown.ca. Rob was born and raised in Edmonton and is the author of the Edmonton Oilers blog - OilDrop.ca. He has been a dedicated follower of the game and its history for years but his focus remains on his hometown Edmonton Oilers. If you have questions or wish to contact Rob, you can email him at rsoria@ourhometown.ca


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