With Week 3 and a date with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers looming, Eskimo fans are still trying to figure out what exactly happened in Regina. Admittedly, it was an abysmal offensive performance by those in Green and Gold, but there were a couple of positive aspects to take away from the game as a whole. Firstly, the run defense maintained a cutthroat pace throughout the game, allowing only 96 yards on the ground. It’s also worth noting that the Riders were kept out of the end zone until the last two minutes and twelve seconds of game time. I’d say that’s an outstanding performance, particularly by the front four. They were well complemented by the secondary who held their own giving up only 203 yards through the air and barricaded the end zone from aerial attacks. But it was the intensity of the tackling that really caught my attention. Eskimo defenders hit with immense power and finality, and despite the loss, that continues to be an immensely positive sign for the Esks. Against the Bombers this week, I’ll be searching for more of the same driven performance.
It won’t be an easy task going up against Buck Pierce and the rest of the Bomber offence, especially now that they are sitting at 0-2 and hungrier than ever for their first win of this new season. In a losing effort last week, Pierce threw for 255 yards and a touchdown while distributing the ball to six different receivers. However, he also tossed an interception and laid the ball on the turf twice. Over the past couple of years I’ve noticed that he’s not as calm as he could be under pressure, but is utterly willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of the extra yard or two. Last week saw five carries for 18 yards racked up under Pierce’s cleats, so I won’t be surprised to see him try to take off again this week. The danger in the backfield lies in newcomer Bloi-Dei Dorzon. While he hasn’t notched a touchdown yet this year, he averages 7.4 yards per carry – a very impressive number. Edmonton needs to do what they have proven to do best thus far and that is turning their opponents into one-dimensional squads by nullifying the run.
While it’s true that the defense has shown that they can play a relentless style, we all know that it’s impossible to win without offense. Watching the carousel turn as Jyles and Joseph both took the spot behind center definitely piqued curiosity about the potential for a quarterback controversy, even this early in the season. However, as each was sacked three times, I don’t think the blame can be placed solely on the shoulders of the quarterback. Nothing seemed to be working at all on that side of the ball, from the o-line to the receivers. Add in the horrible knee injury sidelining Adarius Bowman, who thus far has been the team’s leading receiver with 145 yards, and the picture begins to look pretty bleak. Wonderings about deep threat capability start coming out of the woodwork and some of the maybe-not-so-devoted fans have fled for the hills. But what we have to remember here is that these are the Edmonton Eskimos. They will not simply lie down and die, especially not this early in the season. Yes, there are some hurdles to overcome in the next few weeks, but with the demand for excellence that emanates from the sideline, I do think that this ship can and will turn around.
The Bomber defense presents a big challenge. Anything coming out of the backfield did run roughshod over them in Montreal last week - Brandon Whittaker alone burned off 137 rushing yards and 98 receiving yards on his way to a three-touchdown performance. I can’t imagine the Bombers being excited about numbers like that, so I expect to see a lot of tightening around the defensive line, mirroring the Eskimos and attempting to squash any sort of rushing game. The bigger concern, though, can be found in the secondary. When at the top of their game, Jonathan Hefney and Alex Suber are a frightening combination out on the corners, and you can bet they’ll be hungry for interceptions. Allowing Calvillo and the Als to rack up 433 yards and three receiving touchdowns can only have upped the intensity of the defensive backfield coming into Commonwealth.
I can say with all honesty that I don’t know how this is going to play out. It is my fervent hope that the offence has managed to get it together throughout this week, and I’m actually excited to see what kind of changes they may have in store. While the pessimists may say that we ought to prepare for another embarrassment, I think that if the chemistry and timing issues have been resolved between quarterbacks and receivers, the Eskimos stand a very good chance of sliding the Bombers down to 0-3.