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CFL - Despite criticism, Eskimos keep on winning games
So much for hitting that panic button. It was exactly two weeks ago today, that fans and media alike started losing their marbles in regards to the Edmonton Eskimos. Fast forward fourteen days and suddenly all is good with the Green and Gold. After back-to-back wins against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and B.C. Lions, order seems to have been restored with the natives.
Edmonton - July 23, 2012 - So much for hitting that panic button. It was exactly two weeks ago today, that fans and media alike started losing their marbles in regards to the Edmonton Eskimos. Did they really only score one point against the Saskatchewan Roughriders? Many bellowed about what a huge mistake the organization had made in trading longtime starting quarterback Ricky Ray. It was full out panic mode for many within the provincial capital.
Things would only get worse, when General Manger Eric Tillman went on the Edmonton radio airwaves and apparently said "he regretted" making the Ray deal on Tuesday, July 10th. Though what Tillman said was completely taken out of context by many across the country, the proverbial you know what hit the fan.
Fast forward fourteen days and suddenly all is good with the Green and Gold. After back-to-back wins against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and B.C. Lions, ironically the two teams who played for the 99th Grey Cup, order seems to have been restored with the natives. No longer is anyone talking about Steven Jyles lack of numbers or the fact that the Esks might have the worst offence in the Canadian Football League.
Instead, the focus has shifted to what really matters...winning. The club now sits with a 3-1 mark on the year and find themselves in a first place tie with those same Roughriders for first place in the West and for the best record in the CFL. While they are still a work in progress on the offensive side of the ball, they have been down right frightening on defence.
It was clear, to anyone willing to pay attention, that this version of the Edmonton Eskimos would be built around defence. While that might not be sexy enough for some, it was the strength of this team heading into the season. That being said, who knew they would be this good! The Esks D hasn't been good, they've been down right dominant through the opening four weeks of the season.
While it has only been four games, this is a team that has yet to surrender twenty points in a game! Something that seems almost unthinkable to anyone who follows the CFL. They have given up only 56 points on the year, with Saskatchewan being next at 78, thanks in large part to holding the Green and Gold to the aforementioned single point during week two. The remaining six clubs have given up somewhere between 102 to141 points against. Indeed, dominant would be the best way to describe the Eskimos defence.
Some are pointing to an easy schedule for Edmonton but how easy has it really been? Their two road games have been against the team they are currently tied with for top spot in the West with and the other was against the defending Grey Cup champs. Who, by the way, had never lost in their new home digs until falling to the Esks 27-14 on Friday night.
Their two home dates have been against slightly weaker opposition in the Blue Bombers and Toronto Argonauts but both have managed to put up decent offensive numbers against other teams...just not against the Edmonton. Even more impressive when you consider the clubs struggles to put points on the board during the first two weeks of the season. They have been on the field far more than most defences in the league but have still managed to shut things down.
While a guy like Joe Burnett stands out with his three interceptions and game clinching 108 yard touchdown return against the Lions, this is a defence that has done the job as a collective group. You have the likes of J.C. Sherritt leading the CFL in tackles with thirty-one and the duo of Almondo Sewell and Ted Laurent among the league leaders in sacks, with fellow defensive tackle Don Oramasionwu right behind them.
As a collective group, this defence has produced twelve quarterback sacks, five interceptions, recovered three fumbles and scored three majors in just four weeks of football. At their current pace, they are set to give up 252 points against on the season. To put that into perspective, B.C. clearly had the best defence in the CFL in 2011 and allowed 385!!!
Like most team sports, football is ultimately a marathon and not a sprint. Having said that, the Eskimos start to the 2012 campaign has been rather impressive. Eric Tillman and head coach Kavis Reed knew there would be some major "growing pains" on the offensive side of the ball but they also knew they had the makings of a special group on the other side of it.
With every week that passes with Jyles and veteran Kerry Joseph looking more comfortable running the offence and running back Hugh Charles becomeing further ingrained within that offence, be it running or receiving, the Eskimos become more and more of a threat. With the possibility of welcoming running back Jerome Messam back into the fold still a reality, such a move would give Edmonton the potential of a lethal attack, despite not having a legitimate star quarterback. Something which seems almost inconceivable in the Canadian Football League.
All that being possible because of the defence crop this organization managed to assemble. Funny how things can change in such a short time frame. Where have all those Tillman bashers from a couple of weeks ago gone? It may still be early but "the plan" seems to be moving along just fine and have quieted the doubters...at least for now.
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