After four games into the 2012 CFL season, the script is playing out almost to a tee. If the Eskimos were going to have success early on, their defence would simply have to hold the fort while offence figures themselves out.
The Eskimos are tied for the best record in the CFL and first place in the West Division with a 3-1 record. Their offence finds themselves last or near the bottom of most offensive categories. The defence, on the other hand, is at the top of the CFL in total points allowed with 56 and average points allowed per game with 14. The Eskimos have given up 15, 19, 10, and 14 points in the first four games of the season.
|Credit goes to the scouts|
“Another phenomenal job by our scouting department, he was here for a brief period of time last year and we had an opportunity to see him live. We’re very fond of his talents and more importantly, his character in terms of his work ethic was really something we felt would work well for us. That’s the reason why we released a veteran guy in Jykine Bradley to give him the opportunity.”
- Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed
They’re having success for many reasons – leading the CFL in quarterback sacks with 12 and tied for second in the league with five interceptions.
A rookie from Central Florida has three of the five picks for the Green and Gold while manning the wide-side corner position.
Joe Burnett has been turning heads and making a name for himself in the young season.
Last week, Burnett had two interceptions including a 108-yard return for a touchdown, a new Eskimos record. He’s the reigning Defensive Player of the Week and leads the league in both interceptions and interception return yards with 133.
Head coach Kavis Reed says give credit to the Eskimos scouting staff for finding Burnett late last season.
“Another phenomenal job by our scouting department, he was here for a brief period of time last year and we had an opportunity to see him live given the rules that we had the opportunity to look at guys who were released from the NFL”, Reed explained.
“We’re very fond of his talents and more importantly, his character in terms of his work ethic was really something we felt would work well for us. That’s the reason why we released a veteran guy in Jykine Bradley to give him the opportunity.”
Last season the secondary was the weak link in what was an otherwise very good defence. The Eskimos led the CFL in interceptions but also led the in touchdown passes allowed.
» READ: Eskimos' forumla for winning getting it done
Relying heavily on their run game, pass rush and an active secondary, the Eskimos
are sitting at an impressive 3-1 and taking pressure off their QB in the process.
Offences have tried to throw on Burnett and the rookie has stood tall so far. A star at Central Florida, Burnett picked up 16 interceptions along with 221 career tackles and 35 knockdowns in 49 games. He was drafted in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers, playing 15 games in 2009 and recorded 17 tackles.
Burnett has fit right in with a secondary that’s being asked to be more aggressive this season and states that he relishes the playmaker moniker.
“Each time I go out in the game, that’s what I always tell myself is go be a playmaker and go make plays”, Burnett said. “I think offensively, you get that opportunity but if you can be that defensively or a special teams player, it’s just a bonus to be a playmaker.”
Oh yes, special teams. That was the pleasant surprise the Eskimos discovered in Burnett; he’s a pretty good returner.
Right now, he acts as the Eskimos’ primary returner and is averaging 17 yards on punts and 23 yards on kick returns.
Burnett is one busy guy: starting at corner, returning punts as well as kickoffs. How long it stays that way remains to be seen.
The Eskimos also signed star returner out of Maryland Tony Logan. In 2011, he was the leader in punt return yards in the ACC and finished third best in all of Division 1 college football in the United States. Logan won’t play this week which gives Burnett another chance to make life hard on the coaching staff in keeping the return game status quo.
So far, Burnett is proving that he can be a jack of all trades. He does admit though that he might like returning more than playing on defence. The problem is that he’s so valuable on the corner. He understands even though it might be through gritted teeth that if the coaching staff decides he needs his work load lightened, he’ll be on board.
Who knows, perhaps the Eskimo have found the modern day Larry Highbaugh.
NOTES: The Eskimos won’t have left guard Simeon Rottier in the lineup at Winnipeg Thursday; he’s out with an arm injury. Rottier had his arm pulled back by Lions defensive tackle Khalif Mitchell last week resulting in a two-game suspension by the CFL. Brian Ramsay will get the start at left guard. Defensive end Marcus Howard won’t play due to an injured hamstring. Lee Robinson will start and backup Shawn Lemon moves on to the roster. Defensive back Ricardo Coclough hurt his foot last week vs. the Lions and with Weldon Brown still out with a groin injury, Ronnie Prude will start at the short-side halfback spot. Fullback Mathieu Bertrand has been placed on the nine-game injured list with a groin injury. Fellow fullback Pasacl Fils joins Bertrand with a knee injury. Import fullback Evan Harrington will start and play his first CFL game. Former Bombers Greg Carr (ankle) and Clint Kent (knee) remain out. The Eskimos beat the Bombers 42-10 at Commonwealth Stadium back on July 13th. The next game for the Eskimos won’t be until August 10th vs. the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Dave Campbell has been on the Eskimos beat since 2004. He’s entering his seventh season as the Eskimo colour analyst for 630 CHED broadcasts. He also hosts The Points After Show, an openline post-game show. Follow Dave on Twitter @Dave_CHED.
|2||Blue Bombers||DE||Mulumba, Andy|
|3||Alouettes via EDM||LB||Edem, Mike|