So far, it’s been a hot, humid and spectacular summer in Edmonton. Yes, we’ve had to endure the almost-nightly thunderstorm – which has either woken you at night because it’s so loud and bright, or because you ran down to your basement to make sure it wasn’t flooded.
Some Eskimo fans and media felt the Green and Gold would be somewhat stormy this season, especially with Steven Jyles running the offence. There was the 17-1 debacle back on July 8 in Regina which caused a lot of the Eskimo faithful to issue thunderstorm warnings of their own.
However, two-straight wins followed by a heartbreaking 23-22 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers two weeks ago has the Eskimos in a far better position than many would have expected.
Now, coming off their bye week – a time where players are given the opportunity to rest – expectations are that they’ll continue to improve as a unit.
And according to slotback Fred Stamps, the bye couldn’t have arrived at a better time. “It came at a perfect time, you get a chance to sit back and evaluate things and review.”
Alright then, let’s evaluate and review, shall we?
The Eskimos have surprised many with their play, but if you look closely, the script has indeed played out in a similar way to what we expected.
Simply put, while Jyles hasn’t been putting up MOP-like numbers, he has been playing well enough to allow the defence to take charge and win games.
Despite the fact that they are giving up a ton of yards, the Esks have allowed a league low 79 points through five games. They are literally living by the “bend but don’t break” philosophy.
Middle linebacker J.C. Sherritt leads the Eskimos and the CFL with 41 tackles and is well on his way to breaking the league record for defensive tackles in a season which is 129 set in 1994 by Calvin Tiggle.
Sherritt is Edmonton’s early-season candidate for Most Outstanding Defensive Player. You can also make an argument that Sherritt is the team’s Most Outstanding Player.
Another integral aspect of the team’s success is the fact that the front four is getting to the quarterback at a rapid clip, sitting second in the CFL with 14 sacks. The secondary is also getting the job done, sitting tied for first in the league with seven interceptions.
The offence, however, is a work in progress. We know what to expect from Jyles, but he still has time to get used to the offensive system, and to gel with his receivers.
A sign of good things to come is the fact his quarterback rating is on the rise, and he’s been managing to find the team’s most deadly weapon – Fred Stamps – more often than the first few games of the year.
The offence has also been receiving exceptional play from Hugh Charles, who leads the team in both rushing and receiving yards.
On special teams, the Eskimos have improved in their return game with cornerback Joe Burnett leading the charge.
And what about kicker Grant Shaw? Have you realized that he sits second in the CFL with 92 per cent conversion rate on his field goals?
The Eskimos have done a very good job of keeping themselves in the race early for a home playoff game and that’s what this time of year is all about. The defence should continue to get better as it becomes healthier, and the offence will likely do the same.
The story of the 2012 Edmonton Eskimos is far from being complete.NOTES:
Wide receiver Greg Carr will return to the lineup tonight vs. the Saskatchewan Roughriders after missing two games with an ankle injury. Right guard Greg Wojt is back after missing the last four games with a knee injury. Defensive back Weldon Brown returns tonight after missing the last two games with a groin injury. The Eskimos have signed former Toronto Argonaut defensive tackle Claude Wroten who was released earlier this summer. Last season Wroten registered 35 defensive tackles and four quarterback sacks. Wroten will dress tonight as will fellow defensive lineman Etienne Legare who’s missed the first five games of the season battling mononucleosis. Fred Stamps is 51 yards away from cracking the Eskimos top-10 in all-time receiving yards.