Webster’s dictionary defines the word ‘Warrior’ as: “a person who fights in battles and is known for having courage and skill”.
The Canadian Football League is filled with several “Warriors” and you can now add one more name to the list.
A 6’3, 215-pound quarterback from Kennewick, Washington, his name is Mike Reilly and he’s been making a name for himself in his first year as a starting quarterback for the Edmonton Eskimos.
Reilly picked up his first CFL Offensive Player of the Week award for his performance last week vs. the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He completed 16 of 25 passing for 196 yards and three touchdown passes. He also ran for a career-high 113 yards.
He is, in fact, the fifth leading rusher in the CFL with 530 yards. He sits fourth in the league passing yards (2,667) and tied for third with old B.C. Lions running mate Travis Lulay in touchdown passes (19).
Head coach Kavis Reed says Reilly has been a consistent performer this season.
|Is the best yet to come|
from Mike Reilly?
Mike Reilly has been steadily improving each week and currently sits fourth in the league in passing and holds a QB rating of 94.1. In his first year as a starter, Dave Campbell argues that the best is yet to come from the courageous pivot.
» Stats: Mike Reilly
“Mike has done a tremendous job for our football team in spite of our record,” Reed said. “He’s been stalwart in terms of his display of talent and the way he’s led this football team so any accolades are much deserved but he’s more focused in trying to get us two points.”
Reilly didn’t want the attention to be squarely focused himself about winning an offensive award. He quickly put the focus back on his teammates.
“Whether it’s weekly or monthly awards or season-ending awards, if a quarterback wins an award it has very little to do with him and more about his entire offence,” Reilly explained. “This is a great case in point where that occurred. Our offensive line, everybody has discussed them at length for the last couple of weeks and I thought that was one of their best performances of the year. Not just in the pass protection game but in the running game as well.”
Mike Reilly declared his intentions to test free agency in December of 2012. The ears of Eskimos general manager Ed Hervey perked up. Hervey pursued a trade with B.C. Lions and he landed Reilly two weeks before free agency, taking him off the open market and earning exclusive negotiating rights with Reilly. Hervey was able to quickly sign Reilly to contract.
Training camp was supposed to be a battle for the starting job between Reilly and Matt Nichols. When Nichols hurt his knee in the first pre-season game ending his season, the quarterback competition was over. The job was Reilly’s and he has never looked back.
There were some bumps along the way.
Reilly struggled early in the season with making the right reads downfield, struggled with accuracy, and struggled with simply managing the game. Reilly also played in heavy rains twice in the first four games, not an accurate evaluation for a quarterback.
His coming out party was in Montreal. His first half wasn’t very good; in fact he was pulled briefly for backup Jonathon Crompton. He came back in the game with a renewed fire and played brilliantly in the second half passing for 262 yards and throwing two touchdown passes in the second half.
Since then, Reilly has thrown 16 touchdown passes in the last seven games compared to just three touchdown passes in the first four games. He has improved his completion percentage to 62%. Five times this season, his passer rating has surpassed 100.
Reilly’s numbers are even more impressive when you consider the offensive line have struggled for much of the season. Reilly has been sacked, hit, hurried, and punished numerous times. He’s the Eskimos top rushing threat which makes his head coach, teammates, and the fan base very nervous.
All of the above would love it if Reilly would utilize the hook slide more. When you have a gunslinger, it’s hard to corral him. His running ability is another weapon opposing defences have to game plan for making him a double threat.
If anyone knows anything about the game of football would know the Eskimos record has little to do with the play of Reilly. The Eskimos need upgrades in a few areas but starting quarterback is not one of them. Mike Reilly is the real deal and the Eskimos have found their next franchise quarterback.
Reilly has over-delivered according to Kavis Reed this season, leaving him and the rest of the organization and the fan base overjoyed.
NOTES: Running back Hugh Charles will start Friday at Winnipeg. Charles has been dealing with a nagging hamstring injury and was hurt late in the Eskimos win over the Bombers last week in Edmonton.
Newcomer Jamal Miles will also see some work in the Eskimos backfield. Miles played running back during his first two years at Arizona State. Miles will still return kicks.
Defensive back Chris Rwabukamba will miss Friday’s game with a knee injury. Eric Sameuls will start at the wide-side corner position, Ryan Hinds will draw in to backup Sameuls and play on special teams. Joash Gesse come back into the lineup for Kyle Norris.
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.