Who is Steven Jyles?
The answer’s been eluding us for quite some time, and with the Esks sitting at 3-2 with a share of top spot in the West heading into their bye week, it’s becoming harder to find with every passing week.
Through five starts, Jyles has 993 yards passing yards on 56.3 per cent efficiency while throwing three touchdowns and three interceptions.
The 29-year-old remains firmly rooted as the team’s starting quarterback going into the break, with Edmonton in full contention at the top of the highly-competitive West Division.
He also has full support from his teammates, and most importantly his coach, after fumbling away what appeared to be his best start of the season in last week’s 23-22 loss when Winnipeg linemen Jake Thomas made a play on the ball.
"He did everything possible in a difficult environment to give his team a chance to win," Head Coach Kavis Reed said of his starting pivot in an interview with the Edmonton Journal. "Unfortunately, he made a mistake at the end, or they made a play at the end, probably better stated and they won the football game."
"We win as a team, we lose as a team," slotback Fred Stamps added. "It's not a one-man game. Nobody can put anything on Steven, anything like that because it's a team effort.”
It’s also true that up until the late-game turnover, Jyles had a pretty fine game going for him.
Which begs the question, with 101 games under his belt and only intermittent flashes of brilliance to show for it, what exactly do people see in Jyles?
At the risk of playing good cop, bad cop, I’m going to take a shot at answering that question, as we try to solve one of the league’s mysteries – the man under centre this year in Edmonton.
Here’s another thing we should straighten out: Jyles wasn’t brought here to be a superstar, gun-slinging cowboy of a quarterback who can throw for 350 yards and a million touchdowns on a nightly basis.
The Esks’ defence has proven to be one of the top in the league through Week 5, which actually complements the style of Jyles’ play pretty well.
He’s a quarterback who takes what the defence gives him, avoids making big mistakes, and can move the ball with efficiency down the field. That hasn’t come to fruition just yet, but it’s improving on a weekly basis.
Last week against one of the better secondaries in the league, Jyles completed 16 of 30 passes for 244 yards and a season-high two touchdown passes, without throwing any interceptions. He also effectively spread the ball to all of his receivers, with five pass-catchers making multiple catches.
The Esks are trying to run a ball control offence that augments its elite defence by running the ball often, and completing short passes efficiently. The idea is to get yards on first down, setting up a more manageable second down and thus extending drives and sustaining time of possession.
That’s the team’s identity this season, and Jyles’ numbers aside, it appears to be having some success. The team is one late fumble away from being 4-1 and in sole possession of first place in the West, and it’s unfair for anyone to say Jyles hasn’t been part of that.
For fans expecting him to be the big-play quarterback that will carry the game on his shoulders, they’ll continue to be disappointed. With the Esks’ defensive capabilities, a big risk-taker at quarterback may not be the best way to go, and that’s not the kind of quarterback the coaching staff is looking for him to be.
One thing worth pointing out is that, although his touchdown to interception ratio ranks him seventh among starters, he has thrown fewer interceptions than five CFL starting quarterbacks. Surely that’s played a positive role in helping the Esks to a 3-2 record.
|2||Blue Bombers||DE||Mulumba, Andy|
|3||Alouettes via EDM||LB||Edem, Mike|