Who will step up under centre for Esks? | CFL.ca | Official Site of the Canadian Football League


EDMONTON -- Eskimos general manager Eric Tillman believes Ricky Ray will be warmly received by Edmonton in their CFL season-opener.

The Esks host their former long-time quarterback and the Toronto Argonauts on June 30.

Tillman traded Ray to the Argos in a December blockbuster deal for quarterback Steven Jyles, kicker Grant Shaw and a draft pick.

"Ricky is one of the more beloved players in club history,'' Tillman said Thursday during a CFL conference call. "I think he's going to be embraced.

"There's no pressure on him. If there's pressure that day it will be on me.''

The Eskimos head into training camp with questions at quarterback. Can Jyles carry the freight for a whole season or will veteran Kerry Joseph be required to step in?

"Ricky Ray is a future Hall of Famer and when you trade a Ricky Ray there will be questions and we understand that,'' Tillman said.

Even if Ray's performance in Edmonton on June 30 makes Esks fans wish him back, Tillman says the trade was a move he had to make now for the long-term health of the Eskimos.

Ray, 32, is an expensive player under the $4.35-million league salary cap, he says. Tillman felt it was better to move him prior to the 2012 campaign, instead of waiting until 2013 or 2014.

"We would have had a ton of free agents because we still would have had the highest-paid quarterback in the league, the highest-paid player in the league on our payroll,'' Tillman forecasted. "We would not have the ability to extend some contracts and maintain our nucleus.

"Could we have waited another year or two? Yes, we could have, but a year from now, Ricky would be turning 33 or 34. If the trade doesn't work, that's my responsibility.

"It was about having the confidence in our young guys that somebody would step forward. It was about creating cap space and feeling that there's never a good time and it's probably better to make the change before it's obvious to everyone the time has come to do so.''

Training camps open June 3 for all CFL teams.

Jyles, Joseph, Matt Nichols, Eric Ward and Jeremiah Masoli will be the five signal-callers in Edmonton's camp, but the battle for starter is expected to be between Jyles and Joseph.

Jyles, 28, has 20 career starts over six CFL seasons and has thrown as many interceptions (29) as touchdowns (31). He compiled 2,804 passing yards in 16 games, including 11 starts, with Winnipeg in 2010.

Jyles got the ball in Toronto for eight games last season when Cleo Lemon was released and the Argos were well out of playoff contention. He completed 124-of-218 passes for 1,430 yards with seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Joseph, who turns 39 in October, won both a Grey Cup and the CFL's Most Outstanding Player award in 2007 with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Two unsuccessful seasons in Toronto after that, Joseph then joined the Esks as Ray's backup.

"We believe Kerry can be a starter,'' Eskimos coach Kavis Reed insisted. "Kerry will come in and compete for that starting position.

"I think Kerry is a 39-year-old quarterback with a 24-year-old's body. We're not at all concerned that if he wins the job, he cannot survive through an 18- or 20-game season.''

The Eskimos are coming off an 11-7 season in 2011, good enough for second in the CFL's West Division.

Edmonton beat Calgary 33-19 in a playoff game at Commonwealth Stadium before falling 40-23 to the host B.C. Lions in the West final.

"You've never heard us use, and you never will hear us use, the term re-build,'' Tillman said. "We have high expectations.

"At this time last year, most people picked us last.''

Another key position Edmonton must sort out at training camp is at running back following the departure of Jerome Messam, who was the CFL's outstanding Canadian. The Toronto native signed with the NFL's Miami Dolphins in February.

Calvin McCarty, Hughes Charles, John Goebel and newly-signed Cory Ross are prospects to try to fill that void.

"We think we've got four interesting competitors and we'll just let it play out,'' Tillman said.

Edmonton will get one of their two first-round draft picks this year to camp. The Philadelphia Eagles didn't extend a contract offer to Wilfrid Laurier's Shamawd Chambers after a mini-camp, so Tillman expects his No. 6 pick in Edmonton.

Offensive lineman Austin Pasztor, taken No. 4, has signed with the Minnesota Vikings.

Edmonton had the second-best defence in the CFL last season. Reed predicts the Esks' pass-rush will be the centrepiece of the defence, led by defensive lineman Marcus Howard.

The off-season signing of lineman Rashad Jeanty is a blast from Edmonton's past. Jeanty won Grey Cups with the Esks in 2003 and 2005 before heading to the NFL.

"If he is 50 per cent of what he was when he left to go to the NFL, he's going to be a gentleman who is going to pose a lot of problems for offensive linemen,'' Reed said.

A major change in Edmonton's coaching ranks was the promotion of Mark Nelson from linebacker coach to defensive coordinator with the departure of Rich Stubler to the B.C. Lions.

"There won't be that much of a difference between Rich Stubler and Mark Nelson philosophically,'' Reed said. "Schematically, there may be some noticeable differences.''

Fan Comments
Jyles nor Joseph will not lead any team to the Grey cup and thats every teams goal. Masoli is not a rookie he is in his 2nd season of pro football. Although the UFL had a shorter season he still went through camp and took a lot of snaps and saw a lot of game action in Omaha's two QB system.
Many in Canada or the US do not know much about what has gone on in the UFL do to lack of television but they have placed a nice product on the field with good football players. Hopefully they do not over look Masoli, who also started 2009 for Oregon and 2010 for Ole Miss against top BCS school competition, and give him an equal opportunity to compete.
Cory Ross also a UFL star RB is excellent! Overlooked by the NFL do to his 5'8" stature has been a starter in the UFL for 3 seasons and is also an excellent receiver and return man. Look for him to emerge as the starting RB as eh has more starting experience then all the other RBs combined even with the UFL only playing about 6 regular season games each year.
If the exkimos can somehow get Shamawd Chambers signed by the beginning of camp he will also be ready to contribute and earn a starting receiver spot.
May 21, 2012 - 1:12pm
als rule
CS: difficult to disagree BUT 1st ross maybe a player in the CFL and 2nd UFL has squat to do with masoli why? no matter how good you think he did in the UFL it doesn't prove anything for the CFL game why? 1st the field is longer and most notable WIDER by 15 yards and finally it comes down to the 20 yard out!! achieve that and he may have a chance to become an eskimoicecreampielander!! if not then just another shoulda, coulda and woulda or COULDN'T!! not as easy as it may seem!!
May 22, 2012 - 10:52am
als rule: I guess we will see in camp but masoli has the tools and unlike many others he is in Edmonton and the CFL to play football and he is not taking his chance for granted like many others have in the past.
That type of guy that you are thinking about is Colt Brennan with the Riders. For him the CFL is an afterthought and did not even know that there were 20 yard end zones when he was first contacted.
Masoli on the other hand has been in close contact since his rookie year 2011. He chose the UFL over the CFL because the situation presented to him in the UFL last year was a chance to play rite away. If he had signed with Edmonton Last year he would not have seen a down with ridkey Ray their, Once Ray was traded, howesver you see where he is.
May 22, 2012 - 6:29pm
als rule
CS: other then proving that your his agent you have offered ZERO to change my opinion!! and NO brennan or any other QB was used to frame my masoli opinion!! when there's a rush end in masoli's face "WE" will see if he can completed a 20 yard out to stamps 55 yards away as a CB is hugging stamps!! SORRY BUT NO ROOKIE QB CAN ACCOMPLISH THAT WITHOUT EXPERIENCE!!
May 22, 2012 - 8:26pm
If, as Tillman says, they were pegged to be last in 2011 WITH Ray, just where will they be pegged this season without him and with ?? of starting QB still remaining?!! Just wondering!
May 20, 2012 - 3:41pm
als rule
TFmcb: of course your the one "just wondering"!! it had to be you!! I'm watching the TV show "THE OFFICE" and I still can't decide who you remind me of "DWIGHT" or "MICHAEL"!! LOL LOL LOL cheers buddy!!
May 21, 2012 - 5:36pm
yay no Ricky Ray
May 19, 2012 - 12:04pm
als rule
don't know!! don't care!! BUT it's not RR!!
May 18, 2012 - 5:27pm