June 14, 2013

Preview: Riders, Esks take first test in pre-season matchup


CFL.ca Staff

EDMONTON – One team knows who their starter is going to be come Week 1 while the other is still trying to sort through their options at quarterback as the Edmonton Eskimos host the Saskatchewan Roughriders in pre-season play from Commonwealth.

Matt Nichols is in a heated battle with former BC Lions pivot Mike Reilly for the right to lead the Eskimos under centre come opening night but Edmonton head coach Kavis Reed cautions those who view the decision as him conceding one way or the other.

“We’re going to look at who’s the best leader, who’s the best teammate, who handles adverse situations the best”, Reed said. “We’re going to look for that person as the next quarterback for this franchise hopefully for long term, who is best suited all around to be that guy.”

Adding to the battle was the fact that Reed stated that Reilly will likely get the call in Vancouver next week, ensuring that each pivot gets a start under their belt before making his decision.  He did however, confirm that both will see action in each of the two exhibition tilts.

Nichols, got into eight games last season, completing 58 per cent of his passes for 884 yards and seven touchdowns. He said he was pleased to get the start at home, where he got one of his starts last year and feels comfortable.

“It’s a different feel for me,” he said. “Usually when I play in a pre-season game, the last time I played in a game was the previous pre-season. This year it’s different, I got into games last season, so I’ll be a lot more comfortable.”

As for the Roughriders, they have a bit of a different scenario behind centre.  The undisputed starter is Darian Durant who will likely play the majority of the first half tonight but both Levi Brown and Willy will see action.

When Willy does get into the game, he is looking to prove to his coaches that he has built on a 2012 campaign where, along with studying behind Durant, made a pair of starts when the Riders’ leader was down.

“The composure that you have to have being the quarterback in the CFL”, Willy said when asked about what he has improved on entering camp. “You have a lot of people looking at you, and you are kind of the guy.  So coming in here with a lot more – I wouldn’t say confidence because I have always had a lot of confidence- but I know how the game is now seeing a full season of it, watching Darian, watching the other great QB’s around the league. (I am) just trying to take a little bit of everything they do and put it into my own game.”

Backup quarterbacks don’t take the pre-season lightly – barring injury, it often acts as the single most block of playing time – but the Randolph, NJ native says that there isn’t any additional pressure felt than what he already puts on himself in practice.

“I just have to keep getting better every single day. Anytime you go into a game or a practice you are competing against yourself and against the other guy. So you just have to hold yourself to a high standard and go out there and make plays, go through your reads and do the right thing.”

Kickoff is at 9:00 pm ET and can be seen on TSN or followed live via Game Tracker on CFL.ca

– With files from Riderville.com and The Canadian Press