EDMONTON — Ed Hervey likes the Edmonton Eskimos’ chances a lot better heading into his second training camp as the club’s general manager.
After a rough 2013 season, Hervey has his own hand-picked head coach, what should be an upgraded offensive line, and a sense that the CFL franchise’s rebuild is finally on course.
“I feel this year (I have) a better grasp of everything that we want and we’re actually heading in the direction that I feel more comfortable with,” Hervey said Friday on a conference call.
“Last year heading into the season, it was a whole lot of things that had to be fixed. A lot of things internally that needed to be worked on.
“We had processes that had to be re-established, and now that those things are in place … it’s strictly about on-field football and the performance of the players and improving our product.”
That started with Hervey hiring former Toronto Argonauts defensive coordinator Chris Jones to be the team’s new head coach after Kavis Reed was let go after last season.
“I don’t show a whole lot of emotion, but all in all I’m thrilled about where we’re headed as an organization,” said Hervey, an Eskimos receiver during his playing days.
“I’m very confident in the leadership that we’re building in our football department. I’m very pleased with the continuity of the coaching staff. I like Chris Jones’s approach – firm but fair.
“I’m ready to get the players on the field. I’m ready for training camp to get started and waiting to see how this thing unfolds.”
Jones has made the playoffs in each of his 12 seasons in the CFL and has picked up seven division titles and three Grey Cup victories along the way. However, Edmonton will be his first head coaching job.
He served as defensive coordinator, assistant head coach and assistant GM with the Argonauts in both 2012 and 2013.
“I had the good fortune of being able to wear some different hats in Toronto and work closely with (head coach) Scott (Milanovich), work closely with (general manager) Jim Barker,” said Jones. “I feel like it prepared me for this job and (being a head coach) is certainly something I’ve been targeting for a long time.
“I feel extremely happy to be where I’m at because you can’t ask for a better organization to cut your teeth at becoming a new head coach.”
Fixing a leaky offensive line was one of the Eskimos’ main concerns this off-season, and it looks as though the team addressed that need in both free agency and at this week’s CFL draft.
Edmonton signed non-import offensive linemen Andrew Jones and Justin Sorensen in February, and acquired import offensive lineman Tony Washington in a draft-day trade with Toronto.
It’s hoped those additions and a new coaching staff can help keep starting quarterback Mike Reilly upright after the Eskimos surrendered 60 sacks last season, second worst in the league.
“I hired some really good people that are going to be running our offence,” said Jones. “We’re going to run the ball effectively, we’re going to protect our quarterback and we’re going to give him some options when (opponents) starting bringing pressure.”