July 9, 2014

Campbell: Injuries will test Eskimos’ depth

There’s an old line in the game of football which says “you are only good as your depth.”  

As long and tedious training camp is, the two weeks serve a very important purpose in finding out what you have behind your starters.

In pro football, injuries are a harsh reality.  You never know when the bug will bite but at some point in a football season, it will happen.

During last Friday night’s 28-24 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Commonwealth Stadium, the Eskimos lost four players, with most of, if not all, being of the serious variety. 

In the first quarter, right tackle Thaddeus Coleman suffered a dislocated elbow and is listed as out indefinitely.  Defensive tackle Don Oramasionwu is out for the season after leaving the game in the first quarter with a torn patellar tendon in his left knee.  

Matt O’Donnell filled in the rest of the way at right tackle.  It remains to be seen if he will be there this Friday when the Eskimos host the Ottawa REDBLACKS.  

O’Donnell proved last season that he can play pretty much anywhere along the offensive line.  He was the Eskimos’ nominee for Most Outstanding Lineman in 2013.  

The Esks could also elect to keep the right tackle spot an import position with D’Anthony Batiste, a former NFL veteran who played 37 games with several NFL teams, most recently with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Bastiste made 14 NFL starts.  

Along the defensive line, Canadian Gregory Alexandre will get a shot to prove he can play at the pro level.  He will slide in for Oramsionwu to join fellow Canadian Eddie Steele and international Almondo Sewell in the interior.  

Alexandre was cut by the team after training camp but agreed to join the Eskimos practice roster.  He performed well in the pre-season recording two defensive tackles and a quarterback sack in the first game against the BC Lions.

The injury bug has also hit receiver and kick returner Patrick Robertson who hurt his knee in the fourth quarter last Friday.  This after a brilliant 63-yard return where at the end of his run he pulled up which caused his leg to plant on the turf.  

Robertson was enjoying a very good start to the season; currently he’s second in the CFL in combined return yards with 269.  

He is very likely headed to the six-game injured list but head coach Chris Jones is confident in the next man up.

“You know unfortunately Robertson was injured and it’s going to be a pretty significant amount of time before he is able to play again,” Jones said.  

“Number three; he’s certainly a guy that I watched some film from last year.  He’s a formidable return guy and we look forward to seeing what he brings.”

Number three is Jamal Miles who arrived in Edmonton shortly after Labour Day last season.  He played in only eight games but was very impressive racking up 1,050 return yards and scoring one touchdown via punt return.  

He was expected to hold down the job out of training camp but was injured which is a big reason why Robertson won the job for opening day.

The Eskimos also added some insurance this week in signing Noel Devine, who spent the last two seasons with the Montreal Alouettes.  He was mostly used a returner recording 1,039 yards.  He gives the Eskimos some experience and can be used in the offence if needed as a running back.

The final injury hit defensive halfback Marcell Young near the end of the game. Young appeared to hurt his knee.  He was playing on the short-side of the field with Patrick Watkins and was off to a good start.  

Otha Foster will likely be making his CFL debut on Friday.  He was a part of the Draft day trade which brought left tackle Tony Washington to the Eskimos.  Jones knows Foster well as he was on the Toronto Argonauts practice roster last season.

The Eskimos made finding depth a priority in the off-season and you can see the fruits of that work already.  Linebacker Dexter McCoil has two interceptions in his first two games, defensive end Willie Jefferson and been part of a regular rotation up front and made the game saving tackle on Tiger-Cats quarterback Dan Lefevour.  

Receiver A.J. Guyton had a nine catch game last Friday as the Eskimos fifth receiver.

The hope for the team is the injury bug doesn’t bite for awhile.

Hey?  Has anyone seen that fly swatter?