July 16, 2014

Campbell: Esks’ offence looking to continue improvement


The usual script for the start of any football season is defences are ahead of offences coming out of training camp, and that is the case for the Edmonton Eskimos. 

The Eskimos are off to a 3-0 start for the first time in three years and this week they will face off against the 3-0 Winnipeg Blue Bombers to determine first place in the Western Division.

It is a really big game early in the season and it comes as the Eskimos continue to work out the kinks in their game.

The Esks are third in the in the CFL in most points scored, net yards, passing yards, and fourth in the CFL in average points scored per game, not a bad start for an offence still learning the system. Meanwhile their defence sits in second in total defence, yards allowed per game.

There are only three weeks and two games during CFL training camps and quite often, as slotback Adarius Bowman points out, the mental mistakes from training camp can spill over into the start of the regular season.

“It’s still kind of early in the season and I know from the coach’s standpoint they’re like, these guys should get it,” said a smiling Bowman.  “From a player’s (standpoint), it’s not necessarily that I don’t get it, but I would like all of us to know (the offence) and I know my assignment.”

The biggest difference from defence to offence is that on defence one player out of twelve can make a play independently of the other eleven players while on offence if one player makes a mistake, more often than not, the play fails.

Coming out of the gates and establishing some rhythm has been an issue for the Edmonton in their last two games. First halves have been filled with missed throws, dropped passes, people not lined up in the right spot, and protection issues. 

Against Hamilton in Week 2, the Eskimos tried many times, especially in the first half, to get the ball downfield but could not do it against the heavy Tiger-Cats blitz. It was a “take your medicine” type game as the only plays that seemed to work were screen and swing passes.

Last week against Ottawa, the Eskimos saw just two points scored by the offence and many of the same issues creep up throughout the first half.  The second half, however, was a much different story.

The Eskimos were able to cash in on big plays in the passing game in fact, there were three passes over 30 yards in the second half and two went for touchdowns. The Eskimos only had two 30 plus passing plays in the first two games. 

In speaking with Mike Reilly about the first half starts, he did point out that the defence is getting paid to make plays too. That is a point that is missed by too many, including this columnist. At the same time simple things like missed throws and dropped balls can drive you nuts. 

Another positive from the win last week was the run game. John White provided a spark rushing for 99 yards while Mike Reilly made good decisions when to take off with the ball, rushing for 48 yards. 

The Eskimos offence is designed to be quick moving. The ball is supposed to leave the quarterbacks hands quickly to allow the playmakers in the offence to do what they do best with the ball in their hands.

It is only mid-July and if the Eskimos were playing their best football right now, that would be concerning as every team wants to be playing at their best at around October and November.

What the Eskimos are showing right now is that they have a strong belief in what the coaching staff is preaching and a deep level of resiliency and are quick to move on from mistakes instead of letting the negatives fester.

The positive for the Esks going forward is that there is plenty of time for the offence to develop at a time were the X’s and O’s are still being figured out for most around the league.