Aaron Grymes and Kenny Stafford talked on Facetime this week. The former Edmonton Eskimo teammates did some catching up and asked about each other’s family.
Any words exchanged between the two will have a different tone when the BC Lions (1-3) host the Edmonton Eskimos (2-1) Thursday night at BC Place Stadium.
“It will take a bit of turn,” chuckled Grymes, the Lions’ weak side defensive half back. “I know if Kenny makes a play on me (what he says) is not going to be as harsh as he might against somebody else.
“But we are definitely going to let each other know if we make a play on each other.”
Aaron Grymes will look to be a factor for the Lions in Thursday’s contest against the Eskimos (Jimmy Jeong/CFL.ca)
The Lions need Grymes to be part of the solution when BC tackles the problem of stopping Eskimo receivers Greg Ellingson, Ricky Collins Jr. and Stafford. The trio rank among the CFL’s top 11 receivers.
What makes the Eskimos even more dangerous is quarterback Trevor Harris’s ability to decipher defences and quickly get rid of the ball.
“We have to be smart and calculated,” said Grymes, who spent five years with the Eskimos before signing with the Lions as free agent this winter.
“He likes to get the ball out quickly because he’s smart and knows what the defence is going to be doing. As long as we give him different looks and try and confuse him, I think we will be OK.”
Harris comes into the game having completed 92 of 128 passes for 1,086 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions.
Ellingson is second in the league in receiving with 313 yards and two touchdowns from 21 catches. Collins, who played 17 games for the Lions last year, has 18 catches for 293 yards while Stafford has made 17 catches for 221 yards and two touchdowns.
Overall, the Eskimos are leading the league by averaging 485 yards of net offence each game, have given up just one sack and had only nine two-and-outs. Harris also leads all passers with an average 363 yards a game.
The Lions’ defence is second-best in the league in preventing the run, allowing an average 89 yards a game, but are middle-of-the-pack when it comes to points allowed (31.3) and passing (281.5 yards a game).
Harris can be like a band leader sometimes. Take him out of his rhythm and things go sour. But let him find his beat and he can produce some pretty harmony with his receivers.
Harris and Ellingson have a special connection dating back to their time together in Ottawa. He had nine catches for 174 yards and two touchdowns when the Eskimos defeated the Lions 39-23 in Week 2.
“He’s smart, he knows where to find those open spots,” said Grymes. “He’s got a lot of chemistry with Trevor. He knows where Ellingson is going to be and Ellingson knows where Trevor wants to put the ball.
“There’s no good coverage for a perfect throw and a perfect catch. They seem to have a lot of those. If we can get them off their mark and mess their timing up, the ball is in our court. We have make sure we do that.”
Expect the Lions to show Harris some different looks up front and try to disguise what they are doing in the secondary.
Head coach DeVone Claybrooks said bringing pressure and forcing Harris to move out of the pocket will disrupt his rhythm.
“With any defence your philosophy is to try to take away the first read,” said Claybrooks, who spent three years as Calgary’s defensive coordinator. “If we can take him off his first read and get him uncomfortable in the pocket. You want to confuse him in coverages. You have to mix up your looks.
“If you get him off the spot, a 10-yard out turns into a 35-yard out by him rolling five yards.”
Claybrooks said the veteran Grymes is the glue holding the group together.
“We do things as a collective group in there,” he said. “Grymes has been a key cog of what we’ve been able to do because of his football IQ and his style of play and he’s very athletic.
“That gives you flexibly in things where you can send him off the edge, he can play low, he can play high and he can play man-to-man. When you have a man like that, as a defensive coordinator, you kind of lick your chops because you can very creative.”
In four games the five-foot-11, 186-pound Grymes has 17 tackles and one of the Lions two interceptions this year.
It’s early in the season but the game is important for both teams.
A win would keep the Eskimos on pace with Winnipeg for first place in the CFL West. It also would give Edmonton the season series against BC.
For BC, a win against a West Division rival would show the Lions have found their feet after starting the season 0-3.
BC also wants to build off the momentum of their 18-17 win over Toronto last week and find some vengeance for the previous loss in Edmonton. The Lions led 17-3 at one point in that game and quarterback Mike Reilly was sacked seven times.
Grymes said it’s a more confident Lions team lining up against Edmonton this time.
“They beat us pretty good last time, so we are looking to get some pay back,” he said.
“It’s early in the season. It’s 18 games for a reason. We get our chance at redemption and we get a chance to show the league we can really play.”
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