October 25, 2019

Nye: 3 ways the Esks can prove they’re a threat

Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

The CFL has five teams everyone is confident could pull off a few wins in the post-season.

Pick a name out of the hat of a group of Saskatchewan, Calgary, Winnipeg, Hamilton and Montreal and you can make a case that either one of them could go all the way.

Sorry Edmonton, but right now you’re not in the conversation for many around the CFL.

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Yes, the Eskimos have won two of their last three but they beat Ottawa and BC.

Do you know the last time the Eskimos beat a team that will make the playoffs?

….

Keep thinking

….

WEEK 1!

That’s it. They have one win against the five playoff teams and it came at home against the Montreal Alouettes in the first game of the season.

They won seven of their eight games against BC, Ottawa and Toronto.

I thought I should lay that out for all to see for what could be perceived as disrespect to a playoff team.

Now, that’s not to say the Eskimos can’t win me (and many others) over in the final two weeks of the season against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

In a weird scheduling quirk, it’s the first time the Eskimos have had a chance to play Saskatchewan.

The Eskimos have nothing to play for other than to fine tune their game but they do face a Saskatchewan team who will have a lot to play for. In these final two weeks, the Riders need to win out to get a shot at finishing first in the West Division.

I have three things Edmonton needs to show in their final two weeks to be considered a threat in the 2019 playoffs.

1. SAME OLD TREVOR

The Eskimos do have a quarterback returning to the lineup that has most recently led a team to a Grey Cup appearance. That alone should give them a chance in the post-season but we need to see Harris back to where he was at the start of the season to believe he could do it again.

Harris hasn’t played in just over a month and hasn’t been able to throw at full strength for most of that time off.

Harris will have to show he has some zip back and can be the quarterback many were putting in MOP consideration when the Eskimos were 6-3 at the half way point of the season.


CFL FANTASY PODCAST, EP 48: TREVOR AND ZACH ARE BACK


Harris was on a 6,000-yard pace and had 13 touchdown passes and just two interceptions at the midway point. He’d also only been sacked three times.

In the second half of the season, the Eskimos offensive line has allowed 19 sacks which brings us to point number two.

2. O-LINE ALL THEE FAITHFUL

The Eskimos offensive line have a great test in the final two weeks of the season to get tuned up for the post-season.

As I just mentioned, the Eskimos allowed just three sacks in the first nine weeks and have allowed 19 in the last seven.

So with Charleston Hughes, A.C. Leonard, Micah Johnson and a blitzing linebacking corps, Edmonton will have to prove they can protect Trevor Harris so the pivot can do his thing come the playoffs.

Certainly, Logan Kilgore wasn’t getting the ball out as quickly as Harris was but the Eskimos run game also dropped off recently.

They had five 100-yard rushing games in the first half of the season and just one since. That one time came in their most recent game and victory against the BC Lions, who are also among the worst run defences in the CFL.

The Riders are No. 2 against the run so if the Eskimos can once again show a balanced attack and get the ground game clicking, along with Harris dealing the ball when he throws, this gives the Eskimos all of a sudden a dangerous looking offensive attack as C.J. Gable is one of the best running backs in the league.

Starting to take back control at the line of scrimmage goes a long way for anyone to be successful in November.

So, what else needs to improve for the Eskimos?

They do have a pretty good defence that doesn’t allow of yards or points. Their kicking game is decent.

But there is one intangible that has consistently been hampering the Eskimos all season.

3. DISCIPLINE

The Eskimos are the most penalized team in the league and have nearly 200 more penalty yards than the next closest team.

 

But what I find most problematic for the penalty situation for Edmonton is that they lead the league in three categories that you could call character and selfish penalties; objectionable conduct, unnecessary roughness and roughing the passer.

While you want your team to play to the line, way too often the Eskimos play over the line and those penalties take big chunks of yardage away from your team or extend drives for the opposition.

These are penalties you just can’t take in the playoffs when there is a fine line between winning a losing.

Head Coach Jason Maas has always been under the microscope for his sideline demeanor but he needs to show after the bye week that he can rein his team in with less penalties.

Now if these three things appear to be all in order and the Eskimos take a game from the Riders this week or next, I can make a case for them to be back in Alberta for the Grey Cup.

And for the record, if you check out my crystal ball prediction, I’m a believer the Eskimos can start to play like the team once considered No. 2 overall in the Nissan Titan Power Rankings for much of the first half of the season.