CFL Roundup 23.0

Player vs. Fan

In a span of just over 72 hours, there have been two highly publicized instances of players encroaching on the fans part of an entertainment facility. The first was the brawl at Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton where an estimated 10 to 20 members of the St. Leonard Cougars climbed up into the seats behind their players’ bench Saturday night to fight spectators at the end of a CJFL playoff game. Although the video doesn’t show it, its alleged that the incident started when fans supporting the Hamilton Hurricanes started hurling insults, bottles, and water at the visiting Cougars.

The second incident occurred last night when Rick Rypien of the Vancouver Canucks accosted a fan after being given a misconduct penalty in Vancouver’s 6-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild. Unlike the brawl at Ivor Wynne, the video available clearly shows that the fan involved was guilty only of clapping and perhaps throwing out a verbal barb to the Canucks forward.

Both incidents, although very different, highlight two keys points about the way that sporting events are handled. The first is a lack of security precautions by facilities to ensure that fans and players remain separated. At Commonwealth Stadium, there is a security fence along the perimeter of the track that encircles the playing field, making it very difficult for player and fans to enter area where they shouldn’t be going. The second, and perhaps bigger issue, is the lack of respect being shown by fans towards players and players towards fans. There was a time where going to a sporting event was looked upon as a civilized social affair, not an opportunity for stupidity. There was a mutual respect between those in the stands and the athletes performing on the playing surface. It’s unfortunate that these types of things are now happening.

Non-Import Injuries

This past weekend, the CFL suffered a rash of injuries, and as TSN’s Dave Naylor observed, five probable season ending injuries occured to Canadians. While it will certainly have an impact on those teams as they make their final push towards the playoffs, injuries are a part of the game, and present new opportunities for other players to step forward and make their mark. For the Esks, it looks like Andre Talbot will fill in for Kamau Peterson. The Lions secondary will need some players to step up with the loss of Davis Sanchez and JR LaRose – maybe Jason Arakgi or Tad Crawford – while Saskatchewan will need to plug a big hole on special teams with Luca Congi out of the lineup. The Riders will also be missing Rob Bagg. It will be interesting to see if teams non-import depth can contribute, especially with the league looking at future expansion.

Support Patrick Kabongo and Wellspring Edmonton

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Esks Sign Efrem Hill…Again

On May 20, 2009, the Esks signed four wide receivers to contracts in an effort to find more talented depth. Jason Barnes was one of those while Efrem Hill was one of  the others. Barnes has stuck with the Green & Gold while Hill, after winning a starting job this year coming out of training camp, was cut loose after only two regular season games. It’s an interesting turn of events that with Barnes now out for the rest of the season, the Esks called Hill to help fill out a receiving corps that has seen more than it’s fair share of injuries in the 2010 season.

Hill’s addition to the roster makes sense because with only three games remaining in the regular season, bringing an import without any CFL experience does not make a lot of sense. Apart from getting up to speed on the playbook, a receiver would also need to adjust to playing by CFL rules. Hill has a leg up on both aspects which made him a good choice for the organization and looking at the availability of free agent receivers with CFL experience, only adds to this being  a good fit. He may not be a long term solution, but Hill can certainly fill the void if needed.

BY THE NUMBERS

On that subject, there are some Esks fans who were not huge Hill fans during his first tour of duty with the club, but when you look at the stats he produced, although not even close to the same level as Fred Stamps, Hill has been a decent contributor. In the five games he has played with the Green and Gold, Hill has caught 21 passes for 231 yards. That’s an average of 46.2 yards per game, which although not great, certainly puts him in the same range as most of the Esks secondary import receivers.

Fred Stamps – 11 Games, 1,046 yards – 95.1 yards per game

Kelly Campbell – 12 Games, 766 yards – 63.8 yards per game

Jason Barnes – 12 Games, 608 yards – 50.6 yards per game

Jamaica Rector – 9 Games (5 starts), 175 yards – 35.0 yards per start***

Derrick Armstrong – 1 Game, 33 yards – 33.0 yards per game

***Only counted Rector’s starts because he has been used exclusively as a returner in some of his games.

While he won’t set the CFL on fire, Hill provides a solid secondary option for the Esks, and more importantly, does not require the extra investment of teaching a new player all the ins and outs of a new offense, much less a new league.

With the addition of Hill to the Esks, the team released wide receiver Carl Berman from the practice roster. Berman was signed by the team on September 9, 2010 and did not see any time on the active roster.

Esks Rookie of the Year Candidates

The CFL sent out a news item last week informing the public of which first year players met their amazingly simple criteria for being considered a rookie. It boils down to the following,

1. The player played for a CFL team during the current season.

2. In any previous season, the player had not played for a CFL or NFL team.

Got it?

Okay, so based on that criteria, the following Esks players are eligible for the Rookie of the Year award.

The List!!!

Brad Lester (RB) Auburn
Corbin Sharun (DB) St. Francis Xavier
Daniel Porter (RB) Louisiana Tech
Nate Binder (WR) Tusculum College
Neil Puffer (LS) Queen’s
Pascal Fils (RB) Sherbrooke
Roderick Williams (DB) Alcorn St.
Saleem Borhot (DB) Saint Mary’s
Tremayne Kirkland (WR) Portland St.
Weldon Brown (DB) Louisiana Tech
Will Harris (LB) USC

Contenders

It’s not easy to simply pick two or three of these guys and say “Yeah, these guys have had outstanding years and should be considered”. Injuries, unspectacular performances, and learning curves have been factors with some of the top candidates, so we have narrowed it down to the following.

Corbin Sharun- Yes, he’s only a special teamer, but Sharun has played full-out in what has been a very difficult rookie year. The GM that drafted him is long gone, and the Leduc native has been looked at as after thought by most fans. He has contributed however with nine special teams tackles – good for a tie for second place on the team – and has a monster punt block a couple of weeks ago. Call it a rooting for the underdog pick, but Sharun has earned it.

Daniel Porter- Porter has 227 yards in three games played with the Esks, but he collected 174 of those in his last game when he was the feature back. If he gets around 100 yards per game in the next three, he should finish as the second leading rusher on the Esks this season. In a weak rookie crop, those numbers, combined with his playing a big role to get the team into the post-season, could be enough for the team’s ROY award.

Roderick Williams – He’s dressed for 12 games and made 23 tackles on defence, tops for all rookies. Williams also had an interception against Calgary on September 9th, so he has contributed while on the field.

Weldon Brown – Brown has played in 13 games this year and contributed both on defense and special teams. He has 20 defensive tackles to go along with eight more on special teams. He has also returned 16 kickoffs for a total of 362 yards which gives an average of 22.6 yards per return. That’s good for second on the team after Kelly Campbell who has an average of 28.4.

The Rest

Nate Binder, Pascal Fils, and to a certain extent, Neil Puffer have all spent a good portion of the season either on the practice roster, or when they have dressed, on the sidelines. None have made especially significant contributions.

Saleem Borhot has been injured for most of the year while Brad Lester was a later addition who has since been injured.

Let’s skip Tremayne Kirkland as two receptions for a total of two yards eliminates him from the discussion.

Will Harris is still healthy, but as a back-up, unless there is a significant amount of injuries, won’t see the field much.

Your Choice

So who gets your vote Esks Nation? Amazingly enough, the results of the final three weeks could have a huge impact on who might that takes home the Esks Rookie of the Year.

Fake em, surprise em, run em!

 

The Esks have been at or near the bottom of the league in 2010 when it comes to rushing stats despite the heroic efforts of currently injured running back Arkee Whitlock. They just could not run the ball effectively enough to win games without having to sooner or later take to the air. Opposing teams knew this and prepared accordingly, which is why running the ball proved to be so successful for the Green & Gold in a must win situation on Saturday night in Vancouver.

For the season, the Esks rank last in net rushing yards and can boast a rather pedestrian 96.4 yards per game on the ground. Putting up 346 yards on the ground is not something they were supposed to be able to do. If that isn’t the most surprising stat, than this one certainly is; the Esks did it on only 48 carries, giving them an average gain of 7.2 yards per attempt. That’s 1.6 yards per carry better than their season average which means that someone was blowing up some pretty good holes for running backs Daniel Porter and Calvin McCarty to run through. As for Ricky Ray tacking on his 135 yards, that’s simply the Lions not perceiving Ray as a threat to run, and when he did, not making the proper adjustments to limit his gains.

Big Hits

Watching Ray make like Michael Vick was entertaining, but the Esks might need to revisit this strategy if they want to keep number #15 upright and healthy for the remainder of the season. Ray has been hit a lot this season, and when we mean a lot, we mean like more times than a pinata at a kid’s birthday party. Like at said birthday party, the five and six-year olds are not strong enough to inflict much overall damage, but sooner or later, that big kid is going to come along and really paste Ray with a knockout blow. He took some big hits on Saturday, but kept on coming back for more.

Pound the Rock

Earlier in the season, the team struggled to get the ball into the end-zone when faced with opportunities inside of five or six yards from the opposition’s goal line. They tried passing the ball and couldn’t convert. They also tried on a few occasions to run the ball, but fumbled it away on at least one occurrence in the first Saskatchewan game. On Saturday night, the Esks scored on two touchdowns from one yard out by simply pounding it up the middle. Nothing fancy about it. Matthieu Bertrand steamed in from one yard while Ricky put his head down and tunneled in for the game winner. Simple, but effective.

While the Esks may not be able to run the ball like this in the coming weeks, it will at least give opposing defenses something to think about. Having that threat could at least help to keep Ray on his feet just a little bit more than he has been up to this point in the season.

Injuries

Apart from the running game, the secondary story to the game was a couple of significant injuries to the Esks receiving corps as both Kamau Peterson and Kelly Campbell were knocked out of the game. One has to feel for Peterson who looked like he re-injured the Achilles injury that kept him out for most of the season. It’s a good thing that the Esks added Derek Armstrong this past week.

Esks Win! And apparently traded for Darian Durant?

What’s that? The CFL trade deadline has passed? Darian Durant is still playing for the Saskatchewan Roughriders?

So who was that playing quarterback for the Esks on Saturday night?

RickyRay!?!?! That doesn’t make any sense. It says here that this Ray fellow rushed 12 times for 135 yards, completed 50% of his passes, and tossed two picks against one touchdown. Surely it must be someone other than Ricky Ray?

It’s wasn’t a classic performance by the Esks quarterback, but it was enough to get the job done. Oh yeah, he also pulled out the old quarterback sneak for the winning touchdown.

Rookie Kickers

With Noel Prefontaine gone to Toronto, and Paul McCallum on the sidelines due to a clerical error, the fate of both teams was left to a couple of rookie kickers. Both came through for their teams. Derek Schiavone went three for three on field goal attempts while Sean Whyte nailed a 48-yard kick to send the game into overtime. A great performance by both. Yes, we know, they aren’t true rookies, but the young men sure look like it when compared to the grizzled veterans who they were replacing.

Bizarre

The Esks turned the ball over three times while the BC Lions did not commit one single indiscretion in the possession game. Common sense says that the Green & Gold should have lost, but of course, common sense didn’t see Ricky Ray modeling his game after Tracy Ham either. And then the injury bug showed up with Davis Sanchez, Kamau Peterson and Kelly Campbell all getting knocked around. It was more than a little spooky. That being said, in an highly entertaining game, that was just a little over the top in terms of unconventional story-lines, the Esks found a way to win and get themselves back into contention for the playoffs. On that note folks, good night and good weekend. It’s time to celebrate that Esks win!

Esks Claim Medlock from Argos

WOW!

Talk about how someone’s universe can change over the course of a couple hours. It’s possible that Derek Schiavone may have lost the starting job he inherited after Noel Prefontaine was traded to Toronto because…wait for it… Prefontaine was traded to Toronto. Makes sense folks?

After acquiring Prefontaine, the Argos waived their kicker Justin Medlock, as they have rookie Grant Shaw available as a back-up and have decided to go non-import at the kicking position. The Esks picked up Medlock, who is an import, this afternoon in a bit of bizarre move because it appeared that the reasoning behind moving Prefontaine was that they had Schiavone waiting in the wings.

When announcing the move on Esks.com, general manager Eric Tillman offered up the following, “Our staff has complete confidence in Derek Schiavone and that hasn’t changed, but Justin Medlock gives us great flexibility and depth for the balance of this season and in 2011. We’ve added two good young players in Etienne Legare and Damaso Munoz, bolstered our roster with Medlock and gained significant cap flexibility for next year.”

Hmmm. Complete confidence in Schiavone, but we’ll go out and get an import kicker anyway.

Non-Import Options

When you look at the Esks roster, the team currently has 21 non-imports available on the active roster. They have to dress 20 for games, which means that if they want to use Medlock, they certainly have the flexibility to do so.

Braidwood, Fiacconi, Kabongo, Koch, Nowacki, Richardson, and Wojt are all starters. That’s the first seven to make the list. 

Bertrand, McCarty, and Peterson can be used as starters as well if needed. That’s three more than can be called upon if needed.

The remaining ten consist of Bates, Cooper, Glatt, Hinse, Légaré, Nugent, Puffer, Scott, Sharun, and St.Pierre. There’s your 20 and Schiavone once again could find himself on the reserve roster this weekend.

Oh, and don’t forget that Nate Binder, Pacal Fils, and Adam Rogers are all still available on the practice roster if the Esks need them.

Who Starts?

Consider that Medlock made 87% of his field goals last year and has demonstrated that he can hit that all important 50-yarder, something tells me that he could be the guy lining up in uniform on Saturday. The Esks still have a chance to make the playoffs and despite the 4-10 start, could actually emerge from Empire Stadium holding their playoff destiny in their hands. It’s a tough break for Schiavone, but this is part of professional sports. Teams will do whatever they can to win here and now until they are completely out of the post-season picture. Only then will they start to truly look towards the future. Just a guess, but the guy in the video below will be kicking for the Esks this weekend. 

 

Schiavone is the Apprentice no more

Being an apprentice kicker in the CFL can be a true test of one’s patience as veteran kickers can play well into their late 30s to early 40s. Paul McCallum has been in the league for 18 years and is still able to fend off Sean Whyte from taking over as the starter. Prior to McCallum’s arrival with the BC Lions, Lui Passaglia played for 25 years. How would you have liked to be Lui’s apprentice? In a game where superstar careers can be made and finished in as little as five years, kickers break the mold.

Derek Schiavone signed with the Eskimos as a free agent in May of 2008, just 12 months after general manager Danny Maciocia had selected Warren Kean as the second overall selection in the 2007 CFL Draft. Kean, as most Esks fans know, never quite panned out as the kicker Maciocia thought he would be and has bounced around the league for the past few years. Schiavone did enough in camp that year to earn a spot on the practice roster and began what would become a two and half year apprenticeship as the Esks kicker of the future.

In the meantime, 16 year veteran Sean Flemming was calling it a career and the Esks needed someone to handle what had been a pretty reliable position. Kean was supposed to be filling the role, much as Rob Maver is doing in Calgary this year, but that plan was now starting to go out the window. Enter Noel Prefontaine, who the Esks obtained for their first round draft pick in 2009, which was subsequently traded to BC and became linebacker James Yurichuk. Prefontaine, as we all know, was eventually traded back to Toronto this past week for another 2009 first round draft pick, Etienne Legare, who was selected two spots prior to Yurichuk.

Over the past two and half years, Schiavone has been fairly solid when called upon to perform in games, going 13 of 14 on field goal attempts over three seasons. The coaching staff has seems to have been careful not to put him in a situation where he could fail, as he has never been asked to attempt a field goal from outside of 40 yards. His only miss to date in his professional career was on a 30 yard attempt against Montreal in the second game of the year this season. It should be noted that despite his consistency, Schiavone has never made a field goal longer than 39 yards in either his college or professional career.

It’s safe to say that if Schiavone is truly the kicker of the future for the Esks, the time has come for him to stand up and be counted as a player able to be a key contributor. With Prefontaine gone, the Esks will find out if their young kicker is the real deal or not. He’s made positive steps with opportunities he has been given, but will now have to make the leap from prospect to player. Here’s hoping for the best, because Schiavone, through a mix of patience and work ethic, has proved he derserves the chance to succeed in the CFL.

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