Roster Review: Running Back

Continuing with our Roster Review series, Running Back was a little bit of an odd position for the Eskimos in 2009 as they started out the season with an all Canadian tandem, which quickly changed to featuring an import that had a disastrous first appearance.  For a team that has lacked consistency at the position for a number of years, it was important to find the feature back that would allow the Eskimos to establish a potent running attack in the hopes of giving their all-star quarterback half a chance to succeed without defences simply pinning their ears back and letting loose on the passing game because the running game was not a threat.

What the coaches might be looking for.

Health. Jesse Lumsden was lost for the season in the first quarter of the home opener last year to yet another shoulder injury. This forced the organization to bring back training camp cut, Arkee Whitlock, to fill the void.  What should be noted about this move was that it was replacing a non-import with an import, which of course ment that another position where the team had decided to go with an import player, had to find a suitable Canadian to fill another spot in the line-up. Having healthy backs through the season is something the Eskimos need, which brings about a bunch of different questions regarding personnel for the running back position for the upcoming season.

Current Roster.

Jesse Lumsden. The all-Canadian golden boy has unfortunately been in more press clippings for his activities in the training room and on the Canadian bobsled team than for his exploits on the turf. Lumsden is a talented runner that can play the power-back game when healthy. Although he is reported to be recovering from the shoulder problems of the past, the organization might decide to take a pass on Lumsden coming out of training camp if there is even the slightest doubt about his ability to stay healthy for even a portion of the season. Yes, running backs certainly take a pounding in professional football, and injuries due occur, but there comes a time where if an athlete is prone to always getting hurt, it might be in the team’s best interest to move on.

Arkee Whitlock. After getting cut at the end of training camp and put on the reserve list, Whitlock was brought back to the active roster after the Lumsden injury for the team’s second game. And what a game it was. Whitlock could not squeeze the football and cost the Eskimos more than a few points. Coach Ritchie Hall however had confidence that Whitlock could still be a viable option and Whitlock played very well for the balance of the season collecting over 1,200 yards on the ground with a very respectable 6.3 yards per carry (YPC)  average. He also scored 12 touchdowns and should figure prominently into the Eskimos rushing attack for the 2010 season.

Calvin McCarty. Those who are true fans of the game can respect the value of a player like McCarty. A non-import who lined up as a running back, fullback, and tight end on offense, not to mention his contributions on the Eskimos special teams, McCarty could have a very bright future with the Green & Gold. He had modest stats on the season (67 carries, 348 yards, 5.2 average YPC, 5 TDs) as a back carrying the ball, yet combined with his receiving stats, it was still a productive season. McCarty has a tendancy to make great plays when the team really needs someone to make a difference on the field.  It wasn’t always a big play, but rather the type that makes a difference when you reflect back on a game and how it was one. It’s sufficient to say that McCarty earns his pay cheque.

Ramonce Taylor: Signed to the Eskimos practice roster in October of 2009, Taylor never saw active duty last season. The University of Texas product has had what can only be described as a difficult football career. He was dismissed from Texas after two seasons due to academic and legal troubles. From there he had stops in the Arena Football League and on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers practice squad before landing with the Eskimos. The one upside to Taylor is that he does possess some talent as he scored 15 touchdowns in Texas’ BCS Championship season of 2005.

Changes???

It should be a lock that McCarty and Whitlock will be back. They both were dangerous weapons last year and there is no reason to suspect that they won’t be even better this year. As for Lumsden, a lot will depend on what the doctors have to say and how he holds up during training camp and the exhibition season.  A Canadian running back with talent is hard to find and the Eskimos will give Lumsden all the opportunity in the world to come back and play a meaningful part of the 2010 team.  However if there is the slightest doubt in his health, the Green & Gold will probably choose to walk away from Lumsden. Taylor will most likely be in camp to compete for a roster spot, however the team will probably sign a few more running backs to bring to camp in the hopes of finding another gem like Whitlock that can make a positive difference in the running game. Looking ahead, at the start of the season, it would not be surprising to see both Lumsden and Taylor on the outside looking in.

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