Roster Review: Offensive Line

After a couple of years of development and turnover, the Eskimos offensive line once again looks more like the picture above and less like the tonka truck version I passed over. These guys are big, mean, and willing to pound on opposing defences.  And the great thing is, they are just reaching their prime. Built on the backs of almost solely Canadian talent, the Eskimos offensive line has almost made the complete transition from glaring weakness to strength of the team.

What the coaches might be looking for.

With the bulk of the starters all hovering around the 30-year-old mark, the development of the next generation is something that will be identified as a need for the organization. Don’t get me wrong, the veterans are a long way from being put out to pasture, however football is a collision sport where injuries do occur and things can get nasty in the trenches. Having good organizational depth not only allows a team to fill in if there are injuries, but also allows for more substituting, thereby preventing injuries as well.

Current Roster.

Calvin Armstrong. The sole import along the line has anchored the right tackle position for the past two years and has been a star in the making. After two years of starting in the league, Armstrong is set to have that all important breakout year where he takes his game to the next level. At 6’7″ and 320 lbs, Armstrong is built to not only open running lanes, but has the size to work in space and keep the outside rush from getting to the quarterback.

Joe McGrath. Anchoring the most important position along the line, Ricky Ray’s blindside protector, McGrath is best described as a reliable veteran. He is no longer as outstanding as he was in 2006 and 2007, but certainly gets the job done and keeps Ricky Ray mostly standing upright.

Patrick Kabongo. Slotting in at right guard, Kabongo has developed nicely since being acquired in 2004. He was considered a developmental prospect with excellent talent, but no one was sure if he would be motivated to reach his potential as an offensive lineman after playing on the defensive side of the ball in college. 2009 Outstanding Lineman nominee and Outstanding Canadian nominee for the Eskimos. I guess the questions have been answered. Along with Armstrong, look for the right side of the offensive line to dominate this year.

Kyle Koch. If Kyle Koch is the sometimes forgotten man on the Eskimos offensive line, he shouldn’t be. The left guard started all 18 games in 2009 and was somewhat of a revelation. Being surrounded by a talented line certainly didn’t hurt the third year pro, but Koch not only held his own, but showed great promise for the future.

Aaron Fiacconi. After completing his first full season at centre after joining the Eskimos three years ago, it’s expected that much like his line mates, Fiacconi will only get better in 2010. The relationship between the quarterback and his centre is an important one as nearly every offensive play has to go through both of those guys.  The more they are in sync with each other, the better they can perform.

Adam Rogers. Rogers completed his first professional season in 2009 and dressed for 14 regular season games as well as the Western Semi-Final. He is one of three developmental prospects on the roster when it comes to offensive linemen as well as the only real depth the organization has beyond the starting five. It’s expected that Rogers will play guard when he becomes a full-time starter in the league.

Greg Wojt: Greg Wojt’s professional career path is pretty similar to Adam Rogers in that he just completed his first pro season, except that he only made it into two games last year. A little undersized to be a tackle in the CFL at 285 lbs, Wojt will need to work hard to convince the Eskimos that he is a prospect worth keeping.

Gord Hinse. Another first year pro, Hinse dressed as a back-up for 8 games last year. A product of the University of Alberta Golden Bears, Hinse demonstrated why the Eskimos made him their 2nd round selection in the CFL Draft last year.

Changes???

You better hope not.  Not only was the offensive line greatly improved last year, but they were remarkably healthy. If a repeat performance can be given, and the three prospects improve as they should, the Eskimos have nothing to worry about when it comes to the offensive line.  I’m sure Ricky Ray is hoping for that.

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