When Injuries Occur

I can hear the groans and complaints already.

“A curse on you Gizzie for even thinking that one of our beloved starters will succumb to an injury this year. The Eskimos are super-human and cannot be fallen!” – Every fan reading this post

No one wants to talk about it, but football is a collision sport, not a contact sport, and in collision sports there are occasionally times where the recipient of a hit probably would have fared better in a car accident. I hate to break the bad news, but sometime during the Green & Gold’s season, a starter will go down with a season ending injury.  It happens every year. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the players that will most likely be serving as back-ups and what they offer the Eskimos. Again, as with most things, these picks are made with certain assumptions being made and are highly debatable. Feel free to post a comment if you disagree.

Quarterback – Jason Maas (projected starter: Ricky Ray)

I know some of you would like to see what Jared Zabransky can do it the league, I watched the Fiesta Bowl as well, but Maas will be the backup for at least one more year. This is not a bad thing. He has a good arm, is a proven leader, and a winner. If the unthinkable happens, the Eskimos offense can still be run with Maas at the controls. At 34-years old, Maas has the veteran experience needed to be an effective game manager. He has a 61% career completion rate and a 1.31 touchdown to interception ratio, more than respectable numbers that can lead the Eskimos offense should Ray be injured. Now let’s all say a quick prayer to the football gods asking that our quarterback be spared.

Running Back – Dennis Kennedy (projected starter: Arkee Whitlock)

Arkee Whitlock was shoved into the spotlight last year when Jesse Lumsden went down with a shoulder injury, and after a rough first game, flourished in the Eskimos offense. So what happens if Whitlock goes down this year? The training camp battle for the second import running back spot will be between Dennis Kennedy and Ramonce Taylor. I’m projecting that Kennedy will be the winner, and he could replace Whitlock in case of injury. Kennedy is a rare combination of both power and strength combined with pretty good speed in a pretty small package. The former high school track star was clocked at 10.8 seconds in the 100 meter dash.  Not world record time, but fast enough. He can also move the pile and turn negative yardage plays into positive ones.

Wide Receiver/Slotback – Andrew Nowacki (projected starters: Fred Stamps, Kamau Peterson, Andre Talbot, Efrem Hill, Rudy Burgess)

Nowacki is a known commodity to Eskimo fans. Entering his seventh CFL season, Nowacki has never broken 50 receptions or 500 yards in a season. He is however fairly dependable, durable, and a player willing to fill whatever role is required from him. His yards per completion average has increased every year he has been in the league, so he has been improving his ability to make plays after the catch. Nowacki also handled holding duties for field goals last year, a position that no one notices until the holder makes a mistake.

Offensive Line – Adam Rogers (projected starters: Joe McGrath, Kyle Koch, Aaron Fiacconi, Patrick Kabongo, Calvin Armstrong)

Entering his second year with the Eskimos, Rogers looks to be the number one back-up along the offensive line. The Eskimos also have Greg Wojt and Gord Hinse, who are both highly regarded prospects. It was Rogers however who dressed for 14 games last year and showed steady improvement. Rogers has good size at six-foot-five, 310-pounds, and the college free agent signing has proven already to be a good investment for the Green & Gold.

Defensive Tackle – Anthony Maddox (projected starters: Dario Romero, Adam Braidwood)

Is it too much of a stretch to think that Adam Braidwood could be a Day 1 starter for the Eskimos? Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but after witnessing how good Braidwood can be, it is exciting to see that he could be back to form in 2010. As I mentioned previously, adding Anthony Maddox to the mix could be a good boost for the defensive line, so if one of the starters goes down, Maddox is a likely replacement. This position however is far from settled, and Maddox might not even make the final 46-man roster, but I needed to find a backup, and judging by the skill set that Maddox brings to the Green & Gold, he is a likely candidate.

Defensive End – Kenneth Pettway (projected starters: Kai Ellis, Greg Peach)

Kenneth Pettway has a chance to start for the Eskimos at defensive end, but for the time being, those spots belong to Kai Ellis and Greg Peach. If he can beat out one of them in camp, all the better. As a first year CFL player, Pettway may need some time to adjust to the wider field, so we’ll leave Ellis and Peach as the starters. Pettway is a relentless pass rusher with a good burst on the outside. If called upon, he should be able to help the Green & Gold reach opposing quarterbacks with some consistency.

Linebacker – Rod Davis (projected starters: Maurice Lloyd, Mark Restelli, Javier Glatt)

Assuming that the Eskimos start Javier Glatt at linebacker, Rod Davis would be the backup. That being said, Davis can start in the CFL if needed.  He is strong in run support and pretty good in coverage as he demonstrated with a couple of interceptions last year. Davis demonstrated excellent versatility last year, filling in on special teams, while starting the season as a second down linebacker who could either rush the quarterback or drop into coverage. He was the first backup last year, so there is no reason to believe he can’t regain that role this season.

Defensive Back -Willie Amos (projected starters: Jason Gose, Chris Thompson, Lenny Walls, T.J.Hill)

Assuming Willie Amos has fully recovered from the shoulder problems he had last year, he should be the Eskimos fifth defensive back. He doesn’t have a lot of experience at defensive back compared to some of his teammates, but showed good potential in his CFL rookie season in 2008 with Winnipeg. Amos has good size for a defensive back, and it will be interesting to see if he can use it to neutralize larger opponents if he is called into action.

Safety – Saleem Borhot (projected starter: Elliot Richardson)

Richardson started in place of an injured Scott Gordon last year, so it’s his job to lose for the moment. Borhot or returning safety Jason Nugent could have a very good training camp and seize the opportunity, but for now Richardson has a leg up on the competition. Eskimos General Manager Danny Machocia expects Borhot to be in the mix in camp, so if he comes ready to play, Borhot could very well be inserted into the lineup should Richardson go down.

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