Archive for July, 2010

Bravo Fans. Bravo Esks.

A look at the stats will be coming later on, but Esks Nation has to salute the efforts of Eskimos fans to be a more involved crowd and to the Eskimos organization for promoting that spirit. A couple of weeks ago, I posted a little summary of fans around the league, and with the exception of Toronto, noted that Eskimos fans were just a little on the quiet side. Earlier this week on Facebook, the Eskimos offered up the following statement to the team’s loyal fans.

—–

Attention Eskimo Empire,

We would like to thank you for your support of our Team and our Players over the past 61 seasons. You have been there for the Green and Gold through victory and defeat and have never lost your passion and loyalty for the Esks.

Eskimo fans of all ages deserve a winning team that excites and in…spires them. Our players in turn will feed off your energy and that will help lift them to greater heights.

We would like to call on our fans to once again stand behind us. When our Defence takes the field, we need your voices to be heard on the field as well. As the 13th Eskimo, You have the power to disrupt the Opposition. When our Offence takes the field, they need to know that you are silently standing with them. At this game, more than any other, we need ALL of our fans to take over Commonwealth Stadium, making it the loudest stadium in Canada. Make them dedicate their false starts and illegal procedure penalties to you, the 13th Eskimo! Line up with us, bring your voice, your horns, your flags and face paint.

Together we will accept nothing less than victory!

—–

*Clapping*

Bravo. Jolly good show. That’s the spirit.

Esks fans were much louder on Friday night than they have been, and it’s up to everyone to keep up the positive momentum. The crowd was louder when the Esks were on defense and showed their true colours despite the rain. Yes, there is room for improvement, but it was great to hear the fans cheering on their team. The Eskimos organization showed what type of fan they want at the game, and I’m sure will continue to to remind us all of the importance of the 13th Eskimo in the future.

As far as improvements go, let’s see if we can even louder this upcoming Friday when the Argonauts come to town in a very important game for the Green & Gold. As for corrections, when the stadium staff ask you to move to concourse during a lighting storm, please kindly follow their requests. They are only looking out for your safety, yet there were a couple of people who looked liked they were almost determined to sit out the storm in the rain. I’ll be blunt to those fans…grow up and act like an adult. And when Kelly Campbell tries to get you all fired up when the Esks offense is facing a third and goal on the one yard line, help out the offensive line and wait until after the touchdown is scored before leaping to your feet.

Small corrections and improvements they are, but Esks fans will most certainly work to be even better for their team in the future.

Great job out there.

GW

Advertisements

Esks Win! Esks Win!

There were 32,281 fans in attendance tonight at Commonwealth, including a healthy contingent of Canada’s finest as it was the Eskimos salute to the military. Not sure how many were left when the final gun sounded as the clouds opened up and poured down on the Esks faithful. It’s tough being an Esks fan sometimes as we seem to always get rained on, and the team has been in the habit of not making the effort worth it in the end. It was nice for those who stuck it out to finally get rewarded for their dedication and support to the Green Gold.

Speaking of the rain, no one that I talked to could ever remember the power going out at Commonwealth like it did. The thunder and lighting show caused a 37 minute delay and probably couldn’t have come at a better time for the Green & Gold. At that point in time, the Esks were down 10-6 and things were not looking promising. A little impromptu halftime later and the Esks were able to come back to the field and start making some positive progress. It was pretty neat to see everyone out of the bleachers and huddled under cover. Definitely a first. Sorry about the picture quality, but you get the idea.

Game Notes

  • A big question prior to the game was how the new additions would affect the roster. Jeremy Parquet, Adam Braidwood, and Roderick Williams were all inserted into the starting lineup and all three made a positive impact.
  • Jason Goss, Skyler Green, Derek Schiavone, and Andre Coleman were the reserve players for the game and did not dress. Taking Goss out of the lineup marked the complete overhaul of the defensive secondary from last year.
  • With Skyler Green still on the sidelines, Jamaica Rector continued to return the bulk of the punts. He averaged 9.7 yards per return, and considering how many times the punts were kicked close to the sidelines, he did a pretty good job to get that average. Makes one wonder if Skyler Green is expendable?
  • In the first quarter, the Esks were dedicated to sticking with the run, almost to a fault, as they managed to only pick up one first down in the opening frame. The result was only 34 passing yards in the first quarter.
  • Interesting stat passed along by a fellow fan. The field goal by Noel Prefontaine on the Esks opening drive is the first time the Esks have managed to get points on their opening possession this year.
  • In the second quarter, the Esks opened up with a couple of nice passing plays, with Ray connecting to Andrew Nowacki for 20 yards followed by Andre Talbot for 25 yards. All of sudden people were talking about how the Esks look like they remembered that they have these guys.
  • Return to form. From the nine yard line Ricky Ray throws a jump ball to Kelly Campbell in the back of the endzone. Just a question. Why throw the jump ball to the five-foot-ten Campbell instead of the six-foot-three Jason Barnes?
  • Okay so it works some of the time as Campbell demonstrated in the third quarter although the Esks slotback had much better separation on that play.
  • Fourth quarter starts and cue the meltdown. Ricky Ray picked off for a touchdown return and then the Esks special teams allow a kickoff return to go all the way to the house. Looks like it was be nice to Davis night (Davis Sanchez and Yonus Davis getting the scores).
  • So the Esks move down the field with a chance to win. Now first and goal usually means a Prefontaine field goal, but Andre Talbot ran an absolutely brilliant route to get wide open in the endzone for a pretty easy touchdown.

The Playmakers

The defense was fantastic tonight with the exception of one or two plays. Chris Thompson recorded two more interceptions to get to five on the season while Kenneth Pettway was disruptive all night long. Two sacks and two forced fumbles represent a pretty decent night, and what didn’t show up on the stats sheet was his ability to constantly get into the Lions backfield and create pressure throughout the game.

The Newbies

During the first quarter I took the time to watch Jeremy Parquet and Adam Braidwood specifically. Parquet was exactly as advertised. Big, strong, mean, road grader. Whatever name you want to use. The Esks need to find a way to keep him in the lineup. As for Braidwood, he only recorded two tackles, but looked like he was playing on pure adrenalin. His motor was stuck in overdrive despite the fact that he was only really playing on first down for most of the game.

The Win

One can keep going on about stats, players and other topics regarding the game, but for now, let’s just enjoy this first win.

Esks Game Day #5

Normally predicting final outcomes is something that is better left to others, but there is something in the air today that smells like an Eskimos victory. Okay, so maybe that’s just the fresh muffins being cooked by the local baker, but at least something smells good.

Everyone is saying that this game is a must win, but isn’t every game? You never know which two points can make the difference between making the playoffs, or watching them on television. Two points earned in July are worth exactly the same as two points earned in October. Teams might tooth and nail for points all year round and the Esks had better realize that their chances are starting to run out. Oh, and it’s not like the BC Lions won’t be equally desperate for the two points tonight at Commonwealth given that they are only one win better than the Esks and that is was against said Esks where those two points were earned.

Esks Advantage?

When  a team is without their starting quarterback, the advantage should shift to the opposing squad. Unless of course that team is the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, whose backup shredded the Eskimos last week enroute to a ridiculously easy victory. Enter Travis Lulay, whose career total of 851 passing yards represents a typical three or four games for the Eskimos Ricky Ray. Lulay is surrounded by a very skilled BC Lions offense, who will undoubtedly do everything they can to take the pressure off of the young quarterback. The Esks should have an advantage here, but as last week proved, backups can win games in the CFL. Add one more point in favour of Lulay, his quarterback rating for the season is ten points higher than Casey Printers efficiency rating.

Running Back Issues

After scorching the Esks defense for 168 yards back on July 4, Lions running back Jamal Robertson has been having trouble moving the ball on the ground as he has gained only 112 yards total in the past three weeks. The Esks have the worst run defense in the league at the moment and it will be important for them to put the brakes on Robertson fairly early in the game.

Pressure on the Quarterbacks

The Lions are tied with Winnipeg for the most sacks in the league with 13, but the pressure that the defensive line is getting on opposing quarterbacks is not helping the secondary get any interceptions. To date the Lions have only picked off two passes, which puts them last in that statistical category. Let’s not forget that the Esks offensive line gave up five sacks in the season opener.

What happens if…

So what happens if the Esks win this game? Is everybody happy? Does life return to normal? If the team drops another game, there is bound to be a few changes in the organization. If they win, can the Esks be satisfied with the two points, or do they continue to make some changes anyway because beating the 1-3 BC Lions does not exactly qualify you as a championship caliber team. Win or lose, there could still be changes on the way.

Details

Friday, July 30th 7:00 PM MST @ Commonwealth Stadium

Weather Forecast: +28, Cloudy Periods

Giving PR Players a Shot

All this talk about changes being made got one Gizzie Willie thinking about the other players on the practice roster who were not activated. If you want a motivated player, look no further than the guys making a couple hundred bucks a week toiling away on the chance that they could one day see themselves on the active roster. Let’s take a look at the players who make up the practice squad and see if any could potentially get in the game any time soon.

Pascal Fils, RB

Possible Replacement For: Calvin McCarty, Mathieu Bertrand, Chris Ciezski

Fils played well in the pre-season but the three players ahead of him are all veteran performers who contribute at a very high level for their respective positions. Although McCarty did have that fumble against Saskatchewan, he bounced back against Winnipeg and was one of the more productive players on offense. If Fils gets a shot, it will be much later in the year.

Daniel Libre, RB

Possible Replacement For: Arkee Whitlock

When looking for Eskimos to blame for the team’s horrendous start to the season, no one should be looking at Whitlock. The Esks feature running back has carried the ball 56 times for 328 yards, good for a 5.9 yards per carry average. He’s scored three touchdowns and has yet to put the ball on the ground. Although it would be interesting to see what Libre can bring to the offense, don’t count on the Esks sitting down Whitlock unless he gets injured.

Tyler Scott, WR

Possible Replacement For: Andre Nowacki

With Scott signing on just a couple of days ago, there is no way that he can be ready to jump into the lineup for at least another week. Although throwing a player in before he has had a chance to learn every single detail of the playbook can sometimes be beneficial, turning him loose without the basics is asking for trouble.

Adam Rogers, G

Possible Replacement For: Kyle Koch

Rogers has managed to draw onto the active roster for the first game of the season before being on the reserve list for the next two. Rogers is a prospect that could have a long term future with the club if he continues to develop. Inserting him into the lineup at this point would probably do more harm than good.

Will Harris, LB

Possible Replacement For: Rod Davis, TJ Hill, Lawrence Gordon

Harris has only been in town for about a week, so throwing him into a game without having much time to digest the defensive playbook might be a little difficult. That being said, maybe this is exactly why he should be inserted into the lineup. He can’t over think the game and might just go out there and play the game. Players can sometimes get a little to focused on playing within the system and forget to let their instincts work for them.

Justin Brown, DT

Possible Replacement For: Adam Braidwood, Dee Sterling, Andre Coleman

Considering that Brown just came out of the lineup gives a pretty good indication that the coaches are looking for something more than what the defensive tackle was bringing to the table. Brown needs to get a little nastier in practice and work his way back into the lineup, otherwise, if Adam Braidwood is ready to go, the Esks might look to replace Brown on the practice roster with another area of need.

We have all the talent, but we suck.

We have all the talent, but we suck. – Maurice Lloyd, July 27, 2010

The above quote is refreshing because finally after weeks of the same old “we can’t change the past, we just need to look ahead to the future” type quotes, where no one wanted to say anything that might show a little bit of emotion, the Esks defensive leader stood up and spoke out about the team’s performance in the 2010 season. There were hints that things were not as they should be in the Eskimos dressing room which were touched on last week, and comments were made about the importance of having players with fire and passionmake some noise. Fans have been waiting to see if this team had a pulse, especially after the embarrassing performance that was displayed last weekend in Winnipeg. We won’t be dissecting everything Maurice Lloyd had to say to the media on Tuesday, but here are a couple of interesting tidbits that stood out.

“Everytime we get down, we stay down.”

“There’s a lack of unity.”

“Either win or go home. There’s no other way to say it, you can’t sugar coat it.”

“A couple people need to go visit the wizard, I don’t know if they need to find their mind, they need to find some heart, they need to find a brain, some people need to find courage, but a lot of people need to go visit the wizard. Offense, defense, and special teams.”

Of course as the old saying goes, talk is cheap, but at least we are witnessing leaders within the organization getting emotional about the situation with team president and CEO Rick LeLacheur voicing his displeasure earlier in the week followed by Lloyd on Tuesday. The mention of a lack of unity in the dressing room, as well as the need for individual players that need to find either a heart, brain, or courage, is a little unnerving. That being said, winning cures everything.

A team is only as good as its weakest player, but it can be argued that your best players have to be your best players as well for a team to be successful long term. Despite decent stats from players like Lloyd, Fred Stamps, Kelly Campbell, and Chris Thompson, these players and others need to be better. Recognizing that and taking action is the only way that the Esks will avoid further losses that could eventually see the season come to a premature end. As Lloyd put it, with apologies to the PG-13 crowd, it’s time to…

“Shut the hell up and play ball.”

CFL Roundup 12.0

Dual Ownership

Doug Farrar of Shutdown Corner touched on the unique circumstance where David Braley owns two teams in the same league in a post this past week. The question is whether this is good for the CFL or not? The CFL is a unique league, because no one is getting rich the way that players and owners in the NFL are making money hand over fist. It has a more grass roots feel to it where players are essentially just regular members of the community. They don’t live in gated communities and complain how they are not “getting paid” a year into a three year deal. They have mortgages and car payments just like most of the fans in the stands.

This is precisely why the ownership of two CFL teams by one individual can work. The league is financially viable, but a work stoppage or the loss of another franchise would certainly undermine all the hard work that has been put in by countless individuals to make the CFL as successful as it has become. If Jerry Jones went out and bought another team in the NFL, it might not work so well.

Revisiting Canadian Quarterbacks

Danny Brannagan’s success at making the practice roster of the Toronto Argonauts probably made more headlines than the battle for the starter’s job in Ontario’s capital. It’s a topic that has been revisited by Mario Annicchiarico in a three part series that he wrote for the Edmonton Journal. It’s an interesting topic for many reasons, but the overwhelming one that seems to be driving motivator among those following the storyline is the hope that a face of the franchise could eventually be a Canadian one in the CFL. With the exception of perhaps Andy Fantuz in Saskatchewan, every team’s marquee marketing players are imports.

Which brings us back to Brannagan, who is current leading contender to make the jump to being a non-import quarterback on a CFL roster. The Queen’s University product is still taking it all in on the practice roster and until there is an injury to one of the three active quarterbacks, it’s doubtful that this will change.

Below is a little highlight video from when Brannagan and Erik Glavic met in the 2009 Vanier Cup. The quality is pretty average, but you get a good idea of how good the best that Canada has to offer can be.

Catching up with Eskimos past

For those of you who roam the world of Twitter, Ronald “Goldie” McClendon has an account and posts quite regularly. Sounds like he is keeping busy and staying in shape.

Lost Draft Pick for the BC Lions

With the fourth overall selection in the 2010 CFL Draft, the BC Lions selected Danny Watkins, an offensive lineman from Kelowna, BC who currently plays for Baylor University in Waco, Texas. A recent article suggests that Watkins has a pretty good shot at making a living in the NFL, which demonstrates one of the perils of highly touted prospects eligible for the CFL. There are currently only four of the seven players taken in the first round on CFL rosters with Watkins, along with Toronto draft pick Cory Greenwood and Edmonton prospect Brian Bulcke still playing football south of the border.

The boss has spoken. Will the players respond?

Now I’m sure that Rick LeLacheur might not go the extremes used by Al Capone to get the message across that individual achievement means nothing without the success of the team, but you can bet that changes will be made if the Esks don’t turn things around in a hurry. LeLacheur left no one in doubt that everyone in the organization is on the hot seat to be better and that if the results don’t start coming, jobs will be lost.

Here are a couple of choice quotes by the CEO.

“The game on Saturday was a total embarrassment; an embarrassment to the players, coaches and management. It’s just not acceptable,”

“Winning is the only thing.”

“We went through a lot of things with football operations. The coach’s job is to prepare the game plan and prepare the team for practice and get ready to play. The players’ job is to come to work, starting on Day 1 and be prepared to play when that ball is kicked off.

“Clearly, on Saturday, we were not ready to play. That first quarter was a total embarrassment.”

“Let me put it this way: There is nobody in this organization that is untouchable.”

Pretty tough talk from the guy at the top, and we here at Esks Nation have no doubt that he will follow through on shaking things up if he doesn’t see more positive results over the next couple of weeks.

Message Received by Coaches

The coaching staff made a few roster adjustments this morning at practice. Most of the moves were made due to injury, but there were more than enough of them to probably ruffle a few feathers. On the defensive side of the ball, Larry Birdine, Adam Braidwood, Jason Nugent, and Roderick Williams are in while Kai Ellis, Justin Brown, Jason Goss, and Saleem Borhot are out. Ellis and Borhot are both out with injuries. On special teams, Mathieu Bertrand was not on the field with Corbin Sharun taking his place.

Along the offensive line, one has to wonder if the Esks might go with two imports and add Jeremy Parquet to the starting rotation. The team could use a shot of toughness and willingness to get downright mean and Parquet could provide the answer. Whoever comes into the lineup, at least changes are being considered and wake-up calls are being sent.

Will the Players Step Up?

It wouldn’t hurt for some of the Eskimos players to get a little rowdy at practice. A scrap on the practice field would at least show that someone cares. One hates to say it, but fans are looking for someone in the locker room to grow a proverbial set and start making his teammates become accountable. Apart from players getting testy with each other, the only way to measure this will be to look at the score clock in Commonwealth at about 10:15 PM this Friday.  If the Esks fail to outscore their opponent, chances are that some may be sent packing.