Archive for September, 2010

Evolution of the Esks Football Helmet

Decided to have a little fun today and see what was out there for photos of Esks helmets over the years. The basic look hasn’t changed, although the face-mask being sported by Ricky Ray is a lot different than the one worn by Tom Wilkinson back in the 70s. Nothing serious, just a neat look back to the past.

Ricky Ray sporting the dark, modern face-mask.

Tracy Ham has the white bars on his mask.

Warren Moon with the big bar face-mask.

Wilkie sporting the single bar.

Jackie Parker came from a different era and sported a much different lid.

Not sure if that Jackie Parker photo was with the Esks or not, as finding detailed jersey info from that far back was a little challenging. If it’s not, let me know. Just thought it would be a fun way to look at the past. Not a lot has changed over the past 30 odd years in terms of looks, but it’s still neat to see the differences.

CFL Roundup 21.0

Touchdown Atlantic Fall-out

The first regular season game to be played in Moncton was a huge success at every level and as such, provoked debate on the future of CFL football in the Maritime provinces. The immediate impact appears to be that an annual football festival featuring two of the league’s teams in regular season action is all but a given. Expanding the CFL brand seems to have become a trademark of the Mark Cohon era, and although he won’t come out and say, expanding to a 10 team league with franchises from coast to coast must surely be on his mind.

With the Ottawa fanchise coming on board in 2013, it doesn’t take a Fields Medalwinner to know that a nine team league is just asking for a scheduling nightmare. Moncton’s current stadium facility is inadequate to host a CFL team, but the $70 million face-lift being suggested is a relatively cheap investment as stadiums go. In Regina, talks are underway to build a new $350 million building, so coming up 20% of that figure for improvements in Moncton shouldn’t be that difficult.

Weird Tweets

As more and more people connect via Twitter, there are more and more opportunities for some weird information to be put out there on the interweb. Take for example the tweet sent out my Riders wide receiver Jason Clermont.

Okay, so what looks like flight itinerary is actually supposed to be some type of code for Rider Nation. Flight 007 refers to import Weston Dressler while 682-8389, when broken down gives 6-82-83-89 or in Rider speak Bagg-Clermont-Fantuz-Getzlaf. Weird but cool, which is saying something for Saskatchewan.

The following from Geroy Simon was a little bit easier to decipher.

No word on if it was all in the air or if his son struck the trademark “Simon Stance” to celebrate.

Burris Pictures

Not sure how to word this one, but if you want to see some interesting photos of Burris sporting some extra padding, check out this article on the 55 Yard Line blog. The 55 Yard Line has been a welcome addition to the blogging community and for who haven’t added it to your daily read, I would highly recommend doing so.

History Lesson

Last year, after 12 games played in the CFL season, Montreal, Hamilton, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatchewan, and BC were all in a playoff position with Winnipeg and Toronto on the outside looking in. Analysts always talk about the importance of the stretch drive, but if recent history means anything, than we can expect Edmonton and Winnipeg to be sitting at home when the post-season begins.

Golden Bears lose for second week in a row

The U of A Golden Bears have come back to the middle of the pack after losing to Saskatchewan 33-9this past weekend. Saskatchewan jumped out to an early lead and never looked back in this one. It’s interesting to note that heralded defensive end Craig Gerbrandt, who accumulated 10 sacks last year, has only one in the first four games of the season. Linebacker Tyler Greenslade leads the team with 37 tackles and 3.5 sacks on the year.

12 Down – 6 Up

 If it’s true that the CFL season is broken down into thirds, than the Esks have, despite their overall atrocious 3-9 record, are making steps in the right direction. Slowly but surely, improvements have been made, but it’s only when you look back at the first two thirds, followed by a look ahead, can one easily spot the differences. 

The team was 1-5 after their first six games. Things were bad in Edmonton as the team had just fired Danny Maciocia and several untimely injuries had left the Esks in a bit of a lurch. It was after that Week 6 loss where we penned the following article contemplating how long the season might get for Esks fans.

The Esks, however, started to improve in the second third of the season. Sure they were killed in the three games against Calgary, but the team managed to scrape together two more victories against Saskatchewan and Toronto. Certainly not the CFL’s finest, hence the three losses to Calgary and the defeat in Montreal, but impressive enough victories against some of the league’s second tier teams.

Which brings us to the final six games of the 2010 regular season. The Esks will play a home-and-home series against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats followed by a trip to the west coast where they will take on the BC Lions. Following that, they will play their final two home dates against Saskatchewan and Winnipeg before wrapping up the season in Regina on November 6th.

With the exception of Hamilton, who they have yet to play this year, the Esks have lost to all three of the other teams that they will play. Of course, for those who like the view the world from the other side of the room, the Esks have also beaten two of those three teams with the loss to Winnipeg occurring on the road. What does that spell for the Esks? Well, it depends on how you look at things.

Win #1

Hamilton is a 6-6 team because they have been wildly inconsistent this year. They have won three games at home and three on the road with an equal number of losses assigned to both venues. They’ve put up big numbers one week, only to put on a putrid display the next. The Esks should have their number in at least one of the game given the Ticats season record, so that’s win number one of the final third of the season.

Win #2

The BC Lions, like the Esks, are an improving football team. They shocked the world last week by beating Calgary and now control their own destiny as far as the playoffs are concerned. That being said, if the Esks can beat the Lions, they will control their own playoff destiny. Playing an important game should always bring out the best in a team, and the Esks have the last win in the season series. This could very well be win number two.

Win #3

We’ll leave the Saskatchewan games for the end. Winnipeg presents an interesting opportunity for the Esks as the Bombers whipped the Esks in Winnipeg back in Week 4. The Blue Bombers, however, are terrible on the road this year going 0-6 to start the season. If the Esks can work that home field advantage in their favor, it could very well be win number three.

Win #4

The Saskatchewan Roughriders have yet to beat the Esks this season. No, I’m not forgetting the loss in Regina on July 17th, but it can be argued that the Esks beat themselves that fateful afternoon. Key fumbles by Calvin McCarty and Fred Stamps were enough to undo what was otherwise a pretty good game by the Green & Gold. If the Esks can limit their turnovers in one of the two games against the Riders, they could post a similar result to what they achieved on August 28th. Splitting the season series with the Riders would mean win number four.

Really???

Yes they can! Even though the Esks enter the final six weeks of the season with only three wins, they could very well win four of their final six games. The defense will have to play outstanding and create turnovers, while the offense will have to put up at least a few points. Keep in mind that in their three victories this year, the Esks have picked off 11 wayward balls from opposing quarterbacks. When you look at those numbers, and combine them with their opponents, the Esks should have a chance at winning four games.

Party in Moncton!

Esks win! Esks win! It’s time to really party in Moncton! Okay, so the picture above does not exactly shout “Party like you’re in Vegas”, but it would be a lot of fun to be celebrating with those in attendance.

Big Plays

From Rod Davis’ 74-yard interception return to Calvin McCarty breaking loose and going 46-yards on his first touchdown, the Esks were making big plays. Throw in interceptions by Chris Thompson, Jason Goss, and TJ Hill, and you have the makings of a fantastic defensive effort. All of these plays, when put together, allowed the Esks to win their third game of the season. It wasn’t just one player that stepped up and contributed with a super-human effort, it was the whole team. That being said, there was one Eskimo who did step up just a little more noticeably than the rest of the team.

Richardson’s Big Day

Two interceptions, a forced fumble, and four tackles are a pretty good stat line for any player. The fact that it was Elliott Richardson, a graduate of Acadia University located right down the road in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, that was involved to the degree that he was, is a great story for the first CFL game in Atlantic Canada. Safety has been a position that fans have looked at with some concern this year, but having a guy like Richardson back there with the potential to make plays like he did, certainly has to have warmed the hearts of Esks fans from coast to coast.

Winning the turnover battle

Ricky Ray threw one pick, and Brad Lester put a ball on the turf, compared to the Argos, it was kind of hard to remember that the Esks even turned over the football. Four interceptions by Cleo Lemon, coupled with a pick each by Reggie McNeal and Dalton Bell, certainly will increase the defense’s ranking in the turnover department this week. Add in the fumble lost by Matt Black and the Esks created seven turnovers! When a team creates that amount of opportunity for themselves, they will most likely win the football game.

Standings Race

This game was vital for the Esks if they wanted to stay in the playoff race. Win, and they keep pace with Winnipeg to prevent the crossover and are still two points back of the BC Lions for the final spot in the West. Lose and they can pretty much kiss the season goodbye. Sure they ahve six games left, but teams are getting better with new players coming back from the NFL and chemistry being developed by those on teams that struggled in the first two-thirds of the season. This was a big win for the Esks.

Esks Game Day #12

Rise and shine Esks fans! Touchdown Atlantic is here. Won’t lie, this getting up really early (for a Sunday) to watch football is rather confusing. There just simply isn’t any time to properly prepare. So, we’ll make this one short.

Go Esks Go!

Now go make yourself some breakfast and settle in for the game. I have a good feeling about this one. Could we really see the Esks third win of the season today? Here’s hoping, especially with the BC Lions winning against Calgary last night (what’s up with that????) and Winnipeg losing to Montreal, the Esks need this win if they want to make the playoffs. I know, playoffs!?!?! It’s hard to believe, but they can still make it, and then it takes a couple of lucky bounces and a few good efforts to get into the Grey Cup.

Okay…It’s still early and I might still be asleep.

Time to watch the game folks.

Can the Esks beat the Argos?

Many around the city of Edmonton have been predicting an Eskimos win this weekend when the Green & Gold take on the Toronto Argonauts in the Scotiabank Touchdown Atlantic game in Moncton. Why so much optimism? It’s a good question, although a combination of the Argos uninspiring win last week and the absence of running back Cory Boyd are probably factors that most people are considering when making such bold statements. Let’s not forget that Edmonton is 2-9 for a reason, just as the Argos are 6-5 for a reason. Make no mistake about it, Toronto is a good football club this year, and getting a victory against them won’t be an easy task.

That being said, 6-5 is not 9-2, or even 8-3, as have been the Esks past two opponents. The Argos are a good team, but they have several weaknesses that can be exposed. Here are a couple that the Esks will need to focus on if they want to win the first CFL regular season game played in Moncton.

1. No Boyd = No offense

Without Cory Boyd in the lineup, Toronto’s offense just doesn’t click. The team ranks seventh in the CFL in scoring, averaging just 21.5 points a game. The Argos have the fewest passing yards in the league as they have largely depended on Boyd to produce in the running game to keep them going. With their star running back continuing to recover from a concussion, the Argos are now without the “pop” in their pop-gun offense.

2. Ray could have a very big day

Toronto has the worst pass defense in the CFL, giving up an average of 311.8 yards per game through the air. Apart from not being able to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks – the Argos are second last in sacks generated this year – the play of their defensive backs has allowed almost every quarterback in the CFL to take the field and pretend that they are Anthony Calvillo. In the Esks loss to the Argos back in August, Ricky Ray managed to put up 274 on 24 completions.

3. Fumblitis

Putting the ball on the turf an average of 2.5 times per game is enough to drive any coach crazy over the course of a season. That is exactly the amount averaged by the Argos who seem to think that ball security means locking the equipment room after practice. The Esks defence needs to be going for the football every time that they tackle an Argo on Sunday because sooner or later, a fumble will occur.

Can the Esks really win?

When you look at the three points mentioned above, it’s a wonder that Toronto has a record as good as they do. Do you want the answer to why the Boatmen have been winning? Chad Owens. The dynamic returner/offensive rover has proven to be extremely dangerous when he gets the ball with space to maneuver. If the Esks special teams can put the brakes on the former University of Hawaii standout, and if the rest of the team can capitalize on some of Toronto’s very apparent weaknesses, the Esks have a very legitimate chance of flying home from Moncton with a win under their belts. The last game between the two teams was a one-point affair. With Boyd out, the Esks should be able to win.

Taking a look at the Esks Canadian Talent



A comment was made by an executive from another CFL team a couple of weeks ago that the Esks have the worst bunch of Canadian players in the league. As part of a 2-9 team, there may be a valid point when speaking about what should be a key component to the team. Blanket statements aside, looking at the players individually might point out some weaknesses and, dare we say, strengths of this group of players. Incoming GM Eric Tillman has identified this as his number one priority in rebuilding the football team.

Gamers

The Gamers group are players who have shown that they can compete in the CFL and contribute on a regular basis over the past two seasons.

Calvin McCarty (RB) – One of the better Canadian running backs in the CFL when healthy. Key in that phrase would be the word “healthy”. For the second straight season, McCarty has struggled to stay healthy and has been inconsistent in his performance on the field. That being said, he’s still a pretty valuable member of the team.

Andre Talbot (SB) – One of the few non-imports that has played well this season. The problem with Talbot is that the Eskimos offense hasn’t kept him involved enough.

Elliott Richardson (S) – Tough break early in the year put the starting safety on the nine-game IR. He played well when forced into action as a starting safety during his rookie campaign, and if given the chance to develop, should be a consistent performer for Esks for years to come. Hits like a truck.

Tim St.Pierre (LS/LB) – Is it fair to call St.Pierre the Esks “Charlie Hustle”? He works hard to make plays when he is on the field and has done a pretty decent job as the team’s long-snapper this year.

Noel Prefontaine (K/P) – Clutch. All you need to say about Prefontaine who continues to consistently perform when called upon.

Injured

These are players who have been struggling this year with injuries. Fair or not, it could spell the end of their time with the Esks.

Chris Ciezki (FB) – Special teams standout has battled injuries and inconsistentcy this year. In eight games, he only managed two special teams tackles this year.

Graeme Bell (FB) – Injuries have kept him from being active on game days. Appearing in only three games this year, Bell is a good back-up and special teams player, but probably won’t ever be a starter.

Kamau Peterson (SB) – An achilles injury has kept KP8 on the sidelines this year. He will turn 33 years old during next season and the combination of age and injury may mean the end of his career with the Esks.

Prospects

These guys could play a huge part in the future of the Esks. Some will turn out to be good CFL starters while others will be revealed as suspects who will move on.

Pacal Fils (RB) – In his rookie season and probably still adjusting to the league. Fils value is down the line, as a complementary back to McCarty so grading him on limited action does not make much sense.

Tyler Scott (WR) – Practice roster player who has been pressed into active duty due to injuries to Peterson and Talbot. He’s a backup that can play special teams, but there probably isn’t a long term future for him here in Edmonton.

Nate Binder (WR) – Binder is an interesting prospect as a fourth round draft pick of the BC Lions this past spring but was released midway through training camp. Might be worth developing over the rest of season and seeing what he can do during next year’s training camp.

Brad Smith (SB) – Smith looked pretty good in training camp, and could be a pretty good receiver down the road. That being said, the fourth year CFL veteran is getting towards the end of his tenure as a prospect and will need to take his game to the next level soon.

Gord Hinse (C) – Hinse needs to be a starter down the road. The Esks can be patient with him for the time being, but sooner or later, he will need to become a starter.

Adam Rogers (G) – A development prospect who might never rise above being a back-up.

Greg Wojt (T) – Wojt has been thrust into the starting lineup after the organization decided to part ways with both Joe McGrath and Calvin Armstrong. The rest of the 2010 season will be his audition as a potential long-term solution at right tackle.

Saleem Borhot (S) – Starting safety of the future? Perhaps. Borhot, however, has been battling injuries since the day he showed up in camp. It will be interesting to see what he can do when he starts a season healthy.

Corbin Sharun (S) – Sharun has to be one of the hardest workers on the team just to stay on the roster. He’s been making plays on special teams, and will probably be a depth non-import for at least a couple of years. It will be interesting to see how he develops and if he can expand his role on the team.

Dee Sterling (DT) – Sterling has done well as a back-up along the interior defensive line, accumulating nine tackles and a couple of sacks. Could be an eventual starter.

Neil Puffer (LS) – Kept as a replacement to veteran Taylor Inglis, has rotated between the active roster and practice squad most of the season.

Derek Schiavone (K/P) – Patiently waiting for his turn to assume the starting kicking role on the Esks.

Offensive line

The Esks offensive line was pretty good in 2009, placing second in the league in sacks against behind only Montreal. 2010 has not produced the same results, although the team started with the same players that they finished with last year.

Aaron Ficconi (C) – Fiacconi is a competitor who brings a strong effort every game. The Esks missed him in the first game of the season when he was out with an injury.

Kelly Bates (G) – Brought in as a short term fix to add depth along the interior line. Might be here next year and he might not be. Will be 36-years old next July.

Kyle Koch (G) – Koch is an interesting player because of his age. He’s only 25-years old, and should be part of the Esks offensive line for a long-time to come, but is also part of the reason why Ricky Ray has been spending a lot time on his back.

Patrick Kabongo (G) – He has to be better. A former CFL All-Star has been a shadow of the player he was last year. He’s stil a valuable member of the line, but needs to be better.

Others

Don’t fit into any of the other categories, which or may not be a good thing. Each has questions about their long-term future with the team and five of the six have starting ability for the Esks. That being said, being a starter on a 2-9 team does not mean much.

Mathieu Bertrand (FB) – Needs to provide more if possible. Bertrand is far and away the best fullback on the roster, but is that enough?

Andrew Nowacki (WR) – Went how many weeks without catching a pass to start the season? He’s shown he can make catches, but why isn’t he targeted more? Is it Nowacki, or the scheme being implemented by offensive coordinator Kevin Strasser.

Jason Nugent (S) – As filled in admirably when called upon, but lacks the speed and instincts to be a starter. He contributes on special teams, but is third on the depth chart behind Richardon and Borhot.

Javier Glatt (LB) – Veteran off-season addition has been steady, and has filled in as a starter when the Esks have needed to balance their ratio. One has to wonder if he has a long term future with the Green & Gold? He works on special teams, but has reached the ceiling of his ability.

Justin Cooper (DE) – Cooper has only been in the league for three years, so one might still want to think of him as a prospect, but at 28-years old, he’s at the point where he either needs to have a defined role, or be replaced by a younger prospect with a higher upside.

Adam Braidwood (DT) – Braidwood was outstanding in his first two years in the league. After two years without playing a down, he’s still working off the rust and making the adjustment to playing on the inside of the defensive line. With Brian Bulcke potentially on the way next year, one of him or Sterling might need to eventually take a back seat.