Eskimos young-gun quarterback out to shoot holes in the B.C. Lions’ defensive game plan
Reilly showed improvement from his first league game
Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly signals the receivers during a walk-through practice at Commonwealth Stadium on Friday July 12, 2013.
Photograph by: John Lucas
EDMONTON - As the Edmonton Eskimos prepare to welcome the B.C. Lions to Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday night, the focus first goes to the quarterbacks.
Mike Reilly, the Eskimos’ starting quarterback, is in Edmonton because of Travis Lulay, the Lions’ starter. After two-plus seasons of serving as Lulay’s backup, Reilly wanted to play but knew Lulay was a fixture in Vancouver, removable only by injury.
“We’ve had that conversation a number of times,” Reilly told a horde of reporters camped out around his locker stall on Friday afternoon.
“I think we’re both smart guys and, looking at it, we knew only one guy could start and he was the guy that established himself in B.C. My contract was coming to an end there, so I knew I wanted to have the opportunity to go start somewhere else. We had those discussions.”
More than that, the two have a legitimate friendship. They were golf partners when they were teammates and, even this season, they’ve been in constant communication, discussing the defences of the other six Canadian Football League teams and the challenges they present. That conversation, Reilly pointed out, hasn’t happened this week.
But quarterbacks don’t line up against one another on the field. The matchup that matters after the ball is kicked off on Saturday night is Reilly versus the Lions defence, puppeteered by defensive co-ordinator Rich Stubler, whose defence held opposing teams to a CFL-best 295 total yards per game last year.
Success for either side boils down to what the defensive mastermind has cooked up for a guy whom he worked against in practice over the last few seasons.
“You learn a lot about everybody in practice,” Stubler said shortly after the Lions arrived in Edmonton. “He’s in a system now that’s different than the system we’re in, but … Mike’s a great competitor. He’s a guy who takes everything on and has a great time doing it. He’s one of those guys who loves to play the game, whether that’s practice or anything else.”
“Anything I gained as an advantage playing against them for three years, they gained that same advantage on me,” Reilly said. “They know how I like to play. I’m comfortable with their personnel in terms of knowing who plays what position and seeing the guys on the field and being able to locate them pretty easily, but Stubler has a pretty good defensive scheme.
“I know he likes to confuse the quarterback and mix things up and make it difficult.”
Saturday promises to be a big test for Reilly, as he learns how to be a starter in the CFL and goes up against a veteran co-ordinator and an experienced defence.
“(Stubler) is going to change things up,” Reilly said. “He has his tendencies, like every other co-ordinator does, but one thing I learned playing against him every day in practice was that depending on the opponent, they’re changing things up a lot.
“Even watching film of the last couple of weeks and seeing what they did against Toronto and what they did against Calgary, they’re going to do different things against us.”
In prepping for the Eskimos this week, coming off of a win where the Lions held the Argonauts to 16 points, Stubler said Reilly did a great job of recovering from the Week 1 loss against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
“He’s learning his receivers,” said Stubler, who’d spent the 2011 season as the Eskimos’ defensive co-ordinator. “He’s only been here a couple of months and … from his first week to his second week, his improvement was great. He’s a good kid, great kid.”
Stubler figures Reilly will continue to grow throughout this season.
“If he doesn’t (improve weekly), they made a mistake taking him,” he said, laughing. “But I don’t think they did. Mike’s one of those guys that (winning) is important to him and, so if it’s important to him and he has fun, then he’ll be good at it.”
For now, Reilly is focused on the Eskimos’ ability to play on the fly as the twio 1-1 teams are about to clash.
“We have to be able to adapt,” Reilly said. “We have to talk about things on the sidelines and figure out what they’re doing. You have a game plan, but that has to adapt and adjust as the game goes on.”
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