MacKinnon: Eskimos generate enough offence, but scrimp on points

 

Injuries, position changes hurt unit’s continuity

 
 
 
 
Edmonton Eskimos slotback Adarius Bowman makes a catch during Thursday’s walk-through practice at Commonwealth Stadium.
 
 

Edmonton Eskimos slotback Adarius Bowman makes a catch during Thursday’s walk-through practice at Commonwealth Stadium.

Photograph by: Ed Kaiser, Edmonton Journal

EDMONTON - Jack Nicklaus once said of the late George Knudson that he was “a guy with a million dollar golf swing and a 10-cent putting stroke.”

Tee-to-green, Knudson, with his butter-smooth swing, was among the best in pro golf. On the putting surface? Well, he was good enough to win eight PGA events and 27 pro events in all. He was good enough to be runner-up at the 1969 Masters, to win the Tucson and Phoenix Opens back-to-back in 1968, and much else.

Still, his fans wondered, imagine what Knudson might have accomplished had he honed his putting stroke the way he meticulously fine-tuned his sublime swing?

This comes to mind with the Edmonton Eskimos facing the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at 7 p.m. Friday at Commonwealth Stadium in a battle of CFL heavyweights, both boasting dominant defences and 5-2 records.

You might say the Eskimos have a million-dollar defence, leading the CFL as it is in myriad categories, including fewest points allowed (101) and most quarterback sacks (27), to cite just two.

The Eskimos, 3-0 at home, have not allowed a single opposition touchdown drive in the last 49 possessions at Commonwealth Stadium.

And Edmonton’s offence? It is not leading the league in myriad categories.

It’s not that the Eskimos are suffering. Their roster remains freighted with elite offensive talent. But imagine what they might do if the offence ...

“It’s really frustrating because we have a lot of playmakers on this team,” said second-year slotback and return man Kendial Lawrence, whose 1,075 all-purpose yards leads the CFL. “We generate a lot of offence, but we really should be generating more points on offence.”

The easy diagnosis, undeniably true, is that injuries have riddled the offence. This has forced changes on the offensive line, at running back and, of course, at quarterback, with No. 1 man Mike Reilly still rehabbing the knee injury he suffered in the team’s season-opening game, a 26-11 loss to the Toronto Argonauts at Fort McMurray.

A quick scan of the injured list finds offensive linemen Alexander Krausnick, Simeon Rottier and Greg Wojt, along with running back John White (lost for the season owing to an Achilles tendon injury). Reliable Canadian receivers Nate Coehoorn (shoulder) and Shamawd Chambers (knee) are sidelined.

One could make a strong case that the Eskimos offence has done remarkably well in light of all the nicks and scratches. Not that head coach Chris Jones is one to make excuses.

“You know what? We don’t worry about it, No. 1,” Jones said. “We practise without them.

“It’s not like we practise during the week with those guys. They’re all gone and we’re not looking for any type of excuse. It’s our job as coaches to see that they’re prepared week-in and week-out.”

That preparation involves a passel of playmakers, including receivers Adarius Bowman, Kenny Stafford and Derel Walker, who was a revelation in last week’s 15-12 victory over the Montreal Alouettes with 10 catches for 125 yards.

Bowman, who sat out the last game with a hip injury, believes the offence is actually ahead of last season at this time, when all concerned were adapting to then-new offensive co-ordinator Steve McAdoo.

“People wouldn’t think this, but last year it took us until Week 11 before we figured out our offence,” Bowman said. “We’re definitely making plays. But we’re coming along in terms of the knowledge, the concepts and the information we put in; we are ahead in that standpoint.

“We have had a lot of changes, so guys are switching positions here and there. And you’ve got to know everybody’s position. So in terms of getting everybody to know (their) position, we’re a bit behind. But in terms of the information that we know, we’re way ahead of last year.”

For veteran quarterback Matt Nichols, one key to success against the Tiger-Cats defence is avoiding second-and-long situations.

“They have great team speed on defence, so they don’t really let you catch and run for a lot of yards,” Nichols said. “You really have to sustain drives.

“For us, (that means) converting on second-and-medium, making sure that on first down that we’re keeping ourselves in second-and-manageable. Because they can do some things on defence that are very difficult to get first downs if you don’t get yards on first down.”

One remedy would be to lean on rookie running back Shakir Bell early and often. The Eskimos are 4-0 when Bell starts at running back.

Little wonder, when you see that Bell is averaging 84.5 rushing yards a game, tops in the CFL or 6.8 yards per carry.

On the other hand, Hamilton’s defence is the best in the CFL at stopping the run.

For the Eskimos, playing the Tiger-Cats is like playing a version of themselves — dominant, even bullying on defence, with weapons aplenty on offence.

Echoing Bowman, the Eskimos’ most dangerous offensive weapon, Friday would be a good time to translate that tactical knowledge and those concepts into action.

jmackinnon@edmontonjournal.com

Twitter.com/rjmackinnon

Check out my blog at edmontonjournal.com/Sweatsox

 
 
 
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Edmonton Eskimos slotback Adarius Bowman makes a catch during Thursday’s walk-through practice at Commonwealth Stadium.
 

Edmonton Eskimos slotback Adarius Bowman makes a catch during Thursday’s walk-through practice at Commonwealth Stadium.

Photograph by: Ed Kaiser, Edmonton Journal

 
Edmonton Eskimos slotback Adarius Bowman makes a catch during Thursday’s walk-through practice at Commonwealth Stadium.
Quarterback Matt Nichols throws a pass during Thursday’s walk-through practice at Commonwealth Stadium as the Edmonton Eskimos get ready for Friday’s game with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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