The Edmonton Eskimos started out the season hot at 6-2 but sputtered to an 8-10 finish. Still, it was good enough to get them to the playoffs after a one-year absence in 2018. They will go across the continent this weekend to face off against the Montreal Alouettes, who finished 10-8 and second in the Eastern division. These two last saw each other in week six when the Esks lost 20-10 in Montreal.
Edmonton had only three road wins this season: one against each of the three teams that didn’t make the playoffs (BC, Toronto and Ottawa), while Montreal was 6-3 at home. Jason Maas’ crew will have an uphill battle as they go East for their first playoff game since the 2017 West Division Final. Here are three players that will need to step it up for the Esks to advance to play Hamilton:
Ricky Collins Jr.
He’s been the only downfield threat for this team for a while. The speedy receiver showed flashes of incredible speed at times this season but he is more of a complementary receiver than a true number one. He needs to be able to keep the Als honest and keep coverage off of Greg Ellingson, who is the number one guy to move the chains.
Collins will need at least three receptions of over 20 yards to give Edmonton a chance in this game. He was placed on the one game injured list, as was Ellingson, for last week’s season finale. Coming back, Collins will have a vital role in keeping the Als defence honest in this one.
The entire linebacker unit
Vernon Adams is a dual threat QB who burned multiple teams with his legs this season, including Edmonton back in week six. His 44 rushing yards against the Edmonton Eskimos in that game were his second highest total this season. However, in that game, Adams was limited to under 200 passing yards. If the Esks can keep Adams in the pocket, they might pull off the upset.
Larry Dean came over from the Hamilton Tiger Cats this offseason and was named the defensive player of the year for Edmonton this year after racking up 89 tackles. He and that unit will have their hands full in this one. The quick upfield rush of the defensive line can leave rushing lanes for Adams to exploit.
Perhaps the most obvious choice, the veteran signal caller was not himself after returning from injury late in the season. He led the league in passing yards for most of the first half of the season. Those crazy numbers were making Esks fans forget about Mike Reilly. Unfortunately, I have a long memory and knew that Harris was not a premiere QB. He’s an efficient guy who can keep the chains moving, but not a superstar.
While he threw for 321 yards against the Roughriders a couple of weeks ago, he threw two interceptions. In the last four games he’s played in he has four picks compared to just three touchdowns. While not having the strongest arm in the league, he’s got to be able to throw the ball down the field against a tough Als defence.
The Edmonton Eskimos will have to be able to throw the ball in order to win. If they throw the ball, it will set up the run and allow a balanced attack. If they cannot throw the ball early on to set up the run, the Esks will get behind and have to force the ball down the field—which is what we’ve seen throughout much of the second half this season. A return to the form from the first half of the season will be essential for an Edmonton win.
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