Edmonton Eskimos offensive co-ordinator Marcus Crandell received a huge gift this week when the CFL’s leading rusher unexpectedly showed up on his roster — but it’s one with complications.
The Eskimos host the Montreal Alouettes on Friday with two of the league’s top rushers at their disposal — Cory Boyd, the CFL’s rushing leader with 447 yards who was surprisingly released by the Toronto Argonauts on Sunday, and incumbent Hugh Charles, who is just 47 yards back.
A week ago, Edmonton had only two healthy running backs in Charles and Canadian Calvin McCarty.
“I can breathe a little easier,” Candell said with a chuckle. “We were kind of treading water with only two backs on the roster.
“(Boyd) gives us a sigh of relief, that security blanket, and brings experience and what he’s done on the field speaks for itself.”
Boyd will make his Edmonton debut against Montreal. Also added to the roster were halfback Ricardo Colclough, linebacker Clint Kent, safety Hugo Lopez and defensive lineman Lee Robinson.
Defensive back Robbie Prude, who left last week’s win over Saskatchewan in an ambulance, is on the injured list after suffering a stinger against the Roughriders.
Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed said the team has 10-to-15 plays for Boyd.
“Not necessarily running plays but opportunities for him to get in the game and to learn the system,” Reed said.
Predictably, the 27-year-old Boyd says he’s ready, physically, mentally and spiritually to play Friday.
“I’m always ready,” he said. “If you’re not ready then you’re not doing your job.”
Charles said some of those plays will call for both running backs to be on the field at the same time.
“I don’t know if it’s a competition but it’ll be good for both of us to be on and off the field, to rest our bodies,” Charles said. “We have it rough, we hit every play, either running the ball or pass protection.
“I have a good feeling it’s going to work out for the both of us.”
That’s because, Charles said, both players should be rested for the late stages of game, “both in this game and for the whole season.”
The challenge facing Crandell and the Eskimos is figuring out how to get Charles and Boyd enough touches to keep both happy.
“That’s the tougher part,” Crandell said. “That’s for me to deal with and everyone else to just sit back and watch.
“This offence is based on giving everyone an opportunity. If (Boyd) gets in, when he gets in, we don’t treat the game any differently from when Hugh Charles is in.”
Edmonton’s backfield situation could be further complicated if Canadian Jerome Messam returns. The 27-year-old Toronto native, who grew up in Brampton, Ont., was the CFL’s top Canadian last season but is currently at the Miami Dolphins’ training camp.
The six-foot-four, 248-pound Messam is listed third on Miami’s depth chart at fullback and hasn’t been given many opportunities to play.
“We’ll talk about that when it happens, if it happens,” said Crandell. “For now these are the guys we’re rolling with.”
Charles, 26, who came to the Eskimos as a backup before assuming the starter’s role, isn’t concerned about losing his job.
“I’m not going anywhere ... I’ll still be the featured back,” said the five-foot-eight, 183-pound Charles. “It’s good we added another guy such as Cory Boyd because our depth at running back is really slim.
“There’s many ways in this offence that we can be utilized together. It’s not a big deal to me. I’m keeping my head up. I don’t feel like I’ve done anything wrong and I’m going to look ahead and keep winning games.”