Mike Reilly knows it’s all about time.
The Edmonton Eskimos quarterback anticipates plenty of opportunities against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Saturday, but his ability to capitalize on those will depend on whether his offensive line can give him that time.
“There’s certainly going to be openings downfield,” Reilly said after Friday’s final walkthrough for the first of the home-and-home set between the two worst teams in the CFL. “Teams have had success passing against them this year, but that happens when you have time in the pocket to throw.”
Time is something Reilly hasn’t had much of this season. One of the many reasons for Edmonton’s 1-9 record this season is the O-line’s inability to protect Reilly. The Eskimos have given up 33 sacks and Reilly has taken a physical beating in almost every game.
“So we have to be able to set ourselves up, to move the pocket well, to take advantage of the scenarios that unfold,” Reilly added. “Those opportunities are based on the pressure from the D-line so when you have those opportunities you have to take advantage of them, you can’t leave points on the board.”
The Bombers defence has a league-leading 38 quarterback sacks this season, and Edmonton head coach Kavis Reed knows his offensive line – with Simeon Rottier back starting at right guard – will have its hands full against the 2-8 Bombers who upset the first-place Saskatchewan Roughriders last weekend.
The Bombers had eight sacks and won both the sack and turnover battles as the defence continued to get better every week.
“First of all, we have some talented guys on the defensive line,” head coach Tim Burke said. “The other thing is the system we employ, which is every play is a pass rush and we’re going to tackle the running back on the way to the quarterback. We know we’re not going to be scoring tons of points, so the defence has to keep us in games.”
Now, he says, the key is for his team to build off the success of that victory.
“You always wonder how your team is going to handle success when we haven’t been that successful. Certainly we were up for that game and it’s going to be a challenge to be up like that again.”
Asked what concerns Winnipeg’s defensive line gives him, Reed replied: “Tremendous concern, sleepless nights type of concern. They constructed their team a. starting with that defensive line and they’re done a tremendous job in terms of getting pressure on people. They’re No. 1 against the run and you can see why. Those guys are really lane conscientious, they’re explosive and they’re very disruptive.”
He said the focal point of the Eskimos practice this week has been to find ways to keep Reilly upright.
“Mike has taken a lot of hits. He’s made a hero of himself by getting back up constantly but we can’t keep testing that, we can’t test his armour by allowing him to be hit like that.”
The Eskimos will have veterans J.C. Sherritt and Donovan Alexander back on defence. Sherritt missed several games with a broken thumb while Alexander was out two games with a shoulder issue. Running back Hugh Charles returns after a one-game absence while wide receiver Cary Koch is out.