The Edmonton Eskimos are confident their offence will have a whole new look when they face the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Commonwealth Stadium on Friday.
That’ll be a welcome sight for Eskimo fans, because last Sunday’s 17-1 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium — a defeat in which starting quarterback Steven Jyles and his offence struggled mightily — was anything but easy on the eyes.
“Confidence is very high,” said Jyles, who’ll make his third straight start against the Blue Bombers. “I believe in all my power, so to speak. My confidence is very high and I’m looking forward to this ball game.”
Jyles, in his second stint with Edmonton after being acquired from the Toronto Argonauts in the trade that sent Ricky Ray the other way, has taken a lot of heat in the wake of the loss in Saskatchewan. He completed just 10 of 19 passes for 91 yards and was twice pulled in favour of backup Kerry Joseph.
While the Eskimos (1-1) opened the season with the 19-15 win over Ray and the Argonauts, Jyles and the rest of the offence has been hit-and-mostly-miss in the early going.
“My mindset has never been worrying about being pulled,” said Jyles, who is 31-for-55 for 327 passing yards through two games . “I’m going out to play football. I have a job to do and that’s to score points and lead the offence and I will do the best I can.”
Edmonton’s offence is dead-last in at least 12 categories listed by the CFL, including points scored (20), first downs (29), passing first downs (16), yards of net offence (433), yards rushing (131) and net passing yards (361).
“When we watched the film, we know what happened,” said receivers coach Derrell Mitchell.“There were times when there were protections issues. Sometimes, the quarterback made the wrong read or threw to the wrong guy.
“From the receivers standpoint, sometimes we had a route where we needed you to go inside and you went outside, it affected the timing. It was a tough week but it was a learning week.”
Those who criticized the swap of Jyles for Ray during the off-season have had plenty of ammunition through Edmonton’s first two games as the Eskimos have seldom looked in sync.
Compounding matters, the Eskimos lost receiver Adarius Bowman with a knee injury against Saskatchewan. Bowman, awaiting tests to confirm a torn ACL and MCL, led Edmonton receivers with nine catches for 145 yards.
“We have to execute and we have to trust our game plan and each other out there on the field,” slotback Fred Stamps said. “We have to execute like we execute in practice every day and take it to the game.
“We have to say focused. We came into the season and we knew we weren’t going to go 18-0. It’s early in the season. It takes time. When you lose a guy like Ricky and a guy like Steven comes in, it just takes time.”
Stamps, who had 82 receptions for 1,153 yards last season, has to get more touches in the absence of Bowman. Stamps has six catches for 41 yards going into Friday.
Running back Hugh Charles, expected to be the go-to guy on the ground with Jerome Messam gone to the NFL, had just eight carries against the Roughriders and has just 20 for 100 yards through two games.
“One of the things coach Kavis (Reed) has been preaching to us offensively is that he wants our running backs to have at least 20 touches a game like Messam did last year,” Mitchell said.
“Sometimes the flow of a game, especially where it’s loud like in Regina, and you fall behind, you’re trying to catch up and the clock is not on your side. We didn’t want to go with two-and-outs, but we just didn’t sustain drives last week.”
With the Blue Bombers (0-2) having allowed 74 points in their first two games, including a 41-30 loss to Montreal last weekend in which Anthony Calvillo passed for 443 yards, Winnipeg coach Paul LaPolice doesn’t isn’t selling Jyles and Edmonton’s offence short.
“We’re certainly interested in getting a win to get on the right track and they’re coming off a loss,” LaPolice said. “They want to prove that they’re a better football team.
“We have to be focused to play a game on the road against a really good football team. Certainly, you look at what Edmonton did in week one, they did some good things offensively and special teams. Week two, they were scary on defence. They played very good football. I’m sure they have a good football team that will be ready to play. We need to do the same.”