Kerry Joseph will start at quarterback this weekend for the Edmonton Eskimos against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and the Esks’ running back-by-committee experiment is over, head coach Kavis Reed announced Monday.
“The way Kerry has been playing, we owe it to this franchise to continue with Kerry Joseph right now given that Steven (Jyles) is not completely healthy,” Reed told reporters after practice at Commonwealth Stadium.
Reed also suggested Joseph may stay in the starting spot even after Jyles is fully healed from a calf muscle injury.
“We’ve had a chat with Steven (to say) if Kerry continues on the way he is, we may look at that as the option for us,” he said.
Joseph, 38, took the reins at quarterback after Jyles was hurt Aug. 27 against the Toronto Argonauts.
He threw for 311 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-30 loss to the Stamps on Labour Day, then nearly led the Green and Gold to a come-from-behind victory in the rematch Friday.
Joseph said he’s not focusing on whether he or Jyles is behind centre for the first snap of Saturday’s game in Hamilton.
“It’s not about me,” he said. “I just look at it as playing good football, doing stuff to give our team a chance to win.
“The last two games we came up short, so I feel I can do better.”
Jyles will be the backup.
He is having his calf examined again this week but said he is close to 100 per cent healthy.
“The soreness is gone, the pain is gone. We just have to run and push it and see how it is,” said Jyles. “I’m good to go if I have to start.”
Reed also said that of the three running backs who dressed in Friday’s 20-18 loss — Jerome Messam, Cory Boyd and Hugh Charles — one will be scratched for Hamilton.
“Friday night proved it’s difficult to work three backs,” said Reed. “When the guys are not getting the reps that they need to justify being on the roster, it’s not something we’ll endeavour to do again.”
The trio combined for just 45 yards on 10 carries on Friday.
At times there was confusion on the sidelines over which back was to go in for which play. And when one did go in, there were occasional missed assignments.
Charles has been with the team all year and leads with 551 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
He agreed the committee approach isn’t working.
“To get everybody involved is a tough task,” Charles said. “You’ve got to find that one guy to get into a rhythm and get the run game going.”
Both Messam and Boyd are recent additions. Messam returned to the Eskimos fold after a failed tryout with the Miami Dolphins of the NFL. Boyd was picked up after being released by the Toronto Argonauts a month ago.
Reed said he’ll decide who’s in and who’s out based on practice this week.
Boyd, however, appears to be the odd-man out. Both he and Messam are power backs but Messam is a non-import, which gives the team more roster flexibility.
Boyd has 12 carries for 53 yards and no TDs in three games. He was a healthy scratch on Labour Day.
Messam has 10 carries for 40 yards and no touchdowns.
Boyd told reporters what will be will be.
“It’s a humbling situation. Each one of us is an all-star type running back. We just have to find a way to make it work,” he said.
Messam agreed it’s out of his hands.
“As a player, it’s not for me to judge or for me to comment on. I just go out and try to work hard every day, work hard and run the ball,” he said.
Saturday’s game is the first meeting this season between Hamilton (3-7) and the 5-5 Eskimos.
Edmonton now sits last in the West Division and the final eight games feature tough opponents. There are two games against B.C, Calgary and Hamilton and one each against Montreal and Saskatchewan.
The Eskimos offence is in desperate need of a kick start.
The squad is second-last in the CFL in points per game (23.8), last in first downs (174), has the lowest average gain per run (4.6 yards) and sits last in average yards passing per game (253.7).