Eskimos QB Reilly on pace to break rare 6,000-yard mark

With the numbers Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly has put up so far, it would be understandable if he was satisfied with the first third of his 2018 CFL season.

He’s not. That’s not Reilly’s style.

So while the CFL’s reigning Most Outstanding Player is coming off his best passing performance of the season and is on pace to surpass many of the numbers he put up in 2017, he expects himself and the Eskimos (4-2) to be better when the Saskatchewan Roughriders come calling Thursday at Commonwealth Stadium.

“My dad was always that way with me when I was playing sports,” Reilly said. “He was my coach for a long time. You’re always chasing perfection, but you’re never going to get there. It’s fine to be happy about the result, but it’s also not OK to rest on your laurels and not try to get better.”

Reilly can be a tough critic of the team but also of himself, whether it’s discussing slow starts and undisciplined penalties or when talking about his footwork on an incomplete pass or a bad read of an opposing defence.

“If you’re a me-guy, it gets found out and it runs through the whole team,” linebacker J.C. Sherritt said of Reilly. “That’s what makes him such a special player.

“His talent level is, in my opinion, the best in the CFL, but it’s how he carries himself on and off the field we gravitate toward. There’s no question that with the leadership he brings to this team, we feed off him.”

Coming off a 44-23 win over the Montreal Alouettes, in which he passed for a season-high 415 yards and four touchdowns, Reilly leads the CFL in passing yards (2,063), touchdown passes (13), completions (147) and completion percentage (68.7). Reilly is on pace for 6,189 passing yards, which would surpass his 2017 total of 5,830. Only four quarterbacks in league history have reached the 6,000-yard mark in a season.

That’s not his focus.

“The thing about football is it takes 12 guys, whether it’s offence, defence or special teams, out on the field working together,” Reilly said. “It’s a really challenging game. Even when you do have success sometimes on an individual play, there’s things you should have done better on it.

“Certainly, that’s the case when you play 60 or 70 snaps in a game. There’s a lot of things that showed up through the first third of the season that I’ve got to get better at because if I don’t, it’s going to cost us.”

Team-wise, slow starts have been an issue, but not as big a problem as the barrage of penalties the Eskimos, flagged for 191 yards in Montreal, have taken. Their 704 yards in penalties is worst in the league. Their 63 penalties is second-worst.

“I think you’re just looking for consistency across the board,” said head coach Jason Maas.
“We’re great in spurts and other times we’re not so good. Whether it’s starts at the beginning of the game or discipline issues, we’d like to just play good football, clean football for 60 minutes and be consistent doing that.”

While the Roughriders arrive with a stout defence, their offence has struggled mightily, especially through the air with a league-worst 1,146 yards, while producing just six touchdowns. What the Eskimos can’t do is provide them any help.

“It’s important every week,” Sherritt said of tightening up any deficiencies.”Against a Western opponent, we know how important this game is. You’ve to play disciplined and you’ve got to start fast.”

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