Eskimos fail to show any encouraging signs; thoughts on the Labour Day Battle of Alberta

Edmonton fans are very familiar with deep and extended frustration, but nothing quite matches Labour Day.

‘Just OK’ is a long way from ‘good enough’ and even further from ‘good’.

Nothing was good on Monday. Absolutely nothing.

25-9 the final.

Some thoughts:

– Trevor Harris threaded a first quarter pass into Ricky Collins’ mitts that bounced straight up and was intercepted by Calgary. Really, really bad drop that set the stage for the rest of the game.

That might have been Harris’ only really good throw on an afternoon where he’d want far too many of them back. Part of the problem is play calling, part of it is good defence, but dinking and dunking five yards at a time can only take you so far and Edmonton once again lacked in the downfield passing department.

Even once they were down 16 points, they attempted to stretch the field once. It produced a 34-yard catch by Collins, but a better throw likely would’ve resulted in a TD. Their second longest gain of the game was 20 yards via pass interference. Third was a 14-yard pass.

And in the red zone? 0-for-2 with a disappointingly passive 19-yard field goal down 12 points in the third quarter and a final-three-minute failure to keep things interesting.

216 yards passing and 35 yards from C.J. Gable on the ground. Gross.

– Earlier in the season Harris had 65 yards at halftime in Calgary (compared to 99 this time) but put up over 300 in the second half (compared to 117 this time). Adjustments were either non-existent or entirely ineffective.

– The Esks defence has regressed majorly in the last while. Monday saw all three position groups fail quite miserably: the secondary left guys wide open, the linebackers got run over and the D-line barely generated any pressure. Lately there have been a number of plays where they seem to have a stop for no gain before allowing five, 10 or 15 yards instead.

Things were going alright until Anthony Orange and Money Hunter simultaneously got badly burned at the end of the second quarter for a 51-yard gain that set up a Calgary touchdown. Tyquwan Glass didn’t have a great night either.

Jordan Hoover is filling the recently vacated ‘also in picture’ job at safety. It’s been a long time since the Esks had a stud back there. And the meaningless-but-embarrassing last drive helped Ka’Deem Carey to a 143-yard rushing performance.

Meanwhile, it did not matter whether Edmonton rushed three or rushed six, Reggie Begelton was open. He finished with 10 catches for 138 yards and a touchdown. Don Unamba wasn’t responsible for all of it – for example Hunter was responsible for not-quite-good-enough coverage on Begelton’s touchdown – but still an unusually large part by his standards.

Thank goodness for Josh Johnson, who for some baffling reason was exiled to field corner. Also looking forward to Forrest Hightower’s scheduled return from injury next week.

– Edmonton’s penalties have been better than league average from Week 4 on, with 70 yards to Calgary’s 85 this time around, but timing remains poor. And field position, man. The Esks special teams are only ever average on a good day, which really hurts.

I suppose one bright spot might be returner Christion Jones, who had two big returns (including one all the way for a touchdown) called back by penalty. But in terms of ‘actually impactful’ there’s only Sean Whyte going 3-for-3 in field goals.

– Rotate Labour Day hosts, commissioner Randy Ambrosie. At least once. Saskatchewan, Hamilton and Calgary all have embarrassing winning records at home on the holiday weekend in the last decade-plus. That includes 3-0 in 2019. 

Since 2006, Calgary is 12-2, Saskatchewan is 13-1, and Hamilton is 8-4 but 8-1 in the last nine.

For comparison, Calgary is 10-3 in the rematch, Saskatchewan is 6-7 in Winnipeg, and Hamilton is 2-5 in Toronto – properly variant as you’d expect. If you want to argue Calgary’s just been good for 14 years, well, Saskatchewan has one loss in the same span and they certainly haven’t been.

Saturday evening is the traditional rematch in Edmonton. A win would keep the waters muddy on what this Eskimos team is while a loss would make it crystal clear they deserve fourth place. It can’t get much worse than Monday.

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