Canadian content: Edmonton Eskimos

Canadian content is an off-season series I’ve created to look at how each club deployed its starting nationals in 2019 and project how they may do so in 2020. This information can give us an idea of how teams will approach the draft in May.

We’ve already looked at the B.C. Lions and Calgary Stampeders. Today we will be covering the Edmonton Eskimos.

Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com
Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com

Edmonton’s national players accounted for 131 starts in 2019, slightly more than the required 126. The team fielded eight Canadians late in the regular when rookie Kyle Saxelid won the starting job at left tackle and nine in the postseason following an injury to field-side cornerback Forrest Hightower.

Below is a breakdown of how Edmonton fielded their national starters last season. Players who appear at multiple positions have been marked with an asterisk.

Wide receiver

Tevaun Smith (14)
Harry McMaster (1)

Slotback

Natey Adjei (18)

Tackle

Kyle Saxelid (5)*
Matt O’Donnell (2)*

Guard

Jacob Ruby (17)
Matt O’Donnell (10)*
Kyle Saxelid (1)*

Centre

David Beard (18)

Defensive end

Kwaku Boateng (17)
Mathieu Betts (1)

Defensive tackle

Mark Mackie (1)

Cornerback

Arjen Colquhoun (7)
Godfrey Onyeka (3)

Safety

Jordan Hoover (15)
Jordan Beaulieu (1)

Slotback, guard, centre, and defensive end were the only positions at which the Esks started nationals for all 18 regular season games in 2019. The remaining positions listed above — wide receiver, tackle, defensive tackle, cornerback, and safety — were positions at which the club swapped out Canadians and Americans as the year progressed.

The interior of the offensive line is solid with all three starters from last year returning in 2020. Getting Jean-Simon Roy back from B.C. is a boost at centre as the Eskimos were without much depth at the position for most of 2019. Luckily for the team, David Beard remained healthy.

Edmonton has stockpiled considerable talent at national receiver, which means the club will have to make some tough decisions come training camp. Former NFL wideout Tevaun Smith is the best of the bunch but behind him is an interesting mix of veterans (Anthony Parker, Alex Charette, Jimmy Ralph, and Danny Vandervoort) and prospects (Shai Ross, Harry McMaster, Malik Richards, and Hunter Karl).

Alex Taylor rushed for 48 yards on seven carries last season and is capable of handling a larger role if called upon. Missing from the fullback group at the moment is 13-year veteran Calvin McCarty, who is currently a free agent.

The Eskimos might have the most national talent of any team in the league along the defensive line. Kwaku Boateng and Mathieu Betts are formidable pass rushers, while Stefan Charles played in the NFL for six years. Evan Machibroda is a highly-touted prospect entering his rookie season after finishing his degree at the University of Saskatchewan in 2019. Edmonton could start two Canadian defensive linemen, but they also have a number of Americans who will demand playing time in Almondo Sewell, Mike Moore, and Jake Ceresna.

Losing Arjen Colquhoun to free agency hurts in the secondary, but the addition of Jermaine Gabriel helps account for his departure. Jordan Hoover and Godfrey Onyeka have both started at field-side cornerback in the past, while Jordan Beaulieu is a future starter at safety waiting for the opportunity to play.

Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com

Edmonton is extremely thin at national linebacker with only Blair Smith currently on the roster. It doesn’t matter that the Eskimos don’t plan on starting a Canadian linebacker in 2020 — teams need them to play on special teams. Look for Edmonton to address this need in May’s draft, which happens to be deep at the position.

Summary

The Eskimos could easily start two national defensive linemen in 2020, though they will likely opt to start only one. The same can be said of the secondary where Jordan Hoover, Jermaine Gabriel, and Godfrey Onyeka all bring starting experience at multiple positions.

The club remains thin at linebacker, while the team would also be wise to enhance its depth along the offensive line.

Receiver — Tevaun Smith, Anthony Parker (2)
Guard — Jacob Ruby, Matt O’Donnell (2)
Centre — David Beard (1)
Defensive end — Kwaku Boateng (1)
Safety — Jordan Hoover (1)

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