Eskimos look to counter Bombers sack attack

The Edmonton Eskimos anticipate plenty of offensive opportunities versus the visiting Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Saturday, but only if they protect quarterback Mike Reilly.

Winnipeg leads CFL with 38 quarterback sacks

Quarterback Mike Reilly has been taking quite a beating so far this year, what with the Eskimos allowing an alarming 33 sacks. (The Canadian Press)

Mike Reilly knows it's all about time.

The Edmonton Eskimo quarterback anticipates plenty of
opportunities against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Saturday, but his
ability to capitalize on those will depend on whether his offensive
line can give him that time.

"There's certainly going to be openings downfield," Reilly said
after Friday's final walk-through for the first of the home-and-home
set between the two worst teams in the CFL. 

"Teams have had success
passing against them this year. But that happens when you have time
in the pocket to throw."

Time is something Reilly hasn't had much of this season. One of
the many reasons for Edmonton's 1-9 record this season is the
O-line's inability to protect Reilly. The Eskimos have given up 33
sacks and Reilly has taken a physical beating in almost every game.

"We have to be able to set ourselves up, to move the pocket
well, to take advantage of the scenarios that unfold," Reilly
said. "Those opportunities are based on the pressure from the
D-line, so when you have those opportunities you have to take
advantage of them, you can't leave points on the board."

The Bombers defence has a league-leading 38 quarterback sacks
this season and Edmonton head coach Kavis Reed knows his offensive
line -- with Simeon Rottier back starting at right guard -- will have
its hands full against the 2-8 Bombers who upset first-place
Saskatchewan last weekend.

The Bombers had eight sacks and won both the sack and turnover
battles as the defence continued to get better every week.

"First of all, we have some talented guys on the defensive
line," Bombers head coach Tim Burke said when asked reasons for his team's
defensive line play. 

"The other thing is the system we employ,
which is every play is a pass rush and we're going to tackle the
running back on the way to the quarterback. We know we're not going
to be scoring tons of points, so the defence has to keep us in

"You always wonder how your team is going to handle success when
we haven't been that successful. Certainly, we were up for that game
and it's going to be a challenge to be up like that again."

'Tremendous concern'

Asked what concerns Winnipeg's defensive line gives him, Reed
replied: "Tremendous concern, sleepless nights type of concern.

They constructed their team, starting with that defensive line, and
they've done a tremendous job in terms of getting pressure on
people. They're No. 1 against the run and you can see why. 

guys are really lane conscientious. They're explosive and they're
very disruptive."

He said the focal point of the Eskimos practice this week has
been to find ways to keep Reilly upright.

"Mike has taken a lot of hits," Reed said. "He's made a hero of himself by
getting back up constantly.

"But we can't keep testing that. We can't
test his armour by allowing him to be hit like that."

The Eskimos will have veterans J.C. Sherritt and Donovan
Alexander back on defence. Sherritt missed several games with a
broken thumb while Alexander was out two games with a shoulder
issue. Running back Hugh Charles returns after a one-game absence
while wide receiver Cary Koch is out.


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