Eskimos feeling the heat after Labour Day loss

After a humiliating loss to the Calgary Stampeders on Labour Day, the Edmonton Eskimos received a series of wake-up calls from team brass this week. Heading into today’s rematch at Commonwealth Stadium (TSN, 8 p.m.), they know nobody’s job is safe.

Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray will not have much time to get used to new offensive co-ordinator Kevin Strasser with the Calgary Stampeders in Edmonton tonight.

EDMONTON — After a humiliating loss to the Calgary Stampeders on Labour Day, the Edmonton Eskimos received a series of wake-up calls from team brass this week.

Heading into today’s rematch at Commonwealth Stadium (TSN, 8 p.m.), they know nobody’s job is safe.

Drubbed 32-8 at McMahon Stadium on Monday, the Eskimos (5-4) fired offensive co-ordinator Rick Worman and released defensive end Kitwana Jones on Wednesday.

“They’re letting everybody know there’s nobody out here who’s not expendable” said linebacker Maurice Lloyd, who will return to the lineup after missing four games with a hamstring injury. “Like I always say, once you sign on the that dotted line, you’ve got three choices. You can come in and stay. You can come in and go or come in and just be a lump on a log.

“Just seeing the OC (Worman) being released, a good man, and seeing one of our great players released, they’re letting us know that you’re either going to get it right or you’re going to get left. You’re going to join us or we’re going to leave you behind. Losing those guys opened up eyes for every player here.”

Kevin Strasser, hired as an offensive consultant by the Eskimos several weeks ago, has taken over as offensive co-ordinator.

Strasser, a receivers coach with the club in 2000, takes over an offence that’s been criticized as too conservative and predictable.

It’s a unit that produced 328 total yards in Calgary but managed just one touchdown, a seven-yard toss from quarterback Ricky Ray to Maurice Mann.

The inability to convert scoring chances has plagued Edmonton in recent weeks.

“I don’t think it’s so much sending a message,” coach Richie Hall said of the firing of Worman and release of Jones. “One of the things we’ve talked about since Day 1 is being a better team in November than we are now in September.

“Regarding the direction and the personnel, that’s why we made the change.”

The complicating factor for Ray and Edmonton’s offence is that a short week between games limits the number and scope of adjustments that can be made.

“You’re going to have some different stuff, but you’re the same football team,” Ray said. “You’re going to try to see what worked in the first couple games against them and have a few new wrinkles for them.

“The only tough thing is you don’t have a lot of time to practise that stuff. You just have to go out and try to execute what you’ve done well.”

As for seeing a difference in offensive philosophy with Strasser calling the shots, Ray, a close friend of Worman, says it’s up to the players to adjust as quickly as possible.

“It definitely is,” he said. “It’s a different personality. A different kind of style. You’ve just got to make those adjustments and get used to Kevin Strasser and how he likes to do things.

“We’ve got to keep improving. It just goes to show that if you’re not out there executing the way the coaches want you to, there’s going to be some changes. It makes you realize you can’t take any game for granted.”

Offensive struggles in Calgary aside, Edmonton’s defence had a long, tough afternoon. Stampeders quarterback Henry Burris went 19-for-27 passing for 285 passing yards.

Receiver Jeremaine Copeland had a field day that included a spectacular one-handed catch behind Kelly Malveaux for a touchdown that put the Stampeders up 24-2 in the third quarter.

“He made a great catch,” Hall said of Copeland. “The whole thing is you want to make your opposition work for everything that they get. He had to work. You just take your hat off to him.

“The bottom line is we want to make the opposition work for everything. If they work and they make the yards and they make the catch, then you buckle it up and line up again.”

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