Esks defense hurting team’s playoff drive

Many people assumed a revamped defence would be the strength of the Edmonton Eskimos this season when Richie Hall was hired as head coach. Those people couldn’t have been more wrong.

B.C Lions' Buck Pierce

EDMONTON — Many people assumed a revamped defence would be the strength of the Edmonton Eskimos this season when Richie Hall was hired as head coach.

Those people couldn’t have been more wrong.

While Hall ran an often dominating defence during his eight-year tenure as the Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive co-ordinator, Edmonton’s defence has been very inconsistent through 14 games. That’s a big reason why the Eskimos (6-8) are in danger of missing the playoffs.

By any statistical measure, Edmonton’s defence has been the dregs of the CFL under co-ordinator Jim Daley as the Eskimos prepare to face the Toronto Argos on Friday (TSN, 7:30 p.m. ET) having lost three straight games and five of their last six.

The numbers don’t lie.

“To take it a step further, when you look at our football team overall, I’m surprised where we’re at,” Hall said. “We’re 6-8 and if the playoffs started today, we’d be watching at home on TV.

“Defensively, we started off slow. We were inconsistent at times. We weren’t able to, especially in the first half of the season, put total efforts together as far as our execution.”

While Edmonton’s offence is at or near the top of several categories, the defence, most recently victimized by a last-minute 62-yard touchdown catch by Geroy Simon in a 34-31 loss to the B.C. Lions on Friday, sits at the opposite end of the statistical spectrum.

“Our team hasn’t been good enough at key moments,” Daley said. “Whether it’s offence, defence or special teams, we have a lot of steps to take to become a really good football team.

“Defensively, one of the things we knew would be a challenge is the number of new faces. We started the year with eight new starters. We now have 11 because of injuries.”

And injuries have been a factor.

Defensive tackle Dario Romero is out for the rest of the season with a biceps injury. Also injured are defensive backs Kelly Malveaux, Len Williams, Willy Amos and Brad Robinson. And Canadian-born tackle Adam Braidwood hasn’t played one down of football due to injury.

That’s resulted in plenty of new faces, including defensive backs Byron Parker, Anthony Malbrough and Randy Drew, along with linebacker Reggie Hunt. The rotating cast of characters has made it tough to develop chemistry within the unit.

Among the more telling numbers, the defence ranks dead-last in total yards allowed (5,298), average yards per game (378.4), first downs allowed (302), passing yards per game (292.9), points per game (30.7), passing touchdowns (23) and overall touchdowns allowed (39).

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