The new general manager of the Edmonton Eskimos says they’ve checked most of the items off their must-do list as they prepare for the 2013 CFL season.
“Retaining the services of coach Kavis Reed was the No. 1 factor on that list,” said Hervey, who got the nod after former general manager Eric Tillman got the boot in 2012.
Hervey also pointed to steps made to bolster an offence that left the Eskimos last in the West last season.
One of the first was to obtain the services of quarterback Mike Reilly from the B.C. Lions before he hit the free-agent market.
After Tillman traded Ricky Ray to Toronto, the Eskimos struggled at quarterback with Stephen Jyles, Kerry Joseph and Matt Nichols rotating through the position.
Reilly isn’t guaranteed the starter’s spot, Hervey emphasized, and must go head-to-head with Nichols to win that right, but he gives the team more options.
“We felt by obtaining Mike Reilly it would give us depth at that position which has (also) now created, in our opinion, a fine quarterback battle between he and Matt Nichols.”
Hervey also says they’ve complemented the explosive scatback style of Hugh Charles with signings like that of import John White, better suited to take over should Charles go down again.
They’re the same size and the team will be able to maintain the same style of ground game, said Hervey.
Edmonton did make the playoffs thanks to weak Eastern teams that allowed for a crossover but fell victim to Ray and the Toronto Argonauts in the East semifinal.
Hervey said they’ve worked to bolster the offensive line with moves such as a trade with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for the services of non-import Carson Rockhill.
“We felt that our need (was) to get bigger, more physical and more athletic on the offensive line. (It) was an area we needed to improve.”
He said they made it a priority to retain key free agents such as linebacker J.C. Sherritt and defensive end Marcus Howard and locked up slotback Fred Stamps early.
They also nabbed free agent Odell Willis from under the nose of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, minutes after he supposedly hit the market, which earned them a $10,000 fine from the CFL for tampering.
“We feel the need to get to the quarterback was important,” said Hervey.
Willis has a talent for sacking quarterbacks but he also has a reputation for off-field behaviour that cost him his job with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Unlike the Bombers, the Eskimos aren’t getting a new stadium this season, but President Len Rhodes says fans will be getting new seats.
All 58,000 will be replaced at Commonwealth as the season progresses but the last won’t go into until the fall, he said.
Hervey says the team not only wanted to improve its roster for 2013, it wanted to improve its draft position.
The Eskimos couldn’t get into the first round but did acquire defensive end Stefan Charles with the 10th pick.
Like a lot of top draft picks this season, he’s still trying chances in the NFL but Hervey says good players are worth the wait.
The Eskimos have made some coaching changes for 2013 with the return of CFL veterans Greg Marshall and Doug Sams.
Marshall has taken over as defensive co-ordinator while Sams is the new offensive co-ordinator.
Marshall goes back to the early part of the last decade with the Eskimos but Sams dates back to the 1987 Grey Cup-winning edition.