Eskimos still have key positions to fill

Eskimos general manager Eric Tillman believes Ricky Ray will be warmly received by Edmonton in their CFL season-opener.

Eskimos general manager Eric Tillman believes Ricky Ray will be warmly received by Edmonton in their CFL season-opener.

The Esks host their former long-time quarterback and the Toronto Argonauts on June 30.

Tillman traded Ray to the Argos in a December blockbuster deal for quarterback Steven Jyles, kicker Grant Shaw and a draft pick.

“Ricky is one of the more beloved players in club history,” Tillman said Thursday during a CFL conference call. “I think he’s going to be embraced.

“There’s no pressure on him. If there’s pressure that day it will be on me.”

The Eskimos head into training camp with questions at quarterback. Can Jyles carry the freight for a whole season or will veteran Kerry Joseph be required to step in?

“Ricky Ray is a future Hall of Famer and when you trade a Ricky Ray there will be questions and we understand that,” Tillman said.

Even if Ray’s performance in Edmonton on June 30 makes Esks fans wish him back, Tillman says the trade was a move he had to make now for the long-term health of the Eskimos.

Ray, 32, is an expensive player under the $4.35-million league salary cap, he says. Tillman felt it was better to move him prior to the 2012 campaign, instead of waiting until 2013 or 2014.

“We would have had a ton of free agents because we still would have had the highest-paid quarterback in the league, the highest-paid player in the league on our payroll,” Tillman forecasted. “We would not have the ability to extend some contracts and maintain our nucleus.

“Could we have waited another year or two? Yes, we could have, but a year from now, Ricky would be turning 33 or 34. If the trade doesn’t work, that’s my responsibility.

“It was about having the confidence in our young guys that somebody would step forward. It was about creating cap space and feeling that there’s never a good time and it’s probably better to make the change before it’s obvious to everyone the time has come to do so.”

Training camps open June 3 for all CFL teams.

Jyles, Joseph, Matt Nichols, Eric Ward and Jeremiah Masoli will be the five signal-callers in Edmonton’s camp, but the battle for starter is expected to be between Jyles and Joseph.

Jyles, 28, has 20 career starts over six CFL seasons and has thrown as many interceptions (29) as touchdowns (31). He compiled 2,804 passing yards in 16 games, including 11 starts, with Winnipeg in 2010.

Jyles got the ball in Toronto for eight games last season when Cleo Lemon was released and the Argos were well out of playoff contention. He completed 124-of-218 passes for 1,430 yards with seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Joseph, who turns 39 in October, won both a Grey Cup and the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player award in 2007 with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Two unsuccessful seasons in Toronto after that, Joseph then joined the Esks as Ray’s backup.

“We believe Kerry can be a starter,” Eskimos coach Kavis Reed insisted. “Kerry will come in and compete for that starting position.

“I think Kerry is a 39-year-old quarterback with a 24-year-old’s body. We’re not at all concerned that if he wins the job, he cannot survive through an 18- or 20-game season.”

The Eskimos are coming off an 11-7 season in 2011, good enough for second in the CFL’s West Division.

Edmonton beat Calgary 33-19 in a playoff game at Commonwealth Stadium before falling 40-23 to the host B.C. Lions in the West final.

“You’ve never heard us use, and you never will hear us use, the term re-build,” Tillman said. “We have high expectations.

“At this time last year, most people picked us last.”

Another key position Edmonton must sort out at training camp is at running back following the departure of Jerome Messam, who was the CFL’s outstanding Canadian. The Toronto native signed with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins in February.

Calvin McCarty, Hughes Charles, John Goebel and newly-signed Cory Ross are prospects to try to fill that void.

“We think we’ve got four interesting competitors and we’ll just let it play out,” Tillman said.

Edmonton will get one of their two first-round draft picks this year to camp. The Philadelphia Eagles didn’t extend a contract offer to Wilfrid Laurier’s Shamawd Chambers after a mini-camp, so Tillman expects his No. 6 pick in Edmonton.

Offensive lineman Austin Pasztor, taken No. 4, has signed with the Minnesota Vikings.

Edmonton had the second-best defence in the CFL last season. Reed predicts the Esks’ pass-rush will be the centrepiece of the defence, led by defensive lineman Marcus Howard.

The off-season signing of lineman Rashad Jeanty is a blast from Edmonton’s past. Jeanty won Grey Cups with the Esks in 2003 and 2005 before heading to the NFL.

“If he is 50 per cent of what he was when he left to go to the NFL, he’s going to be a gentleman who is going to pose a lot of problems for offensive linemen,” Reed said.

A major change in Edmonton’s coaching ranks was the promotion of Mark Nelson from linebacker coach to defensive co-ordinator with the departure of Rich Stubler to the B.C. Lions.

“There won’t be that much of a difference between Rich Stubler and Mark Nelson philosophically,” Reed said. “Schematically, there may be some noticeable differences.”

Just Posted

Envisioned exterior of the future Red Deer Aquatic Centre, by GEC Architects. Council determined Monday that it will eventually be built on the Michener North site, off 30th Avenue. (Contributed image).
Red Deer’s aquatic centre will be built on Michener North site

Rotary Recreation Rark has too many space constraints, most councillors decided

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says the National Advisory Committee on Immunization has advised that Pfizer and Moderna vaccines can be used interchangeably for second doses and Alberta is following that approach. (File photo by The Canadian Press)
Red Deer down to 66 active COVID-19 cases

Red Deer has lowest number of active cases since last November

(Advocate file photo).
Red Deer drivers warned about temporary lane closure on 67th Street

Power line will be rebuilt in six-month project

Black Horse Singers performed for students at Ecole la Prairie on Monday. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
WATCH: Students remind Red Deer that every child matters on National Indigenous Day

Heart-shaped messages to decorate trees at Ecole la Prairie through the summer

Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson, center, tries to get position for a shot against New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin (30) during the second period in Game 5 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 21, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Stamkos, Vasilevskiy pace Lightning’s 8-0 rout of Islanders

Lightning 8 Islanders 0 (Tampa Bay leads series 3-2) TAMPA, Fla. —… Continue reading

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says he’s ‘convinced’ the city will be able to get rid of the mandatory mask bylaw in July. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
‘Made in Calgary’ approach will keep mask requirements past Alberta’s total reopening

Calgary won’t be following provincial recommendations on the mandatory wearing of masks… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a debate in the House of Commons, in Ottawa, Tuesday, June 1, 2021. Parliamentarians are entering what could be their final stretch in the House of Commons before it breaks for summer as the Liberal government sharpens its focus around two key pieces of legislation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Liberals, opposition clash with days left to pass legislation before House rises

OTTAWA — Parliamentarians are in their final week before a summer break… Continue reading

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Border measures start easing in July for fully vaccinated Canadians

OTTAWA — Fully vaccinated Canadians returning to Canada will soon be able… Continue reading

The home of Lionel and Shanna Desmond in Upper Big Tracadie, N.S., is shown in this undated police handout aerial photo. An inquiry investigating why a former Canadian soldier killed his family and himself in 2017 heard today from a relative who said Lionel Desmond's mental health appeared stable after he served in Afghanistan in 2007, but there was a dramatic decline over the next 10 years. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Lionel Desmond Fatality Inquiry
Lionel Desmond inquiry: soldier’s sister-in-law testifies about his mental decline

PORT HAWKESBURY, N.S. — An inquiry investigating why a former Canadian soldier… Continue reading

People look over the damage after a tornado touched down in Mascouche, Que., north of Montreal, Monday, June 21, 2021. Dozens of homes were damaged and one death has been confirmed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
One dead and extensive damage as tornado hits Mascouche, Que., north of Montreal

MONTREAL — One person was killed after a tornado struck Mascouche, Que.,… Continue reading

President of the Public Health Agency of Canada Iain Stewart, right, approaches the bar in the House of Commons to be admonished by the Speaker of the House of Commons Anthony Rota on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, June 21, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
PHAC president rebuked, still doesn’t produce documents on fired scientists

OTTAWA — The Conservatives are asking that the Public Health Agency of… Continue reading

Memphis Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks (24) gestures to teammates during the first half of Game 5 of their NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, in Salt Lake City.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Rick Bowmer
After months of speculation, Canada’s men’s basketball roster set ahead of qualifier

With a tantalizingly deep pool of talent, Canada’s men’s basketball roster has… Continue reading

Most Read