EDMONTON — New Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Steven Jyles came to town Wednesday and got an instant promotion.
Head coach Kavis Reed said Jyles will come to training camp as his No. 1 signal caller, just two days after stating the 29-year-old would have to fight for the job.
Jyles said he’s ready to take the reins after becoming an Eskimo in a blockbuster trade Monday that saw fan-favourite quarterback Ricky Ray head to the Toronto Argonauts.
“We lost a great guy here. Ricky Ray is a great quarterback,” said Jyles in a joint news conference with Reed at Commonwealth Stadium.
“But it’s new times now. I’m here in town and I’m looking forward to competing and earning a spot on this team.”
Jyles was traded to Edmonton, along with Canadian kicker Grant Shaw and Toronto’s No. 1 pick — second overall — in the upcoming Canadian College Draft.
“Steven will come in as the top guy on the depth chart,” said Reed. “After reviewing the situation the last couple of days I think it’s only appropriate he come in as the No. 1 guy on the depth chart.”
Reed didn’t say what led him to anoint Jyles as his No. 1, but he and general manager Eric Tillman came under fire from some media and fans on Monday for trading away a top-flight CFL signal caller for someone they weren’t even sure would start.
Jyles said he’s not thinking about the depth charts or replacing Ray.
“I’ll control what I can control,” said the six-foot-one, 218-pounder from Independence, La.
This is Jyles’ second go-around with the Eskimos, the team he started off with in the CFL in 2006.
Since then he’s played for Saskatchewan, Winnipeg and the Argos. He began 2011 with Toronto on injured reserve while recovering from shoulder surgery and took over the starting job in September, throwing for seven touchdowns against 11 interceptions.
Reed has said the plan is to use Jyles to revamp the passing attack from the stay-at-home Ray, to one that will see Jyles stretch the field with his speed and with his cannon-arm.
“He has an extremely strong arm and obviously he has the gift of mobility,” said Reed. “One thing he has to work on is his touch, his intermediate and his short-passing game, but the assets are tremendous.
“He has the ability to be a very, very good quarterback in this league.”
Jyles’ strengths are in stark contrast to Ray, who is famous for the perfect touch on intermediate balls and sideline outs, but isn’t the best for throwing it deep.
There are other contrasts, too.
Ray was famous for quiet leadership to the point some criticized that he didn’t seem to care.
Jyles said he’s more apt to get emotional and even get in the face of a teammate who is slacking off or taking selfish penalties.
He may need to do just with the Eskimos, a team that finished 11-7 despite leading the league in roughing penalties. Undisciplined fouls were one of the major factors that led to their defeat last month against the B.C. Lions in the CFL West Final.
“I think I’m totally opposite (from Ray) in certain cases,” said Jyles. “I’m more vocal when things aren’t going quite as planned. I’m a guy who likes to motivate his teammates, get them fired up.”
Ray, unlike Jyles, has been a model of consistency, missing just six games over nine seasons. Jyles has only made 20 career starts over six campaigns, throwing 29 interceptions to 31 touchdowns.
Reed said one of the key areas they’ll be working on this off-season is to turn Jyles the gunslinger into Jyles the game manager.
“Sometimes when you get known as a running quarterback that’s not a good thing,” said Reed. “You’re still a quarterback, and staying in the pocket a little bit longer might be something we will tweak with him.
“We’re not taking away his ability to run, but that ball still has to leave your hand at some particular time.”