The Edmonton Eskimos receivers Adarius Bowman, Derel Walker and Cory Watson I dub the Wrecking Crew. This trio of receivers are on pace to be the best receiving unit in the CFL right now. That’s right, I said it: the best unit in the CFL right now.
Wrecking Crew – Eskimos Receiving Corps
Moose on the Loose
The CFL All-Star on the Wrecking Crew, Adarius Bowman, left the Oklahoma State Cowboys as the fourth all-time leading receiver in career receptions for the Cowboys. He now ranks ninth overall after blazing a path for receivers like Dez Bryant and Justin Blackmon with the Cowboys. The knock on Bowman, not only in college but also in the CFL, is that he sometimes suffers from a loss in concentration leading to drops. He can make the easy look difficult, but then he can also make the difficult look easy. The 60 yard jumping catch between two Bomber defenders in week 4 is an example of the monster catches he makes look easy, but only an elite athlete like Bowman can accomplish.
In the first three games Bowman has put up 432 yards on 25 receptions for a 144 yards per game average with the 60 yarder his longest reception. He has also put up three touchdowns to become not only a big play receiver, but a solid red zone threat. Bowman is on pace this year to be well over 2000 yards receiving with just under 20 touchdowns, which would be his best year statistically in the CFL. However, while he is having a monster year nobody will call him a true deep threat burner. Rather Bowman’s role is to draw double coverage via his fluid route running using deceptively fluctuating speeds. He simply dares defensive backs to try and stop him. The tougher the assignment the better he performs.
Can Bowman use that big frame and long arms to break former Calgary Stampeder and fellow slotback Allen Pitts single season most receiving yards record of 2,036 yards? It is too early to tell, but early returns are on track to say yes, Bowman has a legit shot at the record.
D Sky Walker
Coming out of the Texas A&M Aggies program, Derel Walker was a large unknown, only having one solid year to his credit. Walker went from eight receptions and 85 yards in his junior year to 51 receptions and 818 yards in his senior year with the Aggies. This made him an unknown commodity in his draft year and even though his pro day numbers were solid with a 4.65 / 40 and a 37 inch vertical, Walker went undrafted. He did receive a look as an undrafted free agent by the Tennessee Titans, but was released at the end of the 2014 camp. An inauspicious start to his career, but it led him to the CFL and the Edmonton Eskimos where he has been proving the naysayers wrong.
He quickly went from pro football unknown to the next receiver eyed by the NFL when he put up 1110 yards in 12 games in his CFL rookie year and took home the Most Outstanding Rookie honors for 2015. The Wrecking Crew’s most deviously elusive receiver has a knack for making big plays. When Bowman draws coverage away that is exactly what he delivers. In three starts in 2016 Walker has 19 receptions for 354 yards for a 118 yards per game average. He too has caught a Mike Reilly long bomb touchdown on a 74-yard post route last week. The big play was no fluke as it was similar to the bomb against the Stamps in the west final last year. He is on track for just under 2000 yards receiving this year.
Like Bowman, Walker varies his speed, adjusting at the right time to undercut and then take off on the defender. Then along the sidelines Walker slows, gains position, and then uses his leaping ability to win the ball. This sets up the defender to bite on Walker’s slowdown later in the game only to be surprised when he takes off, creating separation. It also helps that Walker has outstanding hands, putting him near the top of the CFL high target leaders.
The oldest, but the fastest of the Wrecking Crew is Cory Watson with 4.57/40 speed. While in the CIS Watson led the Concordia Stingers in receiving catching 52 passes for 821 yards while producing six touchdowns. He finished second in the CIS in receptions, gaining enough yardage and yards per game to have him named a second team CIS All-Canadian. Winnipeg selected Watson ninth overall, but other than in the 2011 season he has been unable to really deliver on the potential that made him a top ten draft pick.
After some injuries, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders gave up on him and his critics were quick to call his career over. However, he has found new life with the Esks in a limited role last season and an expanded role this season. Watson seems to have lost none of his speed; back in 2011 he used that speed with the Bombers to collect 69 reception for 793 yards.
Watson is now playing the key speed role of rover slotback position held last year by Kenny Stafford, another reclamation project. Stafford had 47 receptions last year in a similar albeit less aggressive version of the same offense. One could extrapolate based on the increased target numbers across all receivers in the Jason Maas offense that Watson should track to 70 plus receptions in 2016. That would mean right around 1000 yards for Watson giving the Eskimos a bona fide third weapon and member of the Wrecking Crew.
In the year of the big gun offence, what makes the Wrecking Crew the best in the CFL right now is its versatility. To date it has been all about the long ball with the Wrecking Crew averaging three 30-plus-yard plays per game – equaled this season only by the Ottawa Redblacks receiving corps. However, as seen in the Saskatchewan game, they play many styles, including a more physical one.
No disrespect to the Redblacks receiving corps, but their squad, led by 5’ 9” 155 pound Chris Williams, physically intimidates no CFL defences. All three members of the Wrecking Crew are bigger bodies – Watson at 6’5” 211 lbs, Walker at 6’2” 185 lbs, and Bowman at 6’3” 217 lbs. These guys are not scared to initiate contact and dish out hits on the defence, nor do they have any fear going over the middle to do so. This power football enables them to mix in the short to medium inside passing game along with big plays, while physically dominating their opponents’ secondary.
Add in the Wrecking Crew’s ability to run block as a unified force and this crew creates options that allow the Esks offence to dictate the style of play to the defence. The ability block for the run is critical to allow the Eskimos to play a ball control offense when necessary and chew up the clock. Against Winnipeg, the short passing and run blocking by the Wrecking Crew helped the Eskimos own the time of possession by six minutes. As the season progresses, expect the Eskimos to be near the top of the CFL in time of possession, reception yards, and offensive points for.
All things considered, the Wrecking Crew allows the Esks to stretch the field while mixing in power and ball control elements as needed. This is why they are the best receiving corps in the CFL right now.