Another Chance for Improvement
Edmonton Eskimos head coach Jason Mass knows that the impending Labour Day matchup with the Calgary Stampeders is a big game, but it is not everything. In an interview with CFL.ca Mass described the importance of the game, exhorting that “you don’t win Grey Cups in August. What you do is you learn. Learn how to win and learn from your mistakes.”
Mass is absolutely right. While Mondays game does not represent the pinnacle of the Eskimos’ season, it is an extremely important opportunity for the team to continue their pursuit of excellence.
Stampeders are a Formidable Test
The Stampeders are an impressive opponent. Heading into Mondays game they sport an imposing 8-1 record. The Stampeders defence is ranked at the top of the league in most major statistical categories, most notably shutting down opponents passing games at a remarkable rate.
But most importantly, the Stampeders are a team that focuses on continually improving. As my colleague Jennifer Redenbach pointed out in an excellent article, the Stampeders Coaching Staff do not accept mediocrity in their practices. Players are expected to practice and execute to a high standard, nothing less. With their dedication to learning and improving, it’s not surprising that the team is so successful.
Beating the Best
The Stampeders will be the biggest challenge of the Eskimos regular season. But the Eskimos have the tools to rise to the test. Mike Reilly continues to lead the CFL in passing yards, touchdown passes, and rushing touchdowns. The dynamic receiving tandem of Derel Walker and D’haquille “Duke” Williams have torched opposing secondaries all season long. As well, when he is healthy, C.J. Gable provides a stabilizing presence in the run game.
However, it often takes all three parts of a team to be successful in order to win games. While the Eskimos offence is arguably the best in the league, their defence remains a work in progress. Injuries have forced starters such as Adam Konar, Neil King, and Johnny Adams in and out of the lineup. It’s not all bad news though. There are some bright spots as well, such as the emergence of Kwaku Boateng as an effective pass rusher. Overall, the Eskimos defence remains a work in progress and will be pushed to contain an effective Stampeders offence.
The True Value of the Labour Day Classic
Eskimos fans must resist the temptation to view the upcoming matchups with the Stampeders as a potential make or break moment for the season. The Eskimos will be in tough and it’s not improbable that they will split the series or even go 0-2. What will be important is to see how the Eskimos can learn to win against the best as well as correct the inevitable mistakes.
The Eskimos march towards excellence continues on Monday. Let’s see if they can learn to win against the best.
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