CFL Pass

Building blocks: Eskimos adding big piece to O-line puzzle

It doesn’t matter how good a quarterback Trevor Harris is if time isn’t on his side.

All eyes will be on Mike Reilly’s replacement behind centre for the Edmonton Eskimos, after the league’s leading passer for three years running left for the west coast in free agency.

The question is, will Harris’s eyes be looking to continue that streak in head coach Jason Maas’s high-octane offence, be too busy staring down oncoming freight trains?

Edmonton’s pass protection has been up and down the past two seasons. From as up as can be, finishing with a league-low 29 sacks allowed, to about as down as it gets coming off a division-worst 41 sacks.

But there is a new piece in the puzzle now, thanks to the off-season acquisition of SirVincent Rogers, who is slotted right at the top of the left tackle depth chart.

And rightly so, given he spent the past three seasons protecting Harris’s blindside with an Ottawa Redblacks team Rogers played with since 2015, when he was named the Canadian Football League’s most outstanding lineman.

“That’s pretty cool for Trevor to come over too, man,” said Rogers, a six-foot-four, 319-pound Houston product, who won an ArenaBowl with the Arizona Rattlers before coming to the CFL with the Toronto Argonauts in 2013. “I thought that was cool, just a familiarity of protecting him for the last three or four years. It’s going to be cool, it presents a different challenge for us to try to come in and bring what we bring to the table with these guys.

“We’re working, day by day, just working.”

Rogers and Harris were part of a trio of Redblacks, along with star receiver Greg Ellingson, who were scooped by the Eskimos in a wild opening to free agency in February.

“It was tough leaving Ottawa in a sense that we accomplished a lot together there as a team and also personally, for me as a player, I accomplished a lot there as well,” said Rogers, who is coming off his second CFL all-star season. “When you’re at a place a long time, you kind of start getting comfortable and kind of think you’re there, but this game is a business and when it comes down to things like that, it reminds you more and more that it’s a business and when you’ve got to make a move or when a team has to do what’s best for them, it may be a little salty in the beginning but everybody’s just got to go their own different ways and no hard feelings.”

Rogers joins Eskimos left guard Travis Bond, centre David Beard, right guard Matt O’Donnell and right tackle Colin Kelly in a starting unit that ended up having to get shuffled around right out of the gates last year.

That was when Tommie Draheim, who had been slotted to protect Reilly’s blind side last season, suffered a broken thumb in a win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on opening day.

“A lot of good, veteran guys on the O-line, so adding me to this O-line, I just want to get in where I fit in,” Rogers said. “Vets always usually do pretty good mingling with vets, so I think we have a pretty good, close-knit group.

“Personally, I want to be the best version of myself that I can be at the position. I’m competitive as well, I want to be the best left tackle in this league and that’s what I strive for when I step on the field. I’m working on it and we’ll see what happens when the season progresses.”

It’s been a while since the Eskimos had a consistent left tackle, year over year. Bruce Beaton earned five division all-star honours and was a three-time CFL all-star in his first six seasons with the Eskimos, which ended in a 2003 Grey Cup championship. He returned in 2005 to help them win another.

Since then, there hasn’t been an Eskimos player who could be considered to have anchored the O-line from that position. But Rogers sees the role differently.

“I wouldn’t say it’s the anchor. We all have to work together collectively to protect, to create seams in the run game, so I wouldn’t say the left tackle position is the anchor at all,” Rogers said. “We work together as a unit, we get it done together and usually if a guy wins MOL, it’s because he was on a really good O-ilne.

“When I won it, I named every guy on my O-line because I was being rewarded for what it recognized, but it was a testament to what we did as a group.”


On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge