JONES: Edmonton Eskimos get first look at roster in pre-season game
It was like a USA college football game when the teams lined up on the sidelines for the national anthem.
The Edmonton Eskimos dressed 81 players and lined them up from one 25-yard line to the other before turning them loose to score a 22-7 win over the 53 players auditioning for the B.C. Lions.
Edmonton would have fielded 82 except Mexican linebacker Daniel Landeros, who was listed on the depth chart for the first CFL pre-season game of Commissioner Randy Ambrosie’s CFL 2.0 project, didn’t dress as expected due to being a little nicked up from the first six days of training camp.
The other two Mexican players in camp, Jose Romero and Diego Cortera did dress.
Cortera fielded a punt late in the fourth quarter but ended up with no return yardage on the play.
The Eskimos currently have 95 players listed on the roster but decided not to dress starting middle linebacker Larry Dean and a scattering of others.
In NCAA Div. 1 football, the home team can dress virtually the entire student body if they feel so inclined.
Eskimos equipment manager Duane Mandrusiak had three rows of chairs lined up in the dressing room in front of the lockers to accommodate all the extras in the non-televised production.
The visiting B.C. Lions shipped 53 of their own cast from their training camp in Kamloops, dressed in their new issue orange uniforms with black numbers few could read from the stands — which was no big deal, really, because they pretty much left anybody who was anybody back in the B.C. interior including former Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly.
The Eskimos managed to dress their horde of hopefuls without using the same uniform number twice. The Lions, on the other hand, had No. 17 Ryan Shakier on offence and No. 17 D’londo Woodman on defence.
If you were searching out people who appeared to excel on the Eskimos they’d be No. 0 Don Unamba, No. 15 Logan Kilgore, No. 22 Jordan Robinson and Noi. 84 Joshua Strangby.
Unamba, the free agent late of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats intercepted a pass and made two other impressive plays on defence early before turning into a spectator.
Kilgore was the most impressive quarterback on the day with a 125.7 QB efficiency rating compared to Trevor Harris with 75 and Danny O’Brien at 72.1.
Harris was unspectacular in guiding a first-string offence in the first quarter when they turned the game over to the new talent. Obviously, Harris didn’t have anything to prove and he did go 8-for-12, although only for a total of 50 yards.
But you’d have to figure Kilgore definitely put himself in a position to compete for the back-up spot against O’Brien.
The quarterbacks targeted 17 receivers in the game but it was two return men who raised eyebrows.
Robinson returned five punts for 16 yards, a kickoff for 27 and a missed field goal for 17 more. Strangby ran a punt back 74 yards.
But, as always, the coaches will see the things in the film room that the fans in the stands didn’t see.
It was a perfect day for a game — 22C under cloudless skies — but unlike the sold out Grey Cup game that Harris and Greg Ellingson experienced here last year as Ottawa Redblacks.
While the official announced attendance was 23,549 it was quite possible that they were counting feet instead of heads. The 50-50 ended up at only $37,122.
If nothing else, that might inspire the community-owned franchise to finally get around to hiring a new CEO to replace Len Rhodes.
There’s obviously some work to be done before the Eskimos open at home with back-to-back home regular season games — June 14 against the Montreal Alouettes and June 21 against Reilly and the Lions.
The good news on the day is the Eskimos, who lost left tackle SirVincent Rogers four days into training camp, was that they appeared to emerge without injury.
Having the long wait between pre-season and regular season games might prove to be of a benefit for this team that has managed to collect major injuries during training camp, pre-season and league opening games in the last five seasons.
Setting a CFL record as the first team to go over the $1 million mark in salaries to injured players in 2017 when they lost 346 man-games due to injury, the Eskimos hit 300 man-games lost in 2014, 227 in 2015, 211 last season and 202 in 2016.
The Eskimos have started the season with 12, 10, 9, 9 and 8 players on the injured list dating back to 2014.
And there’s a long list of prominent players who were lost to the team in training camp, pre-season games and season openers.
On Twitter: @ByTerryJones