After facing him twice last year, Eskimos believe Bombers still in good hands with Streveler
EDMONTON — Jason Maas is not exactly salivating at the idea of facing the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ backup quarterback.
The head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos is as familiar with Bombers’ quarterback Chris Streveler as anyone in the league, having coached against him, when he was starting, twice last season.
That’s about the only good news about taking on Streveler instead of Winnipeg No. 1 Matt Nichols, as far as Maas is concerned.
“We understand him a little bit better than other teams that haven’t played him,” Maas said ahead of the first-place showdown between the Bombers and Eskimos on Friday night at Commonwealth Stadium.
“We know how big he is, how strong he is, how fast he is and how he fits into their offence. That’s a benefit for us.
“I’m not saying it’s the greatest thing for us, because it’s a very difficult task, but at least you have some familiarity with it.”
Streveler started four games last year, including the first game of the season against the Eskimos in Winnipeg and the last game of the season against the Eskimos in Edmonton. The Eskimos won both games.
“I did start a game here last year, which I guess is kind of helpful just from a mental standpoint, having been here and playing quite a bit,” said Streveler, who has 617 rushing yards in 27 career CFL games.
“But they’ve got a different defensive co-ordinator here this year so they’re doing a lot of different things. They’re gonna be fired up and ready to play and we need match that.”
Winnipeg is hoping to not miss a beat, despite being without Nichols, who injured his shoulder in last week’s win over the B.C. Lions and is on the six-game injured list.
They’ll have a different look with the fleet-footed, hard-charging Streveler at the controls and the Eskimos recognize it’s a big challenge.
“It’s a lot like playing an option team down in the States,” Maas said. “You have to be very assignment-sound playing their offence.
“He’s the added dimension now, where you’ve got to worry about the quarterback running. With (Nichols) you don’t have to as much. He’s still a great athlete and he can still get out and get first downs for you. But Streveler can score from anywhere on the field.”
While the Bombers are ahead in the standings, with a 7-2 record, the 6-3 Eskimos lead the league in many statistical categories, including offensive yards, passing yards, quarterback sacks allowed, interceptions thrown and sacks made.
Their quarterback, Trevor Harris, has been the league’s best this year, throwing for 3,051 yards in half a season. With receivers like Greg Ellingson (50 receptions, 690 yards and Ricky Collins, Jr. (48 receptions, league-high 741 yards), the Edmonton passing attack is lethal.
Even with Nichols in the lineup, the Bombers passing attack was last in the league and now a quarterback known more for his legs than his arm is starting the game.
“I’ve always admired his game,” Harris said of Streveler. “He’s like a darn fullback that’s super fast and can throw the football. I always love watching him play as a fan. He makes a lot of plays.
“Shoot, even when (Nichols) is healthy, Chris plays a lot of plays. He’s a big part of their offence, of who they are. They obviously developed some pretty big packages for him to be in there during the game because he’s that big of a difference maker.”
The Bombers have been winning games recently with a combination of great defence and special teams and adequate offence. Running back Andrew Harris, who was banged up a practice this week but is expected to play, will once again be expected to carry a heavy load.
To one key member of the Eskimos defence, that’s far more important than any question about who is at quarterback for Winnipeg.
“I’ve been saying it for years — I think Andrew Harris is the best player in the league, period,” Eskimos defensive tackle Almondo Sewell said. “When you can rush for 1,000 and catch for 1,000 that causes a lot of problems. We just got to keep turning them one-dimensional and that’s it.”
Though the Esks are favoured in this game, the Bombers should stack up pretty well against them as long as Streveler doesn’t try to do too much, manages the game, takes care of the football and moves the chains.
Sounds kind of like what Matt Nichols does most games.
“We’re having a great season so far and we want to keep that rolling,” Streveler said.
“Regardless of how the season is going, I feel like it’s my responsibility to step in and move the ball offensively and put us in good positions.”
Streveler puts in the work to be ready for these moments
EDMONTON — Chris Streveler is known to get up at 4:45 a.m., each day to begin his preparations for playing quarterback.
His coaches have marvelled at his work ethic, his desire to learn and his willingness to be ready when called upon to help his team.
Some might think the Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback has bigger things in mind when putting in that work, like earning more playing time, a starting job somewhere next year or a shot in the NFL down the road.
The 24-year-old from Chicago says that’s not what it’s all about.
“I don’t do that and hope that this opportunity comes about,” Streveler said ahead of his first start of the season Friday in Edmonton. “I do it because I want to be ready for my teammates. You don’t want to let those guys down.”
Streveler will make his fifth career start. His first start was also against the Eskimos, on June 14 of 2018 and he can barely believe how far he’s come since then.
“I would say I feel more comfortable as a CFL quarterback now than I did in Week 1 last year,” Streveler said.
“Shoot, I don’t think I even knew all the rules of the league at the time.”
More on this: 4 stories
- BOMBSHELLS: Nichols will continue to play important role with Bombers even while injured
- Bombers lose Nichols for 4-6 weeks, Streveler to start for foreseeable future
- Bombers' QB Matt Nichols placed on the six-game injured list
- Bombers quarterback Nichols on 6-game injured list with upper body injury