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Eskimos tweak roster ahead of playoffs after last-minute injury

An unfortunately timed injury to defensive back Forrest Hightower has caused the Edmonton Eskimos to do a last-minute shuffle of their roster ahead of Sunday’s playoff semifinal in Montreal.

But it’s good news for Canadian cornerback Arjen Colquhoun, who on Thursday, was plucked from the six-game injured list he has been on since before the Labour Day series.

It was another disheartening season spent battling injury for the six-foot, 188-pound Michigan State product, who has missed more time than he’s played since arriving three years ago to an Eskimos club that drafted him in the second round (16th overall) in 2016.

And in those three seasons, he’s played 24 games and missed 30 due to injury.

“Man, it’s three years of bad luck,” said Colquhoun, who in the stretches he’s been a healthy starter, has shown the ability to be another valuable ratio-breaker on the Eskimos defence. “You know, let’s hope that it’s (better) next year but we’re focused on this year, right now. It sucks. But you got to keep pushing, control what you can control.

“I can’t be worried about that right now.”

Instead, his focus is squarely on being back out on the field with his teammates and getting up to speed in case he gets called upon in the playoffs.

“I’m just happy to be out there. You know, you can’t take days for granted and when you’re hurt, you obviously think that way,” said the 27-year-old native of Windsor, Ont., who has 16 tackles and an interception in 10 games this year. “I’m just here to help the team, regardless if they need a backup, a special-team guy. I’m just coming off injury, so I’m a little rusty, but I feel good.”

A-PLUS O-LINE

It might not have been entirely perfect, but the Eskimos offensive line accomplished what was asked of it this season.

Two years ago, the unit surrendered the fewest sacks in the league. Last year, they paved the way for the team’s first thousand-yard rusher since 2011. And this year, they put it all together and coughed up the fewest sacks by far, just 25, while propelling C.J. Gable to back-to-back seasons with quadruple digits on the ground.

But it hasn’t been without its challenges, including injuries of varying degrees to all but two positions.

“We’ve been a O-line by committee this year, but it’s testament to not only the offensive line but the fullbacks, running backs, quarterbacks, receivers, all those guys,” said right guard Matt O’Donnell, who despite missing six games with a knee injury, earned the second West Division all-star honour of his eight-year career. “We take protection very seriously here. We spend a lot of extra time, you know, at least an extra half hour every day on protection.

“It’s the CFL, it’s a passing league, but we know if you control the trenches and protect your quarterback, you’re probably going to win the game.”

Of course, Trevor Harris played a role in keeping himself upright.

“We’ve got a pretty good quarterback back here that gets rid of the ball pretty quickly,” said left guard Jacob Ruby. “We’ve got running backs that take a lot of pride in pass protection, receivers that aren’t afraid to come in and block people too. So it’s nice as a group and as a team to be able to do that.

“But it’s a new season now. And we’re starting from scratch right now too.”

SACK-TISTICS

As far as statistics go, there isn’t a lot for offensive linemen to hang their hats on.

So when the Eskimos lead the league in fewest sacks-against for the second time in three seasons, it’s a big badge of honour for the even bigger boys up front.

“The O-line doesn’t have statistics, right? You don’t have per-game statistics. That’s our one statistic that we can kind of take a lot of pride in,” said Ruby, adding the stat could even be improved upon, in his mind. “When you look at it, we pass the ball quite a bit too.

“Even in college when we were there, we always thought the stat should be sacks-per-pass-attempts instead of just as a whole. But either way, it’s something we take pride in.”

BIG DRAW

Hosting their first playoff game at Percival Molson Stadium since 2014, the Montreal Aloeuttes are expecting to play in front of the biggest crowd of the season when they take on the Eskimos in Sunday’s East Division semfinal (11 a.m., TSN, 630 CHED).

“With close to 20,000 seats sold, we have decided to start removing some banners and put extra tickets on sale,” said Alouettes president and CEO Patrick Bolvin.

Montreal’s average attendance this season was 17,574, which ranked eighth out of nine teams, ahead of Toronto’s 13,370, while the league-wide average was 22,854. Percival Molson Stadium has a capacity of 23,420, with its biggest crowd of the season checking in at 19,070.

Email: gmoddejonge@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge

Source: edmontonsun.com