Edmonton Journal

Eskimos vs. Argonauts: How they match up

- Chris O’ Leary coleary@edmontonjo­urnal.com Twitter: @olearychri­s

FORT MCMURRAY — The Edmonton Eskimos and Toronto Argonauts will kick off the most northern regularsea­son game in Canadian Football League history on Saturday. Here are five things to watch when the game kicks off at 3 p.m.:

Grant Shaw is the only kicker on the Eskimos roster and will obviously be relied upon for all kicking duties Saturday. But what if he goes down? Esks quarterbac­k Mike Reilly and receiver Nate Coehoorn are emergency options.

“I was the emergency kicker in B.C.,” Reilly said of his first three years with the Lions.

Coehoorn’s one punt last year—a-68-yard-boot-against the Saskatchew­an Roughrider­s on Nov. 8 — technicall­y gave him the best average in the league.

Brandon Whitaker will be on the roster for a week by game day and that’s enough for Argos head coach Scott Milanovich. He said on Friday that the former Montreal Alouettes running back will get the start against the Esks. “How many touches he’ll get, that remains to be seen,” Milanovich said.

“He’s a veteran and (Edmonton coach) Chris Jones, his defence can be difficult in terms of protractio­n for a tailback.”

Jonathan Himebauch starts the season on the field with the team he ended the previous year, but he’s on the opposite sideline now. The former Eskimos offensive line coach was snagged by Milanovich and the Argos in the off-season, giving him assistant head coach duties as well.

“I’ve coached with Himey many times before,” said Milanovich. “He’s a great coach, a great motivator and a great resource for me.

“Just getting him and (receivers coach) Jamie Elizondo back on the offensive side that I’ve coached with before, it’s been an extremely smooth transition.”

The Eskimos looked thin on defensive backs when their depth chart was released on Friday. Otha Foster and Marcell Young were both added to the one-game injured list, but the team could get creative with how it uses the linebacker­s on Saturday. Dexter McCoil could slide into the backfield and strongside linebacker Ryan Hinds has plenty of experience as a defensive back, as well.

The Argos are without their starting centre, Jeff Keeping. Chris Van Wroten will slide over from right guard to play centre, with Wayne Smith starting at guard.

Through nine pre-season games with new rule changes in effect, there were an average of 33.1 penalties per game.

That’s up 53 per cent from the 2014 regular season. There were 14 illegal downfield kicks called and 32 illegal contact on receivers. That trend likely won’t curb this week.

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