Take Ricky Ray out of Eric Tillman’s Evaluation … for Now
Eric Tillman’s professional life is a bit unfair; weekly opinions of him fluctuate depending on who played better, Ricky Ray or Steven Jyles. His decision to trade Ray to Toronto last December for Jyles, non-import kicker Grant Shaw and Toronto’s top pick in the 2012 draft looked shrewd after Edmonton beat Toronto in Week 1. Then it appeared disastrous when the offence scored one point in Week 2 in Saskatchewan, while Ray threw 407 yards against Calgary. And when Tillman told an Edmonton radio station last Tuesday he might rethink trading Ray if he had a time machine, the pressure reached its boiling point. But the Eskimos’ 42-10 win over Winnipeg offered a different perspective. Even if Jyles is still working on his relationship with slotback Fred Stamps, he is connecting well with slotback Cary Koch and 2012 draft pick Shamawd Chambers. Running back Hugh Charles also had 145 receiving yards and a touchdown to along with 51 rushing yards. And the defence, including linebackers J.C. Sherritt, Damaso Munoz and non-import defensive tackle Ted Laurent, is fast becoming the league’s best. All those pieces Tillman acquired since taking the job in 2010. Judge me by the entire team, the general manager insists. And he is right.
Another Week, Another Reason to Believe
The Saskatchewan Roughriders are the only undefeated team left in the CFL after a 23-20 win over the defending Grey Cup champion B.C. Lions on Saturday. Apart from a 69-yard catch-and-run touchdown by Lions slotback Kierrie Johnson, defensive ends Brent Hawkins and Odell Willis, linebacker Abraham Kromah and cornerback Woody Turenne flustered Lions quarterback Travis Lulay, who did complete 23 of 40 passes for 345 yards and two touchdowns, but was intercepted twice. Riders quarterback Darian Durant was unspectacular, throwing for 172 yards, but his careful passing emphasizes Saskatchewan’s most impressive stat: No turnovers so far in 2012. And the Roughriders do not need to rely solely on Durant when rookie running back Kory Sheets and returner Tristan Jackson are performing so well. “We’re 3-0 because we play together,” Roughriders defensive tackle Tearrius George told the Regina Leader-Post after the win. “We’re just a more cohesive group compared to last year.”
Forget the Sophomore Jinx
Hamilton Tiger-Cats dynamic running back Chevon Walker has rightly earned great attention this season but the Ticats are also benefiting from the lack of a sophomore jinx from 2011 rookie of the year Chris Williams. The 24-year-old emerged as a premier deep threat last season, but has two punt-return touchdowns and a field-goal return touchdown in addition to two receiving touchdowns in three weeks. His 264 combined yards in the first half against Toronto on Saturday — including an 89-yard punt-return touchdown and an 119-yard field goal-return touchdown — laid the foundation for Hamilton’s 36-27 win. “I’m a little bit [tired],” Williams said afterward.
Just Firing Blanks
Stalled scoring drives are zapping the Toronto Argonauts of winning momentum. Before leaving Saturday’s game at halftime with a hip injury, kicker Noel Prefontaine had attempted a league-high 15 field goals. “You know it seems like the trend for us the last three games. We’re just not coming away with touchdowns,” Argos quarterback Ricky Ray said. Head coach Scott Milanovich warned, after narrowly beating Calgary last week, scoring touchdowns would be tough if Toronto repeatedly struggled with second-and-long situations. Ray completed 23 of 38 passes for 238 yards and an interception, and had trouble connecting with receivers inside Hamilton territory. After Saturday’s loss, Milanovich sounded more perplexed than angry. “[Touchdowns are] not going to happen every time,” Milanovich said. “I don’t have those answers tonight. I have to see it on the film.”
Another Comeback Powered by Calvillo
At some point, time will subtract from Anthony Calvillo’s skills. But nothing can diminish his influence. Thursday, as the 39-year-old quarterback with a sore left shoulder endured constant pressure from Calgary’s defence, his teammates made plays to dissolve the Stampeders’ fourth-quarter lead. Receiver Brandon London and slotback Jamel Richardson made impressive catches, but there was nothing better than defensive back Jerald Brown’s interception in the final 90 seconds, which made possible rookie fullback Patrick Lavoie’s winning fingertip touchdown catch.