How Trevor Harris Has The Esks 2-0
Why have the Esks been good?
When the Mike Reilly made the decision to leave Edmonton for the BC Lions it wasn’t hard to find a CFL fan who thought the Eskimos would be relegated to relative obscurity in the always difficult west division.
Edmonton General Manager Brock Sunderland gave that sentiment the clearest double bird in recent CFL memory when he re-stocked with a plethora of talent in the hours after free agency opened.
After the Eskimos 2-0 start with depth of roster talent showing through in all phases and BC starting 0-2 behind an extremely one dimensional offensive attack you could make the argument Edmonton is actually better off for Reilly leaving because it opened up cap space and forced an evolution of the roster that appears to have Edmonton ready to contend for the West championship and beyond despite a raucous offseason.
The key to all success thus far to the eye would be Trevor Harris. While he deserves credit - that I’ll get to momentarily - the fact is Edmonton’s offensive line has outplayed their opponents in both weeks one and two in such a manner that they have given all aspects of the Esks revamped offence a distinct advantage.
It all starts with protection and ability to run the ball effectively for Jason Maas’ offence. Behind that stout offensive line of Tommy Draheim, Jacob Ruby, David Beard, Matt O’Donnell and Colin Kelly Trevor Harris has not been sacked ONCE, the only CFL team left to not allow their passer to be brought down.
That offensive line play has kept Montreal and BC off balance knowing that the Eskimos are as likely to hit you with an inside run as they are to drop back and attack the Edmonton skies with newcomer Greg Ellingson, Kenny Stafford, underrated Ricky Collins Jr., Tevaughn Smith or any of the other Harris friendly pass catchers recruited by Sunderland in the last two years.
That offensive balance runs in direct contrast with BC’s new approach after employing Mike Reily’s services. The Lions are calling pass plays on second down 30% (!!!) more often than Harris and the Eskimos have through two weeks.
By surrounding Harris with a comfortable pocket and user friendly receivers the Eskimos through two games have been able to access the most important part of their offensive attack in 2019: 1st down efficiency.
It’s no secret that Trevor Harris is an accurate passer, but he has been made much more accurate by the early season short passing, quick release attack employed by Maas.
On first down Harris has completed 80% of his passes for 407 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. Once he gets into a rhythm it’s a wrap.
While Harris’ yards in air per attempt jump from a CFL low 6.8 on 1st down to 11.1 on 2nd down his target chart tells a story the numbers don’t. Harris is actually taking all his deeper shots on first down while second down is primarily used to attack the intermediate levels of the defence.
Now Harris runs up against one of the best defences in the CFL on paper in Winnipeg who looked every bit the part in their own drubbing of the Lions in week one.
The question becomes, “Is Edmonton’s offence unstoppable or just a two week fad?”
The truth lays somewhere in between but if Richie Hall and the Bombers are looking to throw Harris off his game I believe they must hit two primary bench marks.
The first is limiting the damage of CJ Gable on first down. If that happens you can try to limit Edmonton in the same way Edmonton limited BC in week two which allowed the Esks pass rush to tee off on Mike Reilly in the same way Willie Jefferson would love to in his first game in Winnipeg.
The second is to send pressure to Harris’ throwing arm side and force his quick decision making away from the comfort zone of his eye side. Thus far Harris is 21/22 to right side of the field on first down. If Winnipeg doesn’t try to disrupt that rhythm the Bombers could be in for seventy offensive snaps or more and an eye opening home opener against a talented and well designed Eskimos re-tooling.