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Esks4ever
08-10-2004, 07:41 AM
Pivotal time for Eskimos

GERRY PRINCE, EDMONTON SUN


WINNIPEG -- If the secondary was the Edmonton Eskimos' soft underbelly through the first three games of the regular season, the quarterbacking situation could prove to be the defending Grey Cup champions' Achilles heel. Starter Jason Maas set a CFL record for consecutive completions and came within spitting distance of Edmonton's single-game record for yards passing in leading the Esks past Winnipeg back on July 30.

But after taking a wicked lick from Toronto defensive end Jonathon Brown in Sunday's 39-14 mauling at SkyDome, although Maas will arrive here late tonight, it's unlikely he will get another shot at the Blue Bombers Thursday.

BERTRAND COULD FILL IN

That leaves Bart Hendricks and rookie Jason Johnson as the Esks' quarterbacking tandem and fullback Mathieu Bertrand as the emergency QB.

"They're unproven and because they're unproven, they are (the Achilles heel) absolutely," conceded head coach Tom Higgins when asked about Hendricks and Johnson.

"Only time will tell. You've got to go on out and give somebody a chance. That's where all the superstars have come from in all of sports. Somebody else's misfortune is their fortune."

There's plenty of misfortune to go around if you're Maas. As his teammates boarded their flight from Toronto to the Manitoba capital yesterday, the 28-year-old headed for a different gate at Pearson International and a plane bound for Edmonton.

Unable to raise his right arm or feel the fingers on his throwing hand following Brown's late second-quarter hit, Maas was pulled from the game

Maas huddled with the Green and Gold medical staff and began treatments on his wounded wing yesterday in the hope he'll be behind centre come Thursday.

Hendricks didn't wow anybody coming off the bench Sunday and admits he was less than stellar.

"Being the second-string quarterback, it's one of those situations where you're not expected to be in there," said Hendricks, who completed six of 12 passes for 92 yards and watched Edmonton's receivers play dropsy.

"But when you do go in there, you've got to do well. All around, it just wasn't going well for anybody. When we'd catch the ball, there were a couple of fumbles after the catch.

"And there were some balls thrown that weren't very good either. All in all, it was a bad game."

The Esks offensive line surrendered four Toronto sacks. More importantly, Brown was allowed to crash the right side of the line and KO Maas.

Hendricks, who attempted a mere 35 passes in his first two seasons with the Esks, might have fared better if the offensive line performed more effectively.

Then again, had the line done its job Maas probably wouldn't be in Edmonton. That's why Higgins is prepared to cut Hendricks some slack and downplay the notion the Esks are woefully thin at quarterback minus Maas.

"It was a very, very difficult environment in which to evaluate a quarterback," said the head coach. "The quarterback is really only as good as the people that are around him.

"It's tough to be able to give him an honest evaluation. You've got to support your quarterback. He had an opportunity to score a touchdown and it didn't occur.

"The pass was dropped, but he also had enough fake grass in front of him. It looked like he might have been able to run it in. But it's one of those things."

Fair enough, but with the short turnaround between games, the Esks have only today to prepare for their date with the slumping Bombers.

Unless Maas arrives here in time for this afternoon's practice, Hendricks will take the No. 1 reps and No. 3 man Jason Johnson will slide into the backup role.

Even with moderate protection, Hendricks just knowing he's starting is worth something.

"We'll see how it goes," said Hendricks, a throwing machine during his college days at Boise State. "It'll be a little different because you have a little more time to know that you're going to be in the game.

"Preparation-wise, it's probably not much different. It's probably a good thing that we did play (Winnipeg) last week.

QUICK TURNAROUND

"We might have to be a little bit more familiar with them. That might help a little bit. Other than that, it's tough with the quick turnaround - especially coming off a loss."

Naturally, the Esks' lack of depth at QB won't be as apparent if Maas can rebound for Thursday's game. However, if Maas is lost for a prolonged period that's a different story.

At that point Higgins had better hope the New York Jets punch Ricky Ray's ticket or that Johnson is another Ricky Ray in the rough because, without Maas, the Green and Gold are in for a rough ride.

Opus
08-10-2004, 08:12 AM
At that point Higgins had better hope the New York Jets punch Ricky Ray's ticket or that Johnson is another Ricky Ray in the rough because, without Maas, the Green and Gold are in for a rough ride. sounds like someone else is written off Hendricks........lets hope he proves everyone wrong...