Ever since December the twelfth, Eskimos fans have been wondering what exactly went through the mind of General Manager Eric Tillman’s head when he traded the team’s all-time leading passer for a quarterback that just a few years ago was Eskimo property sitting on the bench as a third string QB.
This Saturday mark the start of the season for both Steven Jyles and Ricky Ray who were swopped for each other in the offseason (although there were other parts to this deal which included the second overall pick in this year’s draft.)
A lot of controversy came with this deal, which has been spread all over the CFL blogosphere (If there really is one.) Tillman stood up for himself in papers saying he’s usually unpopular in the offseason, but by November, the grass looks greener (not an actual quote.) He used the example of Kerry Joseph who was an icon in Saskatchewan a few years ago after winning the clubs first Grey Cup in 18 years. Joseph was traded to the Argonauts the following offseason while the club handed the ball off to a number of quarterbacks, including Darian Durant who emerged on top of the depth chart at the end of the season. In 2009 and 2010, Durant took the Riders to consecutive Grey Cup finals, and although they didn’t win, he put himself of the list of the top quarterbacks in the league.
Tillman has the same kind of plan with Jyles who he believes can keep this team at a competitive level. He doesn’t have to be Ricky Ray, because most of his upside comes in the form of cap space; $250 000 to be exact.
So the question is now can he at least win a few games? Probably. I guess if all you have to do is beat the Riders you have a good chance at the playoffs.
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Compared to what he had last year in Toronto, Jyles has a significant upgrade as far as receivers go. Both Adarius Bowman and Fred Stamps had 1153 yards last year while Toronto’s top receiver Chad Owens had just 722 yards in comparison. Is that Ricky Ray being the better QB and getting the ball to his weapons better or a lack of weapons on the Argos side? Well it’s quite obvious that Edmonton had a better corps, but it’s also obvious that Ricky Ray is a far better passer. The answer will show itself this season as Ray’s top receiver right now is Jason Barnes, who was decent in Edmonton last year, but isn’t good enough to be a true number one in this league.
Jyles also brings the running threat which has never been part of Ricky’s game. Jyles can keep plays alive for longer periods of time and has the arm to make the pass once it opens up.
The criticism of his game comes with managing the offense, knowing when it’s ok to go deep or to just take the positive yards you can. If he can do that, he can find at least minor success.
Nobody is looking for Jyles to be Ricky Ray, but I think he can at least show he can be a starter in this league, which I think is more than reasonable to expect from him. If Hugh Charles can take a piece of the load off of his back, the offense can function. Not at the levels it did this past season, but function nevertheless.