When the CFL season started a few months ago we all scrambled for every bit of information we could grab a hold of. What was easiest to grasp was what we observed. What we saw through the first five weeks was a dominant Edmonton Eskimos offense. Why wouldn’t this offense be for real after taking home the Grey Cup last season? Well, we all seem to have been bullheaded about this offense since week five because that “electric” Eskimos offense has severely disappointed since.
Are the recent struggles a surprise though? I decided to take a look at three different sets of numbers over the past season and a half to help me discover the answer to this question. After looking at 2015, the first 3.5 games of the season (I’ll explain I promise) and the past 6.5 games of the season, this is an offense we need to put less stock in than ever before.
Determining the three sample sizes was easy. The 2015 season provides a full sample size of games (20) that should allow us to take a look at how this offense performs over the course of an entire year. All of the major components of the offense have returned, so there are no major changes from last season to this one.
Why did I decide on just 3.5 games for the second sample size? The Eskimos started off red hot with two big wins and plenty of points on the scoreboard. If you watched the Eskimos vs. Tiger-Cats game in week five you saw a tale of two halves. In the first quarter Edmonton was unstoppable, scoring 24 points and taking a nice lead into the half. In the second half we saw a touchdown on their first drive and then terrible offensive play after that. Since then this offense hasn’t been the same. Take a look at these major stats that show you what I mean.
Between the three numbers sets, there are two that are extremely similar while one isn’t. The past 6.5 games of the 2016 season are very comparable to the entire 2015 season, while the first 3.5 games of the 2016 season seem to be the outlier here.
In 2016, there is just over a touchdown difference (7.1ppg) from the beginning of the season compared to the most recent part of the season. This inability to score over the last 6.5 games is easier to believe when you see that they’re actually averaging .2 more points per game during this stretch than all of 2015 (20 games). From a yardage standpoint, we see just 10 more yards per game in 2015 than this recent stretch of games (and 107 yards less compared to the first 3.5 games of the season).
So, what’s causing these offensive issues? Many are saying there’s a clear issue with offensive line play out of the Eskimos, but that isn’t the case. They have allowed 20 sacks on offense, second lowest of every team in the CFL. Their 4.82 yards per attempt on the ground is tied for second best in the league as well. Maybe this offensive line isn’t the best, but they are certainly not why the offense has struggled over the past 6.5 games.
Instead of this idea that the offensive line has been terrible, maybe it’s the offensive weapons themselves? Mike Reilly has thrown the third most interceptions (10) and has the third worst interception percentage among CFL quarterbacks with over 100 passing attempts. These numbers aren’t great in terms of the entire league, but his interception percentage is actually his best season over his past five. 2016 is some of the best Mike Reilly we’ve ever seen.
Derel Walker and Adarius Bowman are two of the best receivers in the CFL, but they are the also the most targeted combination. They account for just under 50% of the team’s targets. These targets aren’t turning out quite like they had hoped for in 2016. During their first four games, these two went for 100+ yards seven times (Walker three times, Bowman four times). Since the game against Hamilton, these two have generated just three 100+ yard games out in 12 tries. How are these two priced over $10,000 on DraftKings? Is it possible opposing defenses have focused the majority of their attention to stopping these two receivers and letting others beat them?
Instead of Edmonton being a powerful offense that has struggled to get back its form, we should be considering Edmonton an average offense that has come back down to earth. Let others fall for the green and fool’s gold from Edmonton.