"After ending a two year playoff drought, "The City of Champions" will look to contend for the Grey Cup this season."
Heading into the 2008 CFL season, the Edmonton Eskimos were looking for their first playoff berth in two seasons.
A two-year playoff drought for “The City of Champions” had almost been unheard of in Edmonton.
When all was said and done, Edmonton won 10 games and crossed over to the East Division. Edmonton pulled off a minor upset in the Eastern Semi-Final by beating the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. However, the Eskimos weren’t able to beat the Montreal Alouettes in the Eastern Final.
There were definitely a lot of positives to draw from the Eskimos season.
Most importantly, the Eskimos ended their playoff drought, but they also got some great individual performances.
Kamau Peterson continued his resurgence and had another successful season. Jason Goss was solid as well and the Eskimos began to develop a running game during the later parts of the season.
Heading into 2009 with plenty of changes, what will the future hold for the Edmonton Eskimos?
Can a new coach, new defensive leader and a new running back lead the Eskimos back to Grey Cup contention?
Let’s take a closer look at the Edmonton Eskimos:
The Eskimos found a new head coach during the off-season. The team signed Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive coordinator Richie Hall.
Hall comes to the Eskimos with an impressive resume as a defensive coordinator.
With their new head coach under contract, Edmonton focused their attention on the heated free agency period.
When the dust settled, the Eskimos made a lot of moves during free agency.
The Eskimos acquired defensive end Kai Ellis in a trade with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Jason Nugent in another trade with the Bombers, and Kitwana Jones in a trade with the Roughriders. They also signed safety Scott Gordon, offensive lineman Kyle Koch and running back Graeme Bell.
Edmonton’s big splash during free agency came when they added middle linebacker Maurice Lloyd and running back Jesse Lumsden.
Lloyd, an all-star middle linebacker, has been one of the driving forces on Saskatchewan’s defense for the last couple of seasons.
Widely considered to be the second choice behind Cameron Wake to win the Defensive Player of the Year, the Eskimos will count on Lloyd to add some aggression to their defense.
Jesse Lumsden will look to rejuvenate his career with the Edmonton Eskimos. The talented running back has never really been able to show his full potential because of injuries. When healthy however, Lumsden can be explosive.
The Eskimos loss in the off-season was a fairly big one. Receiver Kelly Campbell left the team and signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Whether or not Richie Hall will be successful as a head coach is yet to be determined.
Though he undoubtedly deserved a chance to be head coach, one has to wonder if he will be a good fit in Edmonton.
Hall’s success as a defensive coordinator has been amazing, but the situation is kind of reminiscent of when defensive coordinator Rich Stubler was promoted to the head coach of the Toronto Argonauts.
Stubler had also been successful as a defensive coordinator but struggled greatly as a head coach and was fired during the season.
Edmonton’s defense also has its question marks.
Maurice Lloyd should have a huge impact on the Eskimos defense as well as Kitwana Jones, but the rest of the front seven hasn’t really proved a lot.
Edmonton’s defense hindered them last season and it may continue to do so this year. And, though the Eskimos offense has been successful in recent seasons, they may in fact take a step back this season.
Kelly Campbell’s departure has left a void in the receiving core and the team still lacks a proven running back.
Calvin McCarty has never been consistent for a whole season and Jesse Lumsden is injury prone.
Edmonton has finally started to improve after missing the playoffs for two years in a row, but will it be enough in a tough Western Division?
Calgary and Saskatchewan will be tough opponents, and Edmonton may not have enough talent on their roster to beat them.
If there is one constant the Eskimos have going into the season, it’s Ricky Ray.
Ricky Ray always put up high numbers and will definitely give the Eskimos a shot to compete.
The Eskimos will be counting on players like Jess Lumsden, Kamau Peterson and Maurice Lloyd to step up.
Edmonton should be able to finish higher in the standings then the revamped BC Lions, but they may have to settle for third place in a tough Western Division.
My Prediction: 6-9 wins, a third place finish in the Western Division and a playoff berth.
Outstanding Player of the Year: Ricky Ray
Defensive Player of the Year: Maurice Lloyd
Canadian of the Year: Kamau Peterson
Lineman of the Year: Patrick Kabongo
Special Teams Player of the Year: Noel Prefontaine
Rookie of the Year: Gordon Hinse
Stay tuned to Bleacher Report for the West team previews.