SPORTS

Mr. Everything: Multi-talented Lawrence anxious to contribute against Riders

09/25/2014 05:33 EDT | Updated 11/25/2014 05:59 EST
EDMONTON - The Edmonton Eskimos signed free agent Kendial Lawrence as an injury fill-in early this season, but the 25-year-old Texas native is proving to be a valuable and versatile addition to the CFL club.

The five-foot-nine, 195-pound running back/receiver out of Missouri has been Mr. Everything for the Eskimos.

He filled in at slotback when injuries took out Fred Stamps then A.J. Guyton.

He became a running back when John White and then Tyler Thomas were hurt.

When Joe Burnett and Pat Robertson were injured, Lawrence became a kick and punt returner.

In total he has produced 806 yards and every time he gets his hands on the ball he averages 9.1 yards. He doesn't care how he gets the football, whether via a handoff or a pass or a kick, he just wants it in his hands as much as possible when the Edmonton Eskimos meet the Saskatchewan Roughriders Friday evening.

"I prefer just having the ball in my hands period," he said Thursday. "It's not selfish. It's a big responsibility and I take that very seriously. I love to have the ball in my hands."

Lawrence has moved between running back and receiver — often in the same game — since getting on the game roster July 24 against Calgary. He had two catches for 36 yards and two carries for 24 in that game.

In eight games, he has 16 receptions for 180 yards and one touchdown, 55 carries for 382 yards (second on the team only to quarterback Mike Reilly) and two TDs, two kick returns for 42 yards and 15 punt runbacks for 202 yards.

On Friday he will line up at slotback with John White back at running back after missing six games with a broken finger.

Reilly said having both White and Lawrence on the field at the same time "makes the defence have to worry about multiple things."

"John White is a great running back. He's done a tremendous job for us when he's been healthy and he adds a dimension of power that defences don't like to see. I don't think defences want to see him out on the field."

Head coach Chris Jones said White is "certainly one of our most explosive players with the ball in his hands. He's a good blocker, he's very physical."

The question, however, is how effective the Eskimo running game will be against Saskatchewan's aggressive defence. After losing Thomas last week in Hamilton, the Eskimos ran the ball just nine times for 48 yards, losing for the third time in four games. That dropped them to 8-4, a game behind the 9-3 Roughriders.

Friday's game is the first of three times the teams will play each other in the final six weeks of the schedule.

"When you come out in any given situation there will be times when you have to pass the ball, just to move it down the field, to get points," Lawrence said the Eskimos lack of runs in Hamilton. "I wouldn't say there's a lack (of commitment to the run), there's just a bigger emphasis on the pass when we need it."

Jones said the Eskimos are a ball-possession team and therefore have to run the ball. But there are situations where defences force the quarterback to dump the ball in the flats. That, he said, is still a running play enough though it goes as a pass on the stats sheet.

Saskatchewan will have basically the same roster as last week. The Eskimos have White back but lost Thomas, will have Otha Foster replacing Shamawd Chambers and are still without defensive end Marcus Howard.

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