EDMONTON - The Edmonton Eskimos will be getting some key players back on both sides of the ball when they renew acquaintances with the B.C. Lions this weekend.
Receiver Fred Stamps and defensive end Marcus Howard finished three solid days of practice Thursday and are expected back for the rematch between the West Division rivals Saturday in Vancouver. Both missed last weekend's 17-3 Eskimo loss to the Lions in Edmonton.
"(Stamps) had a very good week of practice," head coach Kavis Reed said Thursday. "We're very encouraged by what we've seen and we don't see any reason, right now, why he shouldn't be back on (the roster). Barring some unforeseen setbacks we expect him to be playing on Saturday."
Stamps said it's been frustrating not being able to practice fully through the few weeks of the season, but after three solid days on the field he said he feels good and will feel "even better come game time."
Reed said Howard also had a good week of practice.
"There haven't been any setbacks with him as well so we're pretty enthused to say that he's probably going to be back," Reed said.
Reed agreed that the return of the two key individuals on offence and defence will make the Eskimos a much better team on Saturday when they try to even their record at 2-2 and pull even with the Lions in the West Division standings.
"You can list our top guys and they're going to be in the top five or for sure the top 10," Reed said of Stamps and Howard. "So they're significant to their respective units, to what we're doing. We really feel with them on the field we're a much better football team."
The Eskimos will have to be that if they hope to beat the 2-1 Lions. Last weekend the offence managed just 176 yards — 97 of that on Mike Reilly's completing 13 of 23 passes. With the offence running just six plays in the third quarter, the defence was on the field for nearly 12 minutes and surrendered two long touchdown drives to the Lions to start the second half.
The Eskimos are confident the return of Stamps, who leads the team with nine catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns in the two games he played, will bring life to the offence. The six-year CFL veteran posted those stats even though he hadn't practised much because of an undisclosed leg injury.
Despite the lack of reps, Stamps and Reilly seem to have instant chemistry.
"Those two have spent a lot of time together in the film room, lots of time after practice with each other, visualizing and talking through routes," Reed said. "Fred is a consummate pro. Fred is going to be where he needs to be when he needs to be there. Mike has to trust that and Mike has trusted that. We've seen that Fred is his go-to guy … in spite of the fact they haven't had the opportunity to get a number of reps together."