October 24, 2017 3:22 pm

Special teams about to get better for Edmonton Eskimos

Edmonton Eskimos' kicker Sean Whyte (6) and quarterback Jordan Lynch watch the game winning field goal against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in CFL playoff action, in Hamilton, Ont., on Sunday, November 13, 2016.

Frank Gunn, The Canadian Press

Sean Whyte last kicked a football in a CFL game with the Edmonton Eskimos on July 28.

When he left that game with a leg injury, the original thought was he’d be out maybe four weeks. That changed at some point as Whyte eventually got a second stint on the six-game injured list and the Eskimos started to bring in kickers as GM Brock Sunderland announced they weren’t sure if Whyte would be able to return at all this season.

The good news is that Whyte appears to be poised for a return.

Monday night on the Eskimos Coach’s Show on 630 CHED, Jason Maas revealed that Whyte was close.

“Whyte will be coming back,” said Maas, knowing that he alone will improve things on special teams.

“He’s a 93 per cent kicker, so you’d like to think if he was healthy all year he would be at 93 right now. He was 13 of 14 before he went out.”

When he went out, that started the rotation of Hugh O’Neill to Chris Milo to Swayze Waters.  They have been good enough to help get the Eskimos to a 10-and-six record, but there is room for improvement.

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Milo, now an Eskimos scout, came in for a couple of games and went five for six — his only miss was a 46-yard attempt on the final play of the the Labour Day rematch game that would have tied the score and sent it to overtime.

O’Neill, brought in to punt at first, has gone nine of 13 on field goals. It should be noted that he has maintained a very strong 45.2-yard punting average.

Waters has played four games and missed one field goal per game, also going nine for 13. The kicking game has been an issue and the stats bear that out.

The Eskimos are last in punting average at 43.9 and last in net yards at 33.1. The team is last in kick-off average at 57.8 yards.

Edmonton is eighth in field goal percentage at 78.3 and they are eighth in converts at 76.5 per cent.

What those numbers don’t tell you about are the injuries. Not only have the Eskimos had four kickers this year, but the Green and Gold have also had nine different players forced into kick return duties, and too many players to count have been used in the other facets of the special team game.

READ MORE: Edmonton Eskimos come from behind to beat B.C. Lions 35-29 in OT

Maas knows that injuries — as much as Chris Rainey, Roy Finch or Rene Peredes — have affected the Eskimos special teams.

“When you have a lot of injuries your offence and defence can get through a lot of it.

“The amount of injuries we have faced this year has devastated our special teams. There have been been games where we have had 10 changes on special teams.”

Maas says many of those changes meant that players who don’t normally see the field on special teams have been forced to play.

“I think our coaches have done a tremendous job getting our guys ready every single week. We don’t have a full-time returner on our roster every game. That’s because of injuries we have at other spots.”

Whyte’s return, whether it’s Saturday at home to Calgary or a week Saturday in Regina, will give the Eskimos the option to get another American player on the roster to handle returns. Maas also adds that several other special teamers are close to returning and that will also make a difference.

“I understand what’s happened this year and who it affects. We will get better on special teams the next couple of weeks because we will get guys back who are special teams players.

“There are some good things happening for our football club that will directly impact how special teams play.”

READ MORE: Mike Stubbs: Interesting times ahead for Eskimos and Roughriders

The Eskimos cancelled Tuesday’s short walk through practice and will now be back on the field on Wednesday.

They will play host to the Calgary Stampeders on Saturday at 5 p.m. on the Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium. Coverage on 630 CHED will begin with the Countdown to Kick off Show at 3:30 p.m.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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