After a long off-season and another grueling training camp, the 2018 edition of the Edmonton Eskimos are ready to begin another season.
The CFL regular season begins Thursday night in Winnipeg as the Eskimos face the Winnipeg Blue Bombers from Investors Group Field.
LISTEN BELOW: 630 CHED’s Morley Scott speaks with Ryan Jespersen on the start of the Eskimos’ regular season
It will mark the first meeting between the two teams since last season’s Western Division Semi-Final, where the Eskimos prevailed 39-32.
Receiver Adarius Bowman scored two touchdowns in that game for the win but on Thursday he will be wearing blue and gold instead of green and gold.
Bowman was released by the Eskimos in early February and quickly signed with the Bombers, a team Bowman originally played for in the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
The expected quarterback matchup was supposed to be reigning Most Outstanding Player (MOP) Mike Reilly for the Eskimos and MOP candidate for the Bombers Matt Nichols.
However Nichols will be out for upwards of the next five weeks after injuring his knee last week in training camp.
The Eskimos defence will face raw rookie Chris Streveler at quarterback. The 23-year-old played two seasons at the University of South Dakota, recording 6.081 passing yards and 54 touchdown passes plus 1,543 rushing yards and 20 rushing TDs.
WATCH BELOW: Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Chris Streveler talks about making his first career CFL start on Thursday against the Edmonton Eskimos.
Streveler will become the first quarterback to start a CFL game in Week One out of college since Anthony Calvillo did so with the Las Vegas Posse in 1994.
Steveler faced the Eskimos in pre-season action on June 1 going 10 for 10 for 140 yards passing and throwing for one touchdown.
The Eskimos last season lost 346 man games to injuries and unfortunately 2018 is off to a rough start.
Defensive backs Johnny Adams and Arjen Colquhoun have been placed on the six-game injured list.
They join fellow defensive back Mercy Maston, offensive lineman J.S. Roy, fullback James Tuck and receivers Juron Criner and Giovanni Aprile on the six-game list.
Receiver Bryant Mitchell is on the one-game injured list.
Defensive back Forrest Hightower was limited in practice this week is unlikely to play while Aaron Grymes has returned home to deal with a personal matter.
Linebacker J.C. Sherritt is coming back from a major injury of his own. The eight-year veteran suffered a ruptured Achilles in the opening game of the 2017 season and missed the remainder of the year.
He said injuries are not easy to deal with, but it offers the opportunity for other players to step up.
“It’s always tough to see guys go down and starters go down,” Sherritt said. “I was a practice roster player for the first two days I was in this league, a guy didn’t get healed in time and I became a starter and I never looked back.
“We don’t know who that next guy is going to be, could be [Thursday], we could see the two next great defenders to ever play in the CFL.”
Two players will make their CFL debuts on Thursday for the Eskimos in defensive backs Money Hunter and Maurice McKnight. Both players started the season on the practice roster and McKnight was brought back this week after being released after training camp.
Listen Below: Eskimos head coach Jason Maas talks about the challenges of facing a team early in the season
The following is the projected offensive and defensive starters for the Eskimos:
Quarterback: Mike Reilly
Running Back: C.J. Gable (Fullback: Calvin McCarty)
Offensive Line: Tommy Draheim-David Beard-Justin Sorensen-Matt O’Donnell-Colin Kelly
Receivers: Derel Walker-Duke Williams-Natey Adjei-Kenny Stafford-Vidal Hazelton
Defensive Line: Kwaku Boateng-Almondo Sewell-Mike Moore-Alex Bazzie
Linebackers: Adam Konar-J.C. Sherritt-Chris Edwards
Defensive Backs: Maurice McKnight-Nick Taylor-Neil King-Money Hunter-Jordan Hoover
You can hear live coverage of Thursday’s CFL regular season opener between the Eskimos and Bombers on 630 CHED starting with Countdown to Kick-off at 5 p.m.
The opening kick-off from Investors Group Field in Winnipeg will be at 6:30 p.m. with Morley Scott and Dave Campbell calling all the live action. Plus, hear analysis from former Eskimos offensive lineman and two-time Grey Cup champion Blake Dermott.