Eskimos QB Matt Nichols gets first start vs. Roughriders

Frank Doyle | Updated Jun 14, 2013


Matt Nichols will be under centre for the Edmonton Eskimos  when the team hosts the Saskatchewan Roughriders in its preseason opener Friday night. Nichols is in a dogfight with Mike Reilly for the starting quarterback job with the Eskimos, but don’t read too much into Nichols getting the call in the first exhibition game of the season.

Eskimos coach Kavis Reed says that the two quarterbacks will split reps on Friday and Reilly is expected to get the start next week against the B.C. Lions.

“I am happy that (the start in the game) is here at home at Commonwealth, where I started a game last year,” Nichols told reporters. “I feel very comfortable here and get to practice here every day in familiar surroundings. Overall, I think it’s just exciting to take this field with your team and play in front of the home crowd, and I’m looking forward to (Friday).”

The 26-year-old Nichols completed 57.8 percent of his 83 pass attempts last season for the Eskimos with seven touchdowns compared to three interceptions. Reilly connected on 68.8 percent of his 77 career CFL passes – all with the Lions – with four TDs and two picks.

“It’s not just the stats that will determine who’s the best quarterback; it’s about who’s the best leader, who’s the best teammate, who handles adverse situations the best,” Reed told reporters. “We’re going to look at this person as the next quarterback for this franchise, hopefully for the long-term. Who is best suited all-around to be that guy?”

This is just part of the process in deciding between the two quarterbacks. Since the start of training camp the duo has been neck-and-neck, so it’s time to begin which player is going to be the guy with the regular season starting June 29 against these same Saskatchewan Roughriders.

“Someone has to start on June 29. Someone has to be a backup. It’s very important for the team to know,” Reed added. “If it’s a mystery to the football team, it’s a position of leadership, and obviously, sometimes it leaves a little bit of a chasm between the players.”

The Edmonton Eskimos aren’t getting much respect from oddsmakers heading into the regular season. They’re set at +900 to win the Grey Cup at Sports Interaction, ahead of only the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (+1000).