Football – the ultimate team sport, no one player is more important than another. That's likely the answer you'll get if you ask a coach to single out someone whose mere presence in the lineup on any given night can affect his teams' fortunes. After all, this is a sport that gave us “next man up” – a term that nicely captures the notion that everyone's easily replaced.
That's well and good, but if you're the Edmonton Eskimos the reality is quite a bit different when applied to slotback Adarius Bowman. Now in his seventh CFL campaign, the 6-3, 225lbs Bowman has always tantalized with his sure hands, willingness to impose his will on smaller defensive backs, and battle for the much coveted YAC (yards after catch) yards.
In Edmonton's opening week win over BC, Bowman led all receivers with nine catches for 105 yards and one touchdown and served notice that Mike Reilly's favorite target may not always be Fred Stamps.
Bowman was so dominant that Stamps, a four time CFL All-Star with five straight seasons of 1,000+ receiving yards, was largely invisible against the Lions. That's not necessarily a bad thing for a team that is trying to hit the reset button after a 4-14 season, their worst since the wretched days of the 1960's.
Eskimo GM Ed Hervey had a lengthy to do list after 2013. Upgrade (significantly) a porous offensive line, which would in turn limit the amount of time Mike Reilly spent either running for his life, or being helped to his feet by teammates or trainers. A running back who could not only run, but also block would also be nice but having Bowman on the roster more often than not would provide real dividends ... and wins.
Bowman's ability has never been in doubt, but his inability to stay healthy has limited his production for a player who can put up big numbers AND help the Esks every time he's in the line-up.
The numbers are definitive. In just 26 games since 2011, Edmonton is 15-11 with Bowman in the line-up … and 8–21 without. New head coach Chris Jones has already shown that he's not ‘risk averse' on either side of the ball and seemingly has full confidence in Bowman's place in the offence.
We're all replaceable, especially so in football, but as the Esks have discovered life with Bowman is a whole letter better than life without him.