MONTREAL — The Montreal Alouettes are looking to exercise some demons against the Edmonton Eskimos on Saturday afternoon at Percival-Molson Stadium.
Historically, the Eskimos have dominated the Montreal franchise. They hold a 47-29-2 record over the Als since 1961, which includes eight victories in 11 Grey Cup games. Edmonton won both meetings last season, as well as the teams’ Week 1 matchup this season.
Speaking of historic, William Stanback is doing incredible things in the Montreal backfield. If he continues on his pace of gaining an average of 114 yards on the ground per game, he will be flirting with setting the CFL single-season rushing record. It is still very early in the season, but the record is held by former Alouette, Mike Pringle.
Both quarterbacks in this East-versus-West matchup are on impressive streaks. Trevor Harris has not thrown an interception this season. That’s 218 passes without a pick – the sixth-longest interception-free streak in CFL history.
Vernon Adams Jr. hasn’t thrown a pick since Week 3. Adams Jr. keeping possession of the ball seems to be a recipe for success, as the Als are 2-0 when their 26-year-old pivot doesn’t throw an interception.
The impressive play of their quarterback only begins to describe how good the Eskimos have been in all three phases of the game in 2019.
Harris has been spreading the wealth, as six different receivers have touchdown grabs for Edmonton. Running back CJ Gable’s 415 rushing yards would lead the CFL, if it weren’t for the outstanding play of Stanback.
Defensively, Edmonton has been stingy, allowing the fewest passing yards per game (174.3) and the second-fewest rushing yards (80.8). A key to the defence’s success is their ability to stay off the field – they have run the fewest defensive plays in the league this year (160 over four games).
Returner Martese Jackson had a solid game on special teams in last week’s win over BC, drawing praise from Head Coach Jason Maas.
“Hopefully they can continue on that,” Maas told Esks.com. “They get confidence in Martese and Martese gets confidence in those guys, and we continue to get the production. It’s much nicer as an offence to start with the field position we had last game.”
This past week was a tough one for the Alouettes franchise, with General Manager Kavis Reed being fired after the team’s win against Ottawa. Despite the possible distractions, the leaders are making sure the locker room stays focused.
“Like [Marc] Trestman used to tell me many years ago; ‘football doesn’t love anybody,’” John Bowman said. “You just have to practice and play hard and try to treat everything as normal.”
Amid the shuffle, veteran returner Stefan Logan was released. This leaves a void on Montreal’s special teams, and 22-year-old Marcus Taylor was brought in to fill it. Having just finished his college career at Norfolk State University, Taylor primarily suited up as a returner. His 2018 campaign with the Spartans saw him put up an average of 22 yards-per-kickoff return.
It will be a trial by fire for Taylor in his first CFL game, as he is slated to start at slotback opposite another dependable returner in Quan Bray. Injuries to wideouts B.J. Cunningham and DeVier Posey leave some sizeable gaps in the Montreal receiving core, and the play of Taylor and Bray could very well be a difference maker. Geno Lewis will also be expecting an increased workload.
“It motivates me because I know the guys are counting on me,” Lewis told MontrealAlouettes.com. “I’m not the type to talk a lot though, even if I’m in a leader’s position. I let my actions speak for themselves.”
A piece of positive news on the injury front for the Als is that off-season signing Jeremiah Johnson is set to make his debut. Johnson missed the first four games of the year, but is sitting behind Stanback on the Montreal depth chart.
The Eskimos also received some rough injury news, as stalwart offensive lineman Matt O’Donnell appears to be out long term. The Eskies are already missing SirVincent Rogers, who was hurt in training camp, so rookie Kyle Saxelid will be making his first career start. A second-round pick in the 2019 CFL Draft, Saxelid is penciled in at right guard.
“I have full faith in him,” Harris told Esks.com when asked about Saxelid. “He’s a good football player, and we’re very blessed and lucky to have him. We’re sure going to miss [O’Donnell], but Kyle’s going to do a great job.”
BY THE NUMBERS
.235 – The winning percentage of Montreal starting quarterbacks since 2016 not named Vernon Adams Jr. Adams Jr. is 5-2 (.714).
8-2 – Trevor Harris’s career record as a starter against Montreal.
11 – Defensive tackles for the Alouettes Patrick Levels last week, a single-game career high.
12-3 – Edmonton’s record in games in June and July dating back to 2017.
Kickoff is at 4:00 p.m. ET and can be seen on TSN, RDS and ESPN+, and followed live via CFL.ca Game Tracker.