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CFL Week 2 Preview: Montreal Alouettes @ Edmonton Elks

Saturday will mark the start of the 2021 season for the Montreal Alouettes, as the opponent for the Edmonton Elks in their home-opener. This is a rematch of the 2019 semifinals game where Montreal couldn’t overcome a scoreless 1st quarter, losing to Edmonton 37-29.

Thursday’s injury report for both Teams had the following players listed with the specified designations:

Montreal Alouettes

Alouettes QB Vernon Adams Jr leads an offense with options that can change a game in a dime. Their top 3 WRs Eugene Lewis, Quan Bray, and DeVier Posey return for the 2021 season. Lewis led all Montreal receivers with 72 catches and 1133 yards. His numbers ranked him 7th in the league.

American RB Cameron Artis-Payne signed with the Alouettes this offseason and looks to be a solid option behind returning starter William Stanback. Artis-Payne has experience in an offense comparable to the type employed by teams in this league, despite not ever playing in the CFL.

Previously with the Carolina Panthers of the NFL, and the Dallas Renegades of the XFL, the Auburn University product was part of the Air Raid system made famous by Renegades offensive coordinator Hal Mumme. The core of the scheme is that you pass, to set up the run. He was 3rd in the XFL among RBs with 101 yards, and 2nd with 23 catches.

The only 2 backs that had more yards were teammate Lance Dunbar, and Roughnecks RB Nick Holley. Houston ran the same offense, and Dunbar was featured in the passing game. Artis-Payne was the main runner in Dallas’ two-headed monster, ranking 4th in the league in rushing with 47 carries, 241 yards, and 2 TDs. Cameron ranked 1st in YPC among RBs who had 15+ touches.

Stanback took a trip to Las Vegas while the CFL was deciding what to do with 2020. He spent the season on the Raiders practice squad.

Defensively Montreal is going to have to find the production lost by Henoc Muamba signing with Toronto. Muamba led the team in 2019 with 93 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, and 1 recovery.

DB Greg Reid returns for what he hopes is the 2nd full season with Montreal. In 2019 the FSU product had 74 tackles, 3 INTs, 1 forced fumble, and 1 recovery. But what he brings back to the Alouettes secondary is leadership and continuity. In an interview with Alouette’s Camille Perrin-Ridgway leading up to their opening weekend, he spoke about returning to the team, and how he plans to handle the leadership role:

I’ve been playing football for a while now. I know what it takes to win.  so I’m ready to step up and do whatever I have to do to lead my team this season. I try to coach them (the rookies), but the group we have this year is smart. they don’t really need to be coached, so i just try to give them support and little bits and pieces when i’m there.

DB Greg Reid

This defense will need to lean on Reid and other veterans to help them stay in control this season. DB Patrick Levels (OUT for Edmonton), DE John Bowman, will need to be the glue that holds this team together. Montreal saw some transitioning at the LB position, but veteran Chris Ackie will be the anchor at that level. Despite signing with Toronto before the 2020 season was canceled, all free agents were once again searching for a spot to land in 2021. The Alouettes brought him back, and Ackie will need to prove that was a sound decision by GM Danny Maciocia.

Edmonton Elks

Unlike the Alouettes, the Elks come into Saturday’s game having already played once. But no doubt Edmonton will be looking to erase that from their memories. The season-opener against the Redblacks had promise but sloppy play in key moments kept Ottawa close, and in the end, Edmonton was simply out of position.

QB Trevor Harris is coming off a monster performance in 2019, and looks to correct the mistakes from Week 1. Three INTs in a game where he went 33 of 44 for 333 yards isn’t an easy pill to swallow. He threw a total of 6 in all of 2019.

Edmonton’s leading Wr Greg Ellison is back and ready to contribute. In Week 1 he caught 5 balls for 52 yards. But their 2nd-leading receiver, Ricky Collins left in free agency. Collins signed with Toronto earlier this summer, leaving a hole that had to be filled if Harris is going to be as effective.

They did that by signing former Argonauts WR Armanti Edwards. The former Appalachian State star tested the XFL waters in 2020 before the CFL season was canceled. Edwards had been assigned to the practice squad known as Team 9, before being allocated to the Dallas Renegades. He never made it on the field in that league and signed with Edmonton that summer.

Edwards caught 4 passes for 25 yards in Week 1, but the most significant sighting so far has been his name on the Week 2 injury report. He has been a full participant since Wednesday, after being limited with a knee injury. There’s nothing keeping him from being a factor Saturday night.

Another big addition to this offense is former Argos RB James Wilder Jr. He was a lone bright spot in Week 1, rushing for 89 yards on 15 carries, and 9 receptions for 72 yards. Wilder’s game fits this offense like a glove, and no doubt he will get the call early and often against Montreal.

Having him in the backfield is huge, consider 2019’s 1,001-yard rusher CJ Gable retired. His backup, Shaquille Cooper signed with the BC Lions, so that left no one to carry the load from their most recent playoff season.

Edmonton’s leading tackler, Larry Dean is now in Saskatchewan, and their 2nd-leading tackler, Vontae Diggs from 2019 is also no longer with the team. That’s 173 tackles and 2 turnovers between them have to be replaced. DE Kwaku Boateng and LB Nyles Morgan seem fit for the job, as they combined for 9 tackles and 2 acks vs Ottawa.

In the secondary, DB Jonathan Mincy has taken a bigger role this season, and newly signed veteran DB Aaron Grymes, are set to anchor the pass defense. A lot of turnover on all levels means the continuity is disrupted. Thankfully the team brought in seasoned vets to help smooth out the transition.

They’re gonna need them against a QB like Vernon Adams Jr and the weapons he has on the outside.

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Josh Davis Reporter
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