The Montreal Alouettes travel to Hamilton on Saturday following a strong defensive performance at home over the Calgary Stampeders.
Montreal Alouettes (3-3): The Montreal Alouettes are back to an even record after a strong game defensively that kept Calgary from scoring any touchdowns. Montreal’s only touchdown was scored by their defense. Montreal does have multiple personal changes this week due to injuries.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats (3-4): The Hamilton Tiger-Cats won a close game over Ottawa last week but it felt like a loss as Bo Levi Mitchell suffered a broken leg on the 2nd to last play on a QB sneak. Why he was even in the game at that time when Hamilton just needed to kill the clock is mysterious. Taylor Powell will get his 2nd career CFL start at quarterback for Hamilton.
CFL First Period All-Star Team (Weeks 1-7)
Date/Location: Saturday, August 5 /Tim Hortons Field, Hamilton, ON
Kickoff Time: 7:00 PM ET, 4:00 PM PT
Channel: TSN (Canada), CBS Sports (USA), CFL+ (International)
Spread: Montreal -2.5 (-120), Hamilton +2.5 (-110)
Moneyline: Montreal -150, Hamilton +125
Over/Under: 45.5 (Over -105, Under -115)
Defensive Keys to the Game
The Alouette’s defense played extremely well last week hosting the Calgary Stampeders. The secondary provided tight coverage limiting receivers getting open downfield. The pass rush was also very effective frequently and quickly putting pressure on Jake Maier. The personnel on the defensive line is the same as last week which saw Shawn Lemon play his first game as an Alouette.
If the pass rush can be as effective as it was last week against Calgary, then it is hard to imagine that Taylor Powell will have a successful day at quarterback for Hamilton in only his 2nd career CFL start.
The Alouettes have new adversity due to injuries as 2 of their starting linebackers as well as a starting halfback. Avery Williams and Najee Murray leave big holes to fill for the Montreal defense at linebacker. Frederic Chagnon is getting his first start of the season at middle linebacker and J.R Reed is starting at cover linebacker. With it being Taylor Powell’s 2nd career start it is going to be very important for Hamilton to establish the run. If Montreal can get some key run stops early on James Butler and get Hamilton to abandon the run, then the pass rush can start to put Hamilton’s offensive line on their heels and make the day quite difficult for Hamilton’s offense.
At halfback, Reggie Stubblefield is coming on for an injured Dionte Ruffin. Stubblefield has only played in 1 game so far in his 1st year in the CFL during which he was listed as a 2nd string cover linebacker in week 3. It’s a big opportunity for him to show what he can do at this level for the Kansas State product.
Offensive Keys to the Game
Quick Progressions From Fajardo
Over the first few games of the season, Fajardo was targeting Austin Mack and Kaion Julien-Grant very often. At times he would lock onto one receiver and not go through his progressions. The Alouettes do have a deep receiving room and he needs to trust all of his receivers and scan quickly to find the open man.
Fajardo did a great job distributing the ball more evenly against BC and Toronto but in the last game against Calgary Julien-Grant and Mack accounted for 73% of the target share. Tyson Philpot was only targeted 1 time in his first game of the season. Fajardo was also often inaccurate. Last year Hergy Mayala had 50 catches but so far this season he is on pace for only 18 and that’s caused by an imbalance in target share which also makes the offense predictable.
Cody Fajardo is capable of being the best quarterback in the CFL but at times this season, he appears to be forcing the play to go where he envisions it to go before the play rather than adapting to what the play is presenting him with.
Keep Running the Football
Last week the Alouettes gave Stanback the ball for 15 carries and he ran for 86 yards (5.7 average). Montreal established the run trusting their talented running back. It seemed that the momentum from the run translated to the pass protection as well which looked better as well. Montreal only gave up 1 sack against Calgary which has been a problem at times this season.
No Kaion Julien-Grant
Kaion Julien-Grant is out for this game due to a hand injury. KJG is 7th in the CFL in receiving yards.
Quartney Davis comes back into the lineup to start. Montreal will need reliable play from their receivers. Quartney Davis, Austin Mack, Tyler Snead, Tyson Philpot, and Hergy Mayala are a good solid group of starting receivers. Cole Spieker and Jake Harty are the 2nd stringers. All 7 of these receivers are capable of making plays if trusted.
Quartney Davis is great at going up and over players to win one-on-one battles. Tyler Snead is a speedster. Cole Spieker had a 100-yard game late in the season last year. Jake Harty is a CFL veteran. Tyson Philpot had a 100-yard playoff game in his rookie season last year.
These are good receivers and Fajardo needs to spread the targets around more evenly and take what the defense gives you and not be predictable.
Injuries, Depth Chart Changes From Last Week:
The Alouettes have quite a few injuries to the weather this week. Sean Jamieson (OL) and Greg Ellingson (WR) remain out with knee injuries but were both limited in practice as they work towards their first game of the season.
Montreal’s cover linebacker Najee Murray is out for the season after suffering a torn pectoral muscle. Murray is the team leader in tackles and has an interception, forced fumble, and a knockdown on the season.
Dionte Ruffin is out this week with a hip injury after starting last week at halfback. Avery Williams is out this week as well with an elbow injury after starting last week at middle linebacker.
Chante Evans remains out with a leg injury and has not played since starting at halfback in week 5. Evans did not participate in practice on Wednesday or Thursday.
Stubblefield comes into the lineup to start at halfback. Tyson-Otis Copeland is being dressed as a 2nd string halfback this week.
Frederic Chagnon will start at middle linebacker with Bryce Notree providing depth behind him on the depth chart. J.R. Reed will start as an outside linebacker. Both players were listed as 2nd string linebackers last week.
On offense, Kaion Julien-Grant is out with a hand injury. Quartney Davis will start as a receiver in his absence. Cole Spieker is also coming back into the lineup now as a 2nd string receiver. He has not played since he was moved to the practice roster following week 3.
Austin Mack was limited in practice this week due to an ankle injury but is still going to play on Saturday.
I am expecting Montreal to build on what they did right last week in running the football and also correct what needed improvement and that is for Fajardo to spread the ball around better. Hamilton has the most points allowed per game in the CFL and it is Taylor Powell’s 2nd career CFL start at quarterback for them. I think Montreal is going to win this one 31-16.
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