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Coaching Deserves Partial Blame for Montreal’s Sack Woes: 5 Thoughts Following the 27-35 Loss to Toronto

Thoughts following the Montreal Alouettes’ 27-35 loss to Toronto Friday night at home. Montreal established the run for the first half of the game.

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The Montreal Defensive Backs Were Highly Physical

The Montreal secondary was very physical right from the start of this game. On the first drive especially it seemed every pass play for Toronto ended with one of the Argonauts’ receivers absorbing a really big hit.

Montreal Did a Great Job Establishing the Run Until They Didn’t

I have been highly critical of Montreal’s play calling the past couple of weeks regarding the limited amount of run plays they have been calling. Last week William Stanback had only 6 carries the entire game which creates a highly predictable offense in which the defense does not need to scheme against the run.

In Montreal’s loss to Toronto Stanback had 10 rushes in the first quarter. Stanback ended up having 12 rushes total averaging 4.4 yards per carry. Jeshrunn Antwi had 4 carries as well, 3 of which were in a row in the third quarter. Montreal only ran 4 rushing plays in the third quarter and then just 2 in the 4th quarter.

It seemed the longer the game went on the more Montreal went away from their own game plan of higher tendencies of rushing the ball.

Coaching Deserves Partial Blame for Montreal’s Sack Woes

Montreal allowed 4 sacks against Toronto and 26 sacks total on the season in just 5 games. The pass protection needs to improve. Montreal has shown some predictable tendencies to go away from the run game often. The playcalling needs to be less predictable. In the 4th quarter, there were only 2 rushing plays for Montreal despite it being a very close game.

The first sack of the game came on Montreal’s 6th passing play in a row late in the 2nd quarter. The 2nd sack was a broken play that began with a fumble. The 2 sacks in the fourth quarter came on a 2nd and long and the defense is all but certain they are up against a pass play.

During the time that Montreal was committing to the run, there were 0 sacks allowed. The Montreal coaching staff then abandoned the run for the most part and Montreal allowed 4 sacks all coming in the last 31 minutes of the game.

Montreal’s playcalling is choosing to be predictable.

Montreal’s head coach, Jason Maas, was Saskatchewan’s offensive coordinator last year who allowed the most sacks in the league. Montreal’s offensive line personnel is largely unchanged aside from adding a CFL all-star at center in Justin Lawrence. Last year Montreal allowed 2.6 sacks per game. This year it’s 5.2 sacks per game so far.

Healthier Passing Offense

In the first 3 games for Montreal Cody Fajardo was targeting Kaion Julien-Grant and Austin Mack almost exclusively. In the last 2 weeks, he has been distributing more targets to other receivers primarily Tyler Snead and Quartney Davis who both played their 2nd CFL games Friday night. The tendency to target only 2 receivers is not a sustainable one and this has been much better in weeks 5 and 6.

Over the last 2 games, Quartney Davis has been targetted 12 times and has 6 catches for 94 yards including a spectacular catch going over a defender against BC. Tyler Snead has been targetted 8 times catching 7 passes for 109 yards and 3 touchdowns all of which came against Toronto.

Adding Quartney Davis and Tyler Snead has certainly helped the Montreal offense. I will say the other receivers who were in the lineup, Cole Spieker and Keshunn Abramm, are also talented receivers and their limited production stemmed from a limited amount of targets. They were arguably victims of Montreal’s pass game during that time fixating solely on 2 receivers. Hergy Mayala is a talented Canadian receiver who received interest from the USFL this past offseason. Despite starting every game he is only receiving roughly 1 target per game.

Montreal’s passing offense has been better in the last 2 games, but I believe Fajardo could really take his game to the next level by surveying more of his receivers and doing so quicker. He is going to need better pass protection to have the confidence to trust his pocket to do this though.

Bad Defensive Day On Paper , Not Terrible on the Eye Test

On the stats sheet, it was not a great day for Montreal’s defense. Toronto had great success in the running game as A.J. Oulette rushed 14 times for 95 yards (6.8 yards per carry) and Andrew Harris rushed 3 times for 21 yards (7 yards per carry). Against the pass, Kelly completed 84% of his passes and averaged 14 yards per throw. Toronto had 3 passing plays over 30 yards and 9 passing plays over 20 yards.

On paper, this is a really bad day defensively. Watching the game Montreal’s defense did not fail the eye test. The pass coverage aside from 1 or 2 plays did not have instances of Toronto receivers catching passes who were wide-open. It was a day in which Toronto’s offense was playing really well more so than Montreal’s defense playing poorly. Chad Kelly did a really good job putting the ball into tight windows. Toronto’s receivers did a great job holding onto the ball while getting hit.

A.J. Oulette looked really good on his touches for Toronto as well. Montreal is going to need to stop the run better. It’s a big ask to play a full game of trench warfare at the line coming off of a Sunday game in BC and then play again on Friday. Playing against fatigue when you’re opponent is coming off a bye week is an uphill battle. Regardless Montreal will want to see some tighter performances defensively moving forward. Winning a football game while allowing around 7 yards per carry is very unlikely.

Cody Fajardo is Really Elusive in the Pocket

I’ve said it a hundred times and I’ll say it a hundred more. Fajardo displayed great escapability against Toronto and was evident in this touchdown on 3rd down.

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Jonathan Clink Reporter
Jonathan Clink joined CFL News Hub in early April of 2023. His primary responsibilities are covering the BC Lions and Montreal Alouettes. He self awarded himself the CFL Rookie Journalist of the Year in 2023 following the 2023 CFL season. He also proclaims himself to be a "really cool guy". He was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba and lived a large portion of his childhood in Northwest Ontario. He currently lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan and misses being being able to have 4 months of skating every winter. Clink has written over 240 articles for CFL News Hub. He was the publication's boots on the ground at the 2023 Grey Cup in Hamilton. Clink has always had an obsession for sport and has a background in other sports as well having played hockey all his life and soccer, basketball, and lacrosse in high school. As a young child he used to log his hockey statistics after every game which is either an indication that he was destined for the role or perhaps and indication that he is rather strange.
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