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CFL Preview: Montreal Alouettes (1-0-0) vs Edmonton Elks (0-1-0)

EDMONTON – The Montreal Alouettes hit the road again in search of their second win of the young season on Friday night. Awaiting them are the Edmonton Elks, who fell 29-21 to the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Commonwealth Stadium in Week 1.

Montreal looked the part of defending champions when they took down the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 29-12 in the season opener last week.

Quarterback Cody Fajardo was crisp and confident, completing 20 of his 28 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns. Facing an Elks’ pass defence that gave up 305 passing yards against the Riders, Fajardo could once again influence the game with his arm.

When he puts the ball in the air, the Elks secondary will need to be cognizant of where Tyson Philpot and Kaion Julien-Grant are. Philpot caught 10 of 11 passes thrown his way in Week 1 for 141 yards and two touchdowns.

Fajardo was complimentary of Philpot after the win in Winnipeg, hinting he’ll be a top target again on Friday night.

“What can you say about Philpot?” Fajardo told reporters. “Every time the ball is thrown his way, he makes a play.”

With rookie Charleston Rambo gaining experience with a couple of targets, he provides another option for the Alouettes’ offence.

A pair of second-year defensive backs, Darrius Bratton and Kai Gray, play a key role in the Elks’ secondary. Both had an interception against the Riders and need to lead the way in shutting down the Als’ receiving corps.

With the return of Loucheiz Purifoy, the secondary gets a boost to an already strong unit.

Jones hopes his run defence can put up a repeat performance after allowing just 40 yards on the ground against seasoned rusher AJ Ouellette. Going up against an Als team trying to find its way in the run game with Walter Fletcher taking the majority of the handoffs, linebackers Nick Anderson and Nyles Morgan need to be active in closing gaps.

With the Elks taking 11 penalties that cost them 101 yards versus the Riders, Morgan knows they can’t give a team as talented as the Alouettes extra opportunities.

“We’re going to emphasize being disciplined,” Morgan told reporters. “Make sure we’re staying on our Ps and Qs through four quarters. We can’t get lackadaisical at all.”

Elks’ quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson hasn’t missed a beat after a one-year hiatus from the CFL. He appears to be exactly what the Elks’ offence needs after a 336-yard performance against Saskatchewan.

Eugene Lewis continues to be a top receiver in the league and Kurleigh Gittens Jr. has existing chemistry with Bethel-Thompson from their time together with the Argos. Dillon Mitchell has also shown he can be a game changer, totalling 93 yards in the opener.

Bethel-Thompson will try to spread the ball around like he did against the Riders when he targeted eight different receivers.

He’ll need as many options as possible as the Als come into the game having held a potent Bombers team to 209 yards through the air in their previous contest. Defensive backs Dionte Ruffin and the reliable Marc-Antoine Dequoy are tasked with shutting down the Elks’ options downfield.

Up front, the Als aim to limit Elks’ running back Kevin Brown, much like they did to Brady Oliveira. Even more pressure will be on the pair this week without the likes of Reggie Stubblefield, who has been lost for the season with a torn ACL.

If Brown can get his game going and look more like the 1,000-plus yard rusher he was a year ago, it should help open up the field for Bethel-Thompson and his receivers.

Getting to 2-0 with back-to-back West Division road victories would be an ideal start for the Alouettes.

The Elks know it’s going to take a full 60-minute effort to even their record.

Kickoff is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET from Commonwealth Stadium. Fans in Canada can watch on TSN and RDS. Americans and international fans can catch the game on CFL+.

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