VANCOUVER – Week 3 of CFL action will open with the Edmonton Elks traveling to BC Place to take on the division rival BC Lions in a matchup that is sure to showcase a couple of high flying offences.
Thursday’s matchup will feature a battle between two of the league’s best offences and two of the game’s most effective quarterbacks.
Through the first two weeks of CFL football, Edmonton’s Trevor Harris and BC’s Michael Reilly sit atop the league as the game’s two best passers, combining for 95 completions and 1,111 passing yards.
While Edmonton is still in search of its first win of the season, head coach Jaime Elizondo is confident that his team understands the long-term plan for the Elks.
“They understand the vision, they understand what we’re trying to build here,” said Elizondo. “I don’t think anybody in that locker room has flinched yet.”
As we get set to enter Week 3, the Elks have been one of the best offensive teams in the league. Edmonton has been able to generate 727 yards of total offence and are among the league’s most effective passing attacks.
Trevor Harris leads all quarterbacks with 566 passing yards and a 71.3 completion percentage on a league high 73 passing attempts. However, Harris is not doing it alone, the Elks have an impressive rushing attack led by 2017’s Most Outstanding Rookie, James Wilder Jr.
Through just two games Wilder Jr. leads all running backs with 174 rushing yards and has accumulated the most rushing gains of ten or more yards. In addition to being one of the most elusive ball carries, Wilder Jr. is also a threat when receiving out of the backfield. He has caught nine of his 13 targets for a total of 72 yards, averaging an impressive eight yards per catch.
The explosive ability of the Edmonton offence is undeniable, but the team is not without its imperfections. The Green and Gold have had issues scoring the ball to start the season. In six trips to the red zone they have scored a touchdown just once. The lone red zone score also marks their only touchdown through their first two games.
Despite their inability to score the ball, Harris remains confident in what he has seen from his teammates and believes it is merely a battle of adversity.
“I’ve been in this league quite a long time, I’ve been on championship teams, this has the genetic makeup,” said Harris. “When you hit adversity, you can see who’s really with you and it reveals a lot of character and we’ve got great character in this locker room.”
While Harris and Wilder Jr. are seemingly the focal point of the Edmonton offence, the athleticism of their wide receivers can’t be dismissed.
The newly acquired Derel Walker has been electric in his first two games as a member of the Elks. Walker is among the league’s leaders in receptions yards, reeling in 13 of his 17 targets for 174 yards.
In addition to the impressive performances from Walker, second year wideout Shai Ross has become a breakout star for the Double E. The Manitoba native has seen 10 targets come his way and has caught eight of them for 82 yards, while scoring the sole touchdown for the Elks against the Montreal Alouettes a week ago.
“It’s fun watching Shai because his leadership is growing on the field too,” said coach Elizondo. “He’s doing a great job of communicating on the field, so it’s been fun to watch his growth.”
As good as the Elks offence has been to start the season, the BC offensive unit has looked every bit as dangerous and has shown they possess the speed, skill and depth at the wide receiver position to score on any team in the CFL.
While there has been some variation at the quarterback position for the Lions early on with both Michael Reilly and Nathan Rourke splitting snaps in Week 1. Reilly looked to be more than comfortable throwing the football last week against the Calgary Stampeders where he fielded every snap.
In their Week 2 matchup, Reilly threw 33 passes, completing 26 of them for 342 yards, the most passing yards among quarterbacks in the second week of CFL action. Reilly is also second in total passing yards with 545.
No matter who is playing quarterback for the Lions, Elks defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe maintains they need to be ready regardless of who is throwing the ball for the Black and Orange.
“We’re preparing for the BC Lions offence first and foremost,” said Thorpe. “The one that’s under centre is the one we are going to defend.”
The other point of concern for the Elks defensive unit is the group of talented wide receivers that Reilly has available. The Lions are the league’s best passing team, totalling 739 yards through the air in just their first two games.
Entering Week 3 Bryan Burnham and Lucky Whitehead look to be the most dangerous wide receiver combination in the CFL. Each have caught 11 passes, and both have over 200 yards and a touchdown.
Whitehead has the big play ability that defensive coordinators can’t help but take notice of. The second-year wide receiver averages 22.2 yards per catch, has run for 120 yards after the catch and has three receptions over 30 yards through his first two starts with the Lions.
It’s no secret that Thursday’s Week 3 opener is going to be fast paced and high flying. There are playmakers all over the field for both teams, especially at the wide receiver position.
Kickoff is set for Thursday night at 10:00 p.m. ET on TSN and ESPN2 or followed along on CFL.ca’s Game Tracker.