Preview: Redblacks, Alouettes meeting for East Battle

MONTREAL — The Ottawa REDBLACKS will be on the road for the second time in less than a week as they travel to Percival Molson Memorial Stadium to take on the Montreal Alouettes on Thanksgiving Monday.

Ottawa suffered a 35-16 loss at the hand of the Toronto Argonauts on Wednesday evening. Rookie quarterback Caleb Evans made his second straight start for the REDBLACKS and was met by a stout Argos defence.

The REDBLACKS pivot threw for an impressive 334 yards, though he totalled three interceptions in the loss against the Argos, two of which were returned for a touchdown.

Despite the challenges Evans faced to start Week 10, he has shown he possesses the attributes necessary to lead a CFL offence. He has demonstrated the ability to push the ball downfield and stress opposing defences with his arm while being able to extend plays and generate first downs with his legs.

Through his first two CFL starts, the first-year quarterback has connected on 38 of his 63 passing attempts throwing for 525 yards and three touchdowns, while adding 113 rush yards on 13 carries, the most rush yards by any Ottawa quarterback this season.

Evans isn’t the only first year REDBLACK making an impact on the offensive side of the ball. Rookie receiver Ryan Davis leads the team with 429 receiving yards and two touchdowns and has been the most targeted Ottawa wide out through the first eight games of the season.

Davis has been able to make his impact felt in the return game as well, adding 312 return yards to pair with his already impressive receiving numbers.

In addition to the breakout of Davis, the REDBLACKS have been able to add a veteran presence to their air attack in the form of Kenny Stafford, who Ottawa signed in September.

The eighth-year receiver made his season debut in Week 8 for Ottawa and has since hauled in 119 yards and a touchdown on five receptions. Most recently totalling 75 yards on three receptions in the loss against Toronto. Despite his success so far in the nation’s capital, Stafford will not play in Ottawa’s second Week 10 matchup as Michael Klukas will start in his place.

There will be opportunities for the REDBLACKS to make plays through the air in Monday’s matchup. The Montreal secondary has been susceptible to big plays when defending the pass through the 2021 season.

Allowing teams to throw for an average of 258.4 yards, while giving up 12 receptions of 30 yards or more and 10 touchdowns. Against the Als, opposing quarterbacks average the second highest efficiency rating in the league with 102.9.

On the opposite sideline, the Alouettes offensive scheming is reliant on their ability to keep opposing defences honest by using their ground game.

Entering Week 10, Montreal boasts one of the most aggressive rushing attacks in the league, headlined by William Stanback. The Als are averaging 147 yards per game and have totalled a league leading 1,029 rush yards, 260 more than the next closest team.

Through seven games played, Stanback has carried the ball 109 times for Montreal, collecting 677 yards and two touchdowns, while averaging 6.2 yards per carry, the highest average among CFL running backs.

In addition to the hard-nosed running style of Stanback, the Montreal offence always has an extra ball carrier on the field with their quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. The sixth-year veteran has called his own number 45 times on the season and runs for an average of 5.7 yards per play.

The pocket awareness and quick twitch speed of Adams Jr. make him one of the most elusive quarterbacks in the league, especially in the red zone where he scored 12 touchdowns with his legs in 2019.

The seemingly run-first mentality of the Als offensive attack has allowed their passing game to become one of the most damaging in the league.

Montreal has attempted the fewest passes among all teams, putting the ball in the air just 228 times on the season and averaging the second-lowest completion percentage. However, the Montreal passing attack averages 13.8 yards per completed pass and Adams Jr’s. 13 passing touchdowns lead the league.

The Als air attack is highlighted by the likes of Jake Wieneke, Eugene Lewis and Quan Bray, who have created highlight play after highlight play on the season. In their last two games, the Montreal trio of receivers have combined for 537 yards and four touchdowns on 33 receptions.

The creativity and execution of the Montreal offensive scheming will be a tough task for the REDBLACKS as they get set for their second game of Week 10. However, they have the weapons in place and the strong-armed quarterback needed to stage an upset on Thanksgiving.

Kickoff is slated for 1:00 p.m. and can be watched on TSN, RDS and ESPN+ or followed along on CFL.ca’s Game Tracker.