At least there’s no smoke in the forecast this time around….
Alouettes quarterback Antonio Pipkin is surely feeling a bit of deja-vu. He made his first CFL start in Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium last year, trying to lead the Montreal Alouettes to only their second win of 2018. He didn’t achieve that goal, but his stellar play in such adversity certainly got everyone talking about this unknown pivot from Tiffin University.
Fast forward several months later. Now Pipkin is the official starting quarterback for the Alouettes and the only smoke he has surrounding him is put there by the hundreds of pundits who still consider this franchise to be a dumpster fire. This will be Pipkin’s first of many opportunities to prove those people wrong and show that this team can look just as good on the field as it currently does on paper.
I’m looking forward to this receiving corps in Montreal stepping up now that it’s confirmed that Antonio is their quarterback. We saw a beautiful connection from Pipkin to Devier Posey for a touchdown last week and I promise that will not be the only time these two connect for six in 2019. The name that will be on everyone’s lips by game’s end could be Jake Wieneke, who I’ve stated could be the next Brandon Zylstra. He’s made some dazzling catches in training camp and earned his spot in the starting lineup.
We didn’t see much of the run game in pre-season, but look for William Stanback to pick up where he left off last season. He’s still fast and powerful with the ball in his hands. He just needs the big boys in front of him to create some lanes. Both he and Ryder Stone can be a deadly one-two punch for the Alouettes, but this team has always ignored the run game even when it’s the only thing working. Perhaps that thought process can change in 2019.
In many ways, this game should be looked at like a third pre-season game. Montreal has a bye next week and can use tonight’s game as yet another chance to ensure that interim head coach Khari Jones is completely comfortable in his new role. Reports indicate that the Montreal players are all-in and ready to step up for their new coach. They’ll be tested early and often by an Edmonton team that has a lot of questions of their own to answer.
This past off-season saw a major upheaval of talent for the Eskimos as longtime QB Mike Reilly bolted for the BC Lions when free agency got underway. Replacing him is former Ottawa RedBlack Trevor Harris, who’s always played well against the Alouettes. He’ll have a familiar target to throw to in Greg Ellingson, who’s also managed to humble the Alouettes at every possible chance. As Harris learns more about his new offense, I expect these former Redblacks to connect early and often.
On the defensive side of things, the Eskimos still look solid. Keeping Kwaku Boateng in green and yellow was a very wise move, as was adding players like Larry Dean and Don Unamba. There’s even some former Alouettes in the Eskimos defense (besides Unamba) as Tyquwan Glass and Jesse Joseph could be motivated enough to show up their former squad.
Overall, I still quite don’t know what to expect from these Eskimos. And apparently, neither do their fans. There’s a lot of talent in that Edmonton locker room, but they also lost a lot of talent in free agency. And one has to wonder which Jason Maas is going to be patrolling the sidelines as head coach. Will it be the offensive genius able to will his charges to victory? Or will it be the hotheaded maniac hurling whatever isn’t nailed down in frustration?
As this game is a early test for both teams, I’m expecting it to be a very close battle as both QBs find their footing and try not to overthink their reads. It could be a game won on the ground as well if neither Pipkin or Harris can connect with their receivers. When it’s all said and done, I think this will be a real back and forth match that may be decided by a last-second field goal.
No matter what, it’s time to rejoice Alouettes Nation; Football is back. This will be a memorable season, hopefully for all the right reasons.
That’s all for now. It’s been a wild week of sports and now it’s time for the Canadian Football League to take us into the hot summer nights.
Enjoy tonight’s game, regardless of where you watch it.
GO ALS GO!!!