Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The Montreal Alouettes offence is struggling to put points up on the board.
Through three games this season, the Als still haven’t managed to crack the 20-point mark, and they’ve combined to score only 52 points during that span. As we all know, averaging 17.33 points-per-game simply isn’t a recipe for success in the CFL.
Montreal is fortunate that Riders kicker Tyler Crapigna missed a 43-yard field goal with no time left in Week 1, or they’d find themselves at 0-3 heading into next week’s matchup against the Calgary Stampeders, who are arguably the best team in the league.
After the home game against the Stamps, the Als will face stiff tests on the road in Ottawa and Winnipeg. If they don’t turn things around in a hurry, they could find themselves with a 1-4 record.
What are the problems?
–Executing the game plan
Obviously, the offence is the biggest problem for them at this point. It simply isn’t good enough, and there are many reasons for that.
First, the execution just isn’t there. Missed throws, quarterback and receivers not on the same page and a lack of consistency have all plagued the Als in 2017.
The players like to say that it takes time to develop chemistry on the field, especially because Darian Durant played just one quarter of preseason football. But at what point does chemistry become an excuse.
I get it, Durant has never played with Ernest Jackson, B.J. Cunningham, Nik Lewis, Tiquan Underwood and Tyrell Sutton, but they’ve had most of training camp and three full weeks to figure this out.
–Offence is too conservative
Another problem with the offence, is that it’s been far too conservative. Those who follow the CFL know that Jacques Chapdelaine’s offences have always been on the conservative side (there’s nothing wrong with that), but there are times during a game when you need to be a bit more aggressive.
In Thursday’s loss to the B.C. Lions, the Als had two 30-plus yard completions (one to Jackson, one to Cunningham). I realize that you have to take what the defence is giving you, but sometimes you’ve got to try creating your own spark, and big plays tend to do that.
–Ernest Jackson needs to be more involved
It’s also time for the coaching staff to find a way to get the ball in Jackson’s hands with more regularity.
The former Redblack was one of Montreal’s major off-season signings, but his production has been incredibly disappointing through three games, as the 30-year-old has seven receptions for 67 yards and one touchdown.
As important as Durant is to their success, finding a way to get their number one target more looks is equally as important.
Let me take you back to the fourth quarter of Thursday’s game against the B.C. Lions. With just over a minute remaining in the game, Montreal’s defence forced B.C. to punt, but a too many men on the field penalty gave the Lions a fresh set of downs, and it allowed them to close out the game. I get it, a comeback was unlikely at that point, but that kind of penalty is inexcusable.
It’s just one example, but they’ve taken an incredible amount of silly penalties in all three games.
The Alouettes have also extended the opposition’s drives because of undisciplined penalties and they’ve negated some of their few big gains because of penalties.
As of right now, they’ve taken 29 penalties for 289 yards, which averages out to over 96 yards-per-game. It’s a serious problem.
–The defence has their own issues
The Alouettes defence has done a great job of not giving up many points to their opponent, but there are things that worry me on that side of the ball, too.
In the first two weeks of the season, they didn’t get much pressure on Kevin Glenn or Mike Reilly. With the way the Lions offensive line had looked through two weeks, I figured Montreal would be able to make life difficult for Jonathon Jennings. That didn’t happen.
The Als made some changes to their defensive line by letting Alan-Michael Cash walk in free agency. He was an underrated player that did a lot of the dirty work in the trenches, and it’s clear that they’ve missed him badly. Montreal has gone with Canadian defensive tackles Keith Shologan, Jabar Westerman and Don Oramasionwu, and they just haven’t gotten the necessary push up the middle.
My solution? Give second-year player Ray Drew a shot. I know he’s an American, which complicates things with the ratio, but he had a solid training camp. He’s worth a look.
–Time to hit the panic button?
There’s a lot to be concerned about, but it’s important to remember we’re just three games into the season. Is it time to hit the panic button? No, not yet. But there are a lot of things they need to figure out before they line up against the Stampeders next week.
Winning games at home has been an issue over the last two years, and dropping another one at Percival Molson-Stadium next week isn’t an option.
As former Als head coach Marv Leavy once said: “Adversity is an opportunity for heroism.” And the Alouettes need a hero in a hurry.
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