Als head coach Khari Jones confident star QB Vernon Adams Jr. will avoid sophomore slump

Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com
Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

It’s not uncommon for young quarterbacks to take the CFL by storm before regressing in the years that follow. Recent examples of this include Jonathon Jennings and James Franklin, both of whom were touted as future stars before exiting the league before the age of 30.

Montreal Alouettes’ head coach Khari Jones is confident that he can help star quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. avoid the dreaded sophomore slump.

“I think the biggest way I can help him is making sure that he avoids some of those pitfalls that cause that to happen. Vernon is as dialled-in as anyone I’ve ever been around. He’s ready to go,” said Jones.

“I’m not even worried about people saying it was a fluke, but just to see how good he could be as a quarterback. I think we’ve scratched the surface with how good of a guy he can be in this league and so my job is to just help him in all of those ways that I can.”

Adams broke into the CFL in 2016 and dressed for fifteen games as a rookie, completing 42-of-75 pass attempts for 575 yards, four touchdowns, and one interceptions. He was traded the following season to Saskatchewan and resurfaced with the Alouettes in 2018 following a brief stint with Hamilton.

The 2019 season brought with it Adams’ first opportunity to start for an extended period of time and he made the most of it, leading Montreal to a 9-6 record as a starter. He passed for 3,942 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions while rushing 82 times for 394 yards and 12 scores. He has become the unquestioned starter for the Als and the face of their franchise.

“I tell all the quarterbacks that I’ve been everywhere that they have been,” said Jones. “There’s not anywhere I haven’t been, from a guy that nobody wanted to third-string, second-string, first-string, M.O.P., and back down later on. There isn’t any situation that they’ve been in that I can’t at least relate to and I can tell them how I handled it and how I may have handled it differently.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Jones spent three years as a backup quarterback with the B.C. Lions before joining the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2000. He threw for 4,142 yards, 31 touchdowns, and 23 interceptions that season and improved his production the following year when he was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player.

The veteran pivot’s numbers plummeted by 2004 as he fought through injuries and was traded to the Calgary Stampeders. He appeared in just twelve more games as a member of the Stamps and Tiger-Cats before his retirement at the age of 36.

“I think the biggest thing is thinking that you have it all figured out. That’s what it is — when you have some success you think, ‘Hey, I can play this game, I know what’s going on, I feel good about things’ and you stop learning, you stop growing. Teams look at film, they see your tendencies, they figure out what gives you problems and they do more of that,” said Jones.

“Unless you work on your weaknesses, unless you work on the things that teams have tried to exploit, then you go down. As a quarterback, it’s a tough position — every game, you’re on that big stage. The biggest thing is you just have to remember that you’re always learning in this position every year.”

Jones is fully confident in his starting quarterback and believes Adams Jr. will avoid any regression in 2021.

“Hopefully I can help him in that way, but he’s ready. He’s ready to go and I have no worries that he’s gonna be the quarterback that we need him to be.”

The Alouettes open training camp on Saturday, July 10 and will play their first regular season game against the Edmonton Elks on Saturday, August 14 at Commonwealth Stadium.

John Hodge is a CFL insider and draft analyst who has been covering the league since 2014.