Another day at Commonwealth Stadium and another familiar ending.
The second preseason game for the Edmonton Elks had them match up at home against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and both teams brought their projected starters for quarter one. The Elks put up impressive numbers — with 421 yards of total offence to Winnipeg’s 245 — but in the end, the Green and Gold found a way to be on the losing side of a 25-23 score.
Here are my thoughts on the game.
Seeing Some Starters
The Elks had their projected Week 1 starting lineup in to start the game and all eyes focused on a third-year quarterback, and now clear QB1, Taylor Cornelius. He ran a very vanilla offence and put up moderate numbers, completing six-of-nine attempts for 53 yards over three series.
He also scrambled. A lot. The Elks’ offensive line struggled early, especially on the left side with Andrew Garnett and David Foucault, giving up two early sacks. Cornelius showed poise and calm through the pressure and was able to connect with both Gavin Cobb and Eugene Lewis for 15-yard gains. It was a very small sample size but there seemed to be progress.
Second-year Canadian quarterback Tre Ford saw almost two full quarters of action. After a very tentative start, Ford settled in to finish eight-of-nine passing for 48 yards. He started the third quarter with an eight-and-a-half-minute drive that was capped with a highlight reel jump into the endzone over Winnipeg DB Jake Kelly.
Kai Locksley finished the game behind center and put up 183 yards with a touchdown. Those are likely to be the three quarterbacks on the opening-day roster.
Running Back Bros
Sophomore rusher Kevin Brown did not take long to show how much of an impact he expects to make for the Elks in year two. On Edmonton’s first play of the game, Brown scampered behind the right side of the line and dashed for 33 yards. He finished with 55 yards on four carries.
After three series, Shannon Brooks entered the game and picked up right where he left off in the last preseason game. He finished with a 5.5-yard average over 13 carries. With those two backs, the running game is poised to be a big part of the Elks’ offence this year.
More Like a Jones Defence
With the teams that Chris Jones has turned around in the past, the defence really started to take over games in year two of his tenure. Edmonton showed hints of that on Saturday.
Enock Makonzo made an impact with two pass deflections on the first two Winnipeg drives. The front four of Jake Ceresna, Kony Ealy, Daniel Ross and A.C. Leonard were able to get some pressure on a formidable Winnipeg offensive line. The pressure continued throughout the game, with the Bombers’ running backs only tallying a total of three yards combined.
As good as the run defence was against the backs, Blue Bombers’ third-string quarterback Tyrell Pigrome had a good day on the ground. Two touchdowns on the ground, with one being a 45-yard scamper in the fourth quarter, and a total of 71 yards to lead all Bomber rushers. He looks to be a quarterback worth developing.
For the Elks, Elon University product Marcus Willoughby stood out once again when the prospects were on the field. Canadian rookie Jake Taylor was involved a lot in the second half. He is still learning the speed of the CFL game but keeps making up for it with great range and contact on the ball carrier.
If there is one complaint about the defence, it is that five of the 10 accepted penalties against Edmonton landed on that side of the ball. That is to be expected with younger players, but roughing the passer and unnecessary roughness calls will need to be cleaned up to stop drives.
I’ve Seen That Before
Former Elks receiver Kenny Lawler made his return to Edmonton memorable, flying by defensive back Dwayne Thompson II to catch a 67-yard touchdown five minutes into the game. You could hear a mix of impressed and disappointed cheers from a crowd that much preferred when he did that last year for their hometown squad.
Kicking Red Alert
Although 36-year-old Brit Dean Faithfull makes for a great story, his kicking in both preseason games has not exactly instilled a great deal of faith.
After a three-for-four performance in the previous game, Faithfull went three-for-five in this game. His longest was only 36 yards and he missed from 44 and 52 yards out, with the latter coming on a potential game-winner that seemed to be partially blocked. The team is likely to keep their faith in the Global and will hope that he continues to improve.
The Elks should keep a close eye on other preseason games while looking for another option at punter that could shake free from a rival team. The Elks averaged six yards less per punt than the Bombers with the combination of Michael Domagala and Greg Hutchins. The former appears to have won the job for now.
Kyran Moore did get a couple of punt returns in but only averaged 5.5 yards per carry. CJ Sims was getting a lot of looks on all returns and broke one for 30 yards. That unit is still very much a work in progress.
After the game, Chris Jones said that the majority of his final roster cuts would be made right away and he delivered on his promise, axing 18 players on Sunday morning. With the preseason now wrapped up a week early, the coaching staff can focus on the players who will still be here and get the team gelling in practice.
The next game is a full two weeks away, as Edmonton prepares for its season opener against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The Elks are running a “guaranteed win” promotion for that game, where a limited number of fans can buy a ticket and keep attending games at no added cost until there is a home win.
Edmonton fans hope they only get one game, and the team gets back to winning at Commonwealth.