Chris Jones warns Elks’ offence not to ‘get enamoured’ with receiving talent, urges shorter route tree

Photo: Timothy Matwey/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Edmonton Elks’ head coach and general manager Chris Jones wasn’t happy with the offensive play calling in his team’s Week 1 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

The Elks generated just 243 yards of net offence and surrendered five sacks in the 17-13 loss, which extended their pro football record home losing streak to 18 games. However, when asked about the amount of pressure facing his quarterback, the coach instead took issue with what was happening down the field.

“Too much (pressure), but we had too many vertical routes called,” Jones told the Edmonton media this week. “We’ve talked about trying to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hand and not running as many vertical routes.”

The Elks spent lavishly on receivers this offseason, surrounding third-year quarterback Taylor Cornelius with a full arsenal of weapons. The 27-year-old had trouble connecting with any of them in Week 1, completing just 13-of-25 attempts for 202 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions while earning a 33.2 passing grade from ProFootballFocus — the worst of the week.

According to Jones, that was the result of hubris in the play-calling due to the team’s wealth of talented pass-catchers.

“It’s easy to get over there and get enamoured with all the guys that you have, (think) ‘We’ll do this,’ and the concepts are there,” he said. “But at the same time, if it takes three, four, four and a half seconds, well, that’s not reality.”

Eugene Lewis, whom Edmonton made the CFL’s highest-paid receiver in free agency, was the only target to make a substantial impact on the game, catching five passes for 148 yards. However, most of that yardage came on a 102-yard touchdown strike early in the second quarter.

No other receiver had a catch longer than 13 yards and veteran Emmanuel Arceneaux finished second on the team with three catches for 29 yards. 2022 East Division all-star Steven Dunbar Jr. made just one catch for seven yards, while speedster Kyran Moore generated one yard on a single reception. Second-year man Dillon Mitchell — who boldly proclaimed a goal of 2,000 yards for 2023 after a scintillating finish to his rookie season — finished with minus-five yards on his lone catch.

Running back Kevin Brown exceeded most of the receivers with two catches for 22 yards but was held to 59 yards on 11 carries on the ground. Backup Shannon Brooks did not record a touch despite Jones’ promise of a two-headed rushing attack.

“We’ve got to do a better job of devising plays to get the ball out of (Cornelius’) hands and we’ve got to run the football more effectively. Those two things have to happen,” he asserted.

Offensive coordinator Stephen McAdoo has been Jones’ right-hand man since he took his first head coaching job in Edmonton back in 2014 and will be charged with changing the team’s offensive approach when they face the B.C. Lions on the road on Saturday, June 17.

Kick-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. EDT, with the Elks being point underdogs.