The Edmonton Eskimos need to have an aggressive offensive game plan this Saturday. Even though it is looking unlikely that Johnny Manziel will play, the Montreal defence is still a cause for concern. If the Eskimos don’t strike hard and fast, Rich Stubler‘s group may be able to keep the game much closer than it should be. As most CFL fans know, when the games are close in the fourth quarter just about anything can happen.
Montreal Alouettes Defence a Cause for Concern
While the Montreal Alouettes Defence is built to allow opponents to make moderate gains, it can be exploited. By executing deep passing routes, the Eskimos can gain favourable matchups for their star receivers and put the Alouettes in a hole early on. This will force the Alouettes to expect more than what is reasonable from whomever their starter is, possibly leading to short Alouette drives or turnovers.
Alouettes Defence Built to Grind
The Alouettes defence is often content to apply immediate pressure by adding a linebacker into the blitz while dropping the secondary into a cushion of 10 or more yards. It’s defensive coordinator Rich Stubler’s calling card: giving up the moderate yardage and trusting that the offence will make a mistake during the drive, or that his defence will make the occasional play.
This style of defence presents easy opportunities for teams to make short yardage plays and extend drives. However, these drives often chew up valuable time while giving at maximum eight points in return. It’s why Redblacks quarterback Trevor Harris was able to throw for 485 yards but only set up one passing touchdown and one rushing touchdown during last week’s game.
However, sometimes the pressure works. Watch the play below and note how deep the Alouettes secondary is.
— CFL on TSN (@CFLonTSN) August 12, 2018
The Eskimos cannot fall into Stubler’s trap. While it is tempting to take the easy completions, the Eskimos are capable of much more.
Eskimos Deep Routes Disrupt the Alouettes
The Eskimos offence has proved that it is capable of getting big gains. A combination of precision passing from Mike Reilly and excellent routes from Derel Walker and D’haquille (Duke) Williams are producing the big play week in and week out. The Eskimos are second in the league in 30 or more yard completions with 17 and are tied for the league lead with an average gain of 9.3 yards per pass.
The Eskimo passing attack works best when they are able to get man coverage on either Walker or Williams on deep routes. Let’s take a look at a few examples from their previous game against the Alouettes.
Derel Walker (@Dee_Sky_Walker) and the @EdmontonEsks continue to tack on the points, as Walker pulls in the 36-yard touchdown for Mike Reilly's fourth TD of the game. @Rikester13#CFLGameDay #TNF | 34-15 #Esks pic.twitter.com/KcpwrIHvQn
— CFL on TSN (@CFLonTSN) July 27, 2018
Of note, Montreal sends two linebackers, with one committing to the blitz. The combination of the near slot receiver stepping up to block and wideout Nate Behar running a short route over the middle drags that entire side of the secondary towards the line of scrimmage. This opens up Derel Walker with one man coverage and he beats the defender for the catch. While the safety is able to assist with anything 10 to 20 yards in this scheme but it often leaves the defensive back one-on-one with players like Walker.
The Eskimos can find success even when the Alouettes keep their linebackers back and bring in their defensive backs to the line of scrimmage. Here is one example:
— CFL on TSN (@CFLonTSN) July 27, 2018
Only four defenders attack the line of scrimmage with three defensive linemen and one linebacker coming on a delayed blitz. The majority of the Alouettes secondary is focused on preventing anything in the middle. This leaves Tyquwan Glass (no 22) to provide man coverage on Duke with a linebacker coming up to help. Williams makes the play for the touchdown.
The last word
This is not to say that the Eskimos should abandon the run game, nor disregard the small gains that the Alouettes give them. Rather, they should aim to stretch the Montreal defence and but the Alouettes into an early hole. Rich Stubler’s defence can lull an opponent into a false sense of security by giving up the 100 yard, 10-minute drive. Before you know it, it’s the fourth quarter, your quarterback has thrown for over 400 yards and you are losing. It can happen, just ask the Redblacks.
The Eskimos are better than Montreal in every facet of the game and there is no reason they should not be able to impose their will on the Alouettes. With Mike Reilly at the helm and Duke Williams and Derel Walker amongst the league’s brightest receivers, it’s no gamble to stretch the field with multiple attempts at deep passes. On Saturday its time for the Eskimos to take the next step and dominate the Alouettes. Pass early, pass deep, and pass often.
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