Edmonton Eskimos expecting familiar offence from Alouettes
So much for having extra time to prepare for the Montreal Alouettes.
An Edmonton Eskimos team that enjoyed a weekend off as the rest of the Canadian Football League finished up the pre-season schedule got a wrench thrown into the works with the sudden firing of Als head coach Mike Sherman on Saturday.
“I read about it and hear about it, like you all do, and I try not to think too much into it,” said Phillip Lolley, who will make his debut as the Eskimos new defensive co-ordinator as they open the season Friday against the visiting Montreal Alouettes (7 p.m., TSN, 630 CHED). “All I know is it’s the same guys who were calling the plays last year.”
The Alouettes are filling the void by making their offensive co-ordinator, Khari Jones, the new head coach.
“Yeah, he’s been promoted to head coach, but he was the offensive co-ordinator, he did call the plays, because the whole deal last year with the head coach at that time was he allowed (Jones) to do that. So I don’t look for much change,” said Lolley, who is more focused on the ones executing the plays that are called, than the one calling them. “And I know they’ve got three very athletic quarterbacks that can run the RPO (run-pass option) game, and two of them with great speed.
“So we understand what we’re facing with those guys and understand that out of the pocket they’re very dangerous and we’ve really got to prepare for a lot of screens and draws and things of that sort. And I don’t mind saying it and know they know it because they’re going to do it anyways.”
Despite whatever instability comes with an Alouettes team that enters the season owned by the league, Lolley and the Eskimos aren’t taking anything for granted this week.
“It’s pro football and they get paid, they’re professionals,” Lolley said. “Every week is a week you have to come in ready to play, you have to prepare to the best of your ability for everybody.”
This year, it’s been a mixture of old and new in the Eskimos linebacker corps, as Larry Dean, Jovan Santox-Knox, Vontae Diggs and Edmonton’s inaugural global player on the active roster, France’s Maxime Rouyer, have been mingled in the depth chart alongside Korey Jones, Chris Mulumba-Tshimanga and Blair Smith.
It’s the lion’s share of the linebacker group the Eskimos brought to camp, which saw them release just two players: Arizona State product D.J. Calhoun and Mexico’s Daniel Carrete.
“Well, I was hoping,” Lolley said of the group surviving camp cuts. “I hate to see any of them ever get cut or go home. I’m just one of those who thinks we make players out of everybody and I reckon that’s the old, old days high-school coach in me when we had to take everybody in school and try to make them be great players.
“So I’ve still got that mentality that I can take and mould everybody, so I hate to see anybody gone, but it’s a business and I’m just thankful for the group that I do have.”
But how do they compare to the linebacking corps he had as the unit coach under Chris Jones back when the Eskimos won the 2015 Grey Cup?
“Oh, there’s a lot of similarities, for sure there is,” Lolley said. “It’s a different time, different stage, different offences, believe it or not. Even in the last two or three years, it’s changed a lot.
“So sometimes when you build your defence, you’ve got to build it to stop who you think are the top two or three teams that you think you might have to compete with for the trophy. So it is a different style, for sure, just because of the RPO games and all the things that they have. You have to try to create the defence with a little more quickness, a little more speed in certain positions than you do weight.”
RETURN OF SALLY RAND
Legendary quarterback and Hall of Famer Damon Allen will be in the house Friday when his old team takes kicks off the 2019 CFL season against the Montreal Alouettes.
Allen, whose 23-year playing career began with the Eskimos in 1985, spent a total of six seasons in green and gold, winning two of his four Grey Cups with Edmonton.
Allen’s 72,831 passing yards sits third on the all-time gridiron list, after getting passed last season by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
But when it comes to pro football’s combined passing and rushing yards, Allen is still at the top of the heap with a total of 84,301 yards.
Allen, credited with having perfected the art of the Sally Rand play, also suited up with the Ottawa Rough Riders, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts before his retirement following the 2007 season.
In and out: OLB Jovan Santos-Knox, who sat out most of training camp, did not practise again Tuesday, calling into question his status for Friday … The B.C. Lions claimed OL Jean-Simon Roy off the Eskimos practice squad. The six-foot-three, 295-pound Laval product was drafted by Edmonton in the second round (14th overall) in 2017. The 25-year-old native of Stoneham, Que., played three games with the Eskimos.
On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge