Second in the East and tied for second in the CFL overall, the Montreal Alouettes could find themselves with a share of first in both by weekend’s end. But first, they’ll need to get past their stiffest test of the season for far: the Edmonton Eskimos.
Through the first six weeks, the Alouettes have feasted on weaker and struggling opponents, including a double dose of the Argonauts. In the revamped Eskimos, the defending Grey Cup champs face a team over .500 for the first time in 2011, one that suffered its first loss of the season just one week earlier.
“It’s kind of like fresh meat coming in,” said Anwar Stewart, who returns his natural role as a defensive end after playing on the inside last week. “It’ll be exciting because they’re the top team in the West and even though it doesn’t show (in the standings) we’re still the top team to beat in the East and in the league so we’ve just got to go out and just play.”
The CFL’s two best offences will take to the field led by, not surprisingly, two of the best quarterbacks in Anthony Calvillo and Ricky Ray. While Calvillo stamps his name into the league’s record books, Ray, like his team, is enjoying a bounce back season. After throwing just 11 touchdown passes a season ago, the 32-year-old has already matched that total through six games this year.
For the Alouettes to hand the Eskimos a second straight defeat, they’ll have to kick the defensive pressure into high gear. Marc Trestman’s crew is last in the league with seven quarterback sacks to date. But, Stewart noted, it’s not all about the numbers.
“You just have to go out and be disruptive. Yeah, we haven’t been getting the sacks but we’ve been causing turnovers and stuff like that and that’s what you have to do,” he said. “We just want to go out and perform – stop the run and give us an opportunity to get to the quarterback, so if we do those things we’ll be fine.”
Trestman agreed that sack totals aren’t everything. That being said, however, he knows there’s room for improvement.
“We can never be as good as we want to be so we’re just going to try to continue to get better. We’ve got to continue to find ourselves and try to get more pressure with backers or with safeties, and we’ll continue to do that,” Trestman said. “But it’s never enough. It can’t be in this kind of league.
“We’d like more sacks and we’d like more pressure and certainly we’re going to continue to try to evolve and get better at that.”
And after studiously watching film from Winnipeg’s triumph over Edmonton last week, Stewart is confident his team can pull it off.
“We’re going to have to bring our A game, that’s for sure, because they’re going to be hot and ready to go because they had a loss last week,” he said. “But we’re fired up. We’re excited about having them in our house and we just want to get out there. We have a really good chance to win our one-on-one battles. It’ll be exciting.”
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