LIVESTREAM PPV: CFL – Edmonton Eskimos @Montreal Alouettes, July 26, 7:30p (1:30a CEST)

MONTREAL — The Edmonton Eskimos and Montreal Alouettes enter their Thursday Night Football matchup this week from very different angles.

At 1-4 and anchored to the bottom of the East Division, the Alouettes are in search of a spark. The team dealt veterans Chris Williams and Jamaal Westerman to Hamilton in exchange for much-hyped quarterback Johnny Manziel — and O-linemen Tony Washington and Landon Rice — on Sunday.

Thus, while Manziel, the former Heisman Trophy winner, is listed as Montreal’s No. 3 quarterback on Thursday’s depth chart, the Als have shaken things up in a big way — and it probably won’t be long before Johnny Football is starting.

For the time being, however, it will be Vernon Adams Jr. at the helm against Edmonton, a team that at 3-2 will still see itself as a frontrunner in the race for a home playoff game in the West Division.

As inconsistent as Montreal’s QB situation has been in recent years, Mike Reilly has given the Eskimos the polar opposite: Week in, week out consistency under centre, with MOP-type numbers to boot.

This Thursday’s meeting will serve as a must-win for both: Edmonton cannot afford a slip-up on the road against the last-place Als, while Montreal needs to stop the bleeding before it’s too late in 2018.

Jason Maas is a football preacher.

The kind of coach that preaches ‘D’ words like discipline, details and more discipline.

This week is no different — regardless of the opponent, he knows his team will only take it as far as their mental game takes them.

“This is a business trip for us,” Maas told “We need to go in there, play assignment-sound football, cover all the bases and make sure we’re ready to go.”

As per usual, the stoic Eskimos head coach downplayed his opponent’s record and put the focus squarely on his own team.

“I know they’re more than capable of playing good football,” continued Maas. “We need to play our best football to beat them…we’re focused on the details, understanding our schemes. I’m not concerned what their record is — they beat Saskatchewan in Saskatchewan, and played Calgary tough in Calgary.

“They’re a pro football team, so we’re worried about the Montreal Alouettes and could care less about the history (and record).”

Edmonton will be boosted in the run game by C.J. Gable’s return to full health; the 30-year-old running back has averaged 5.1 yards-per-carry, and initially appeared in doubt for Thursday’s contest after taking a heavy hit from Toronto’s Dylan Wynn in Week 5.

“He’s looked great all week — passed all the tests, and the test on the field he did with flying colours,” said Maas of his veteran running back. “(Bye week) couldn’t have come at a better time for C.J., (it) gave him some extra time we wouldn’t have been afforded on a normal week.”

Veteran quarterback Mike Reilly leads the CFL in pass yards with 1,648, and did not bite on questions about the fun side of Montreal.

“The funnest thing you can do in any CFL city, whether it’s a home game or an away game, is win.” said Reilly bluntly. “Different cities present different issues. To me, it’s the time zone change, it’s the long flight. It’s a later game on Thursday, so we should have the whole morning to make sure we’re rested and ready to go.

“We’re a veteran team, we don’t worry about that.”

As for the news which dominated league headlines throughout the week — Manziel’s arrival in Montreal — the veteran Esks pivot was indifferent.

“It gives a guy like Johnny an opportunity to get out there and play some, and that’s something any player’s excited about,” said Reilly. “The toughest challenge (would be) the intricacies of that particular offence, and the timing and chemistry with the WRs. But (he has) the physical ability, he got some decent play time in pre-season (and) I’m sure he’s been active in practice too.”

The Johnny Football circus was in full effect in Montreal throughout the Alouettes’ short week, but it appears — on the depth chart, at least — that head coach Mike Sherman will trot out his familiar quarterbacks on Thursday.

That’s not to say Manziel, 25, won’t feature. But it’s a Vernon Adams forecast, with a small chance of somebody else — whether it be the banged-up Shiltz, Manziel or veteran Drew Willy.

“We want to make sure that the type of QB we have here fits a certain model that we’re looking for,” Sherman told “I always had, in the back of my mind, that if I ever coached up here, I’d have a mobile quarterback…(and) our quarterbacks pretty much have that.”

The 63-year-old Sherman has seen, coached and managed a lot of quarterbacks in his day, and was not afraid to give Adams his vote of confidence.

“He’s a very passionate player, (and) has a lot of confidence in himself and what he’s capable of doing,” continued Sherman. “He can make all the throws we ask him to make.”

The less-reported boost provided by Sunday’s trade with Hamilton will be the shoring up of Montreal’s offensive line; the Als have surrendered a league-worst 17 sacks in four games, and will need to be better for the sake of their pass and run game.

“I don’t have a crystal ball to determine the health of our line after this ballgame, but the best teams I’ve been on — the championship teams I’ve been on — they’ve had excellent O-lines that have stayed healthy throughout the year,” explained Sherman. “If we can stay healthy with this group of linemen, we have a chance to be much-improved. And we have to be.”

Montreal’s two O-line acquisitions will dress and feature on Thursday: Tony Washington will start at left tackle, while veteran Landon Rice will likely mix into the rotation on the opposite side.

Then, there’s Manziel himself: With just two days of practice, he’s unlikely to be a major player against Edmonton. But there’s always a chance.

“We’ll play that by ear, I don’t want to put him in a situation that is uncomfortable for him,” explained Sherman. “Then again, I do want to put him on the field and give him a chance. He’ll definitely be in uniform. We’ll have to wait and see.”

B.J. Cunningham will likely be the premier target for whichever quarterback slings passes for Montreal going forward; George JohnsonChris Harper and Eugene Lewis are the starting receivers, while slumping veteran Ernest Jackson will start at slotback.

Crunchin’ Numbers:

– Consecutive wins against Montreal for Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly since 2014.

– Straight losses on home turf for the Alouettes, the longest skid in team history. Montreal is also 1-15 in their last 16 contests, which equals the worst mark in Montreal football history (Oct. ’51-Oct. ’52).

14 – Successful kicks in a row for Als kicker Boris Bede; the Frenchman has not missed a kick in 2018, going 8-for-8 on field goals and 6-for-6 on converts to date.

15.5 – Average points scored by Edmonton over its most recent two-game set with Toronto, a steep a drop-off from the 31.7 it was averaging in its first three games of the season.

What will Vernon Adams look like in just his fourth career start? How will Johnny Manziel — and Matthew Shiltz, for that matter — factor in the Alouette offence?

Will the Eskimos come out and dominate, hungry off a bye week? Or will the offence continue to sputter as it did over two games against the Argos?

Plenty of intriguing questions, and the answers will be served up shortly

– With files from the

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LIVE STREAM PPV: CFL –Edmonton Eskimos @Montreal Alouettes, July 26, 7:30p (1:30a CEST)

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