Here comes Johnny
Alouettes expected to start Manziel Friday against Tiger-Cats
If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.
Johnny Manziel took the majority of reps on Monday with the Alouettes’ starting offence, but not all. Vernon Adams also practised with the starting offence, after Manziel took his turns. And, although most people expect Manziel to start Friday’s home game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats — his former team — head coach Mike Sherman refused to declare the obvious when practice concluded.
Then again, he didn’t have to.
“We didn’t trade for Johnny to have him sit on the bench. Obviously, he’s come here to get reps, to become the best player he can become. We started that process today,” Sherman said. “You’ve all probably figured it out yourselves. At the same time, when you have two players (fairly equal), you probably wait until game time to make that announcement. It doesn’t make sense to do it any sooner.
“I’ve never ever talked about who’s starting and who’s not. Why would I do that? The best one that’s going to help us win will probably start.”
The Als acquired Manziel on July 22 in a blockbuster deal involving five players and two first-round draft choices. Although Adams started last Thursday’s 44-23 loss at home against Edmonton — and didn’t look bad — Manziel failed to get on the field for a single play.
Many at Molson Stadium — some of whom already had purchased Manziel jerseys and came to the game solely on the belief he would get some playing time — began chanting his name midway through the second quarter and never ceased, something that obviously didn’t sit well with Adams who, post-game, announced he wouldn’t answer any questions about Manziel.
Manziel wasn’t made available to the media on Monday. Adams, who last week said he understood he was merely keeping the seat warm for Manziel until he inevitably becomes the starter, did speak on Monday and couldn’t hide his frustration, while maintaining he’ll remain a pro.
“What did you see (at practice)? I’ll find out on game day,” said Adams, who returned to the Als in late June, as a free agent, following his release by the Ticats — ostensibly due to the addition of Manziel in May.
“Nobody should be surprised, if that’s the case,” Adams added. “They haven’t said nothing, but you saw what it was today. We’ll see how it goes.”
Adams led the Als to a pair of touchdowns and 23 points, tying the team’s mostproductive output this season. But Montreal could have had more. Boris Bede missed three field goals. The Als also mismanaged the clock at the end of the first half, when it was denied of at least a field goal. That’s 12 potential squandered points. And Chris Harper, before getting injured, saw a possible touchdown throw slip through his hands.
“I thought, being thrown to the fire, I thought we could have won the game with (Adams’) effort. We had plenty of opportunities,” Sherman said. “Vernon gave us an opportunity to win that game. We didn’t take advantage of it.
“Everything’s on the table to win this game.”
Adams hadn’t started a game since leading the Als to a three-game winning streak at the end of the 2016 season. He was traded to Saskatchewan last season, used primarily in rushing situations by the Roughriders, while attempting only three passes. Against the Eskimos, he completed 15 of 28 passes for 217 yards and was intercepted once. He also was Montreal’s leading rusher, gaining 72 yards on eight carries, along with a touchdown.
“There’s definitely hope (offensively),” said Adams. “At least nine points (squandered). It shows we’re moving the ball. We got over the 50 quite a few times. We’re just not finishing. That’s just tough.”
In keeping with a recurring pattern as well, Adams was sacked six times behind a revamped offensive line that included left-tackle Tony Washington, who came over in the Manziel trade. Montreal quarterbacks have now been sacked a leaguehigh 23 times in six games, a pace that would result in 69 sacks for the season. Drew Willy, Matt Shiltz and Jeff Mathews have all already been injured.
The line will undergo yet another change this week, after right guard Ryan Bomben was traded to Toronto Sunday night for defensive-back T.J. Heath. Bomben’s expected to be replaced by Landon Rice, the final piece of the Manziel trade and a player who might have made Bomben expendable in Hamilton.
“I think they can play better. That wasn’t their best effort,” Sherman said of the line.
And, although all of Bede’s misses came at the east end of the stadium, the Als will continue utilizing the import to both punt and placekick.
“He’s our kicker and he has to make those field goals,” Sherman said. “He’s had problems at the east end. He has to get over that.”
All signs point to quarterback Johnny Manziel getting his first CFL start against the Tiger-Cats.