Here comes Johnny

Alou­ettes ex­pected to start Manziel Fri­day against Tiger-Cats

The Province - - SPORTS | FOOTBALL - HERB ZURKOWSKY hzurkowsky@post­media.com @Her­bZurkowsky1

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.”

— POST­MEDIA NEWS

All signs point to quar­ter­back Johnny Manziel get­ting his first CFL start against the Tiger-Cats.

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