Target practice for QB

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:32 AM ET

MONTREAL -- Henry Burris has talked all season about trying to get on the same page with his receivers.

Anthony Calvillo is reading from a similar book.

The Montreal Alouettes quarterback empathizes with the Stampeders pivot who's still finding his range heading into Game 8 with a new gang of Red and White targets.

Calvillo has enjoyed working with one of the CFL's most productive receiving corps in recent years, including last season's group of four 1,000-yard men hauling in passes for Montreal.

Now the entire quartet is absent from the lineup.

Jeremaine Copeland was a celebrated free-agent acquisition in Calgary, Thyron Anderson cashed in with the NFL's New Orleans Saints, Kwame Cavil was dealt to Edmonton two weeks ago and usually durable Ben Cahoon is out at least another month with a fractured elbow and wrist.

Last year's legion of veteran receivers has been replaced by a sea of new faces, leaving Calvillo throwing to the likes of Dave Stala, Tim Gilligan, Kerry Watkins and veteran Sylvain Gerard, who missed half of last season with a shoulder injury.

Although the Als made a deal with Edmonton prior to the season for perennial 1,000-yard man Terry Vaughn, the rest of the unit has yet to prove it can produce like the previous crop of pass catchers.

"All the receivers we have now were here last year (expect Vaughn)," says Calvillo, who claims his own lack of execution this season has contributed to the relative lack of production.

"They were just in a backup role, so they know our system.

"They've been doing a great job for us. It's hard to say how long it will take but they've done a good job for us."

Save for an offensive outburst two weeks ago against Saskatchewan when Calvillo tossed four TD passes, the Als offence has struggled finding the endzone this season.

Although the unit has posted 20 TDs, second only to Edmonton and B.C. (22 apiece), Calvillo has thrown just nine touchdown passes, well off his season pace of 31 last year and a remarkable 37 in 2003. The drop in productivity has left Calvillo answering questions about the many changes -- only some by design -- and whether the once high-powered Als offence has lost some of its sizzle.

"Those guys, in terms of personalities, of course you're going to miss guys like that and the things they did on the football field," Calvillo said.

"The were all proven guys who could get the job done but I feel the guys we have here now are doing just as good a job as the guys we had last year. I'm going to play with the guys we have on this football team and I'm enjoying the guys we have on this offence."

In lieu of a bevy of veteran receivers, Calvillo has leaned on new running back Robert Edwards, who has rushed for 147- and 124-yard totals the last two weeks.

Vaughn's streak of 10 consecutive 1,000-yard seasons is also in jeopardy, as the former Stampeders slotback (1995-98) has just 374 yards through seven games.

"It hasn't translated onto the field yet," Vaughn says of his transition to Montreal.

"We've still got talent on the field. We've got a lot of good guys, they're just young guys. But it takes a while just from the simple fact you have to find the role they want you to play and you have to fit in, really.

"That's pretty much what I've been trying to do. Don't say too much, when called upon try to make some plays."

Despite all the attention focused on the offence's declining numbers, Calvillo insists the stats should be kept in perspective.

While he'll certainly fall short of his sensational 6,000-yard season of 2004, all that really matters are wins and losses, with the 4-3 Als looking for their fourth straight ticket to the East final.

"The most important thing is for us to get those W's and I will certainly sacrifice a season of 6,000 yards for a record of 15-3," Calvillo says.


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