Dirty Bird Blog: Youth Will Be Served

The first pre-season game of the 2011 season for the Montreal Alouettes was certainly a successful one on paper, posting a 27-15 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. A lot of new players got looks in an actual game scenario. While you certainly can’t put all your eggs in the basket of one pre-season game, there’s a lot to feel positive about on all ends. There’s also still a lot of work to be done.  My thoughts:

-Throughout the first week of training camp, two names kept popping up as players to keep an eye on for last night’s game; WRs Brandon London & Bo Bowling. After seeing them yesterday, BELIEVE the hype! It’s premature, but already Bowling is drawing comparisons to Ben Cahoon.

It makes sense; he’s got great hands and is quite adept at putting himself in the spots the quarterback needs his receivers to be. He’s also the same height as Cahoon at 5’9; pretty short compared to the other WRs jockeying for position. But will Bowling be able to take the punishing hits that Ben took & shake ‘em off like they were nothing? Only time will tell. But he’s generating a lot of buzz early & will be getting a lot more looks as training camp continues.

Brandon London pretty well had himself a coming-out party last night. 6 catches for 145 yards including one for a TD, earning himself Player of the Game yesterday. I was pretty impressed on day one of camp with what I saw of him. He’s bided his time on the practice roster & had to make a name for himself with solid play last night. I daresay he’s made a few people sit up & take notice.

– We all knew Anthony Calvillo wasn’t suiting up to play last night; he’s earned that right to allow the younger QBs get their reps in. I don’t think anyone was surprised that Adrian McPherson had a terrific first quarter of action. Looking poised & confident taking snaps, he could easily step in to a CFL regular season game & take command. And at this point in being Calvillo’s back-up, he should be able to. It’s clear he’s been working on his throwing over the off-season in lieu of the scrambling that he was initially known for. He stood tall, didn’t panic & connected with Bo Bowling for the first pre-season TD in Montreal this year.

Another pleasant surprise was fourth-string QB Josh Neiswander, who was able to move the football with both his hands & his feet. There’s a definite logjam at the QB position in Montreal, but he certainly impressed & just may get some more pre-season action next week vs. Hamilton.

– Finally, Prechae Rodriguez played a lot more than I had expected him to due to his camp injury. I had a feeling he was going to play inspired football and he certainly did. He’s had some setbacks from the outstanding rookie campaign of a couple years ago but if he can continue to play like he did, it’ll just be one more target for AC to look for.

But it wasn’t all rosy last night. There were a few areas that will need some tinkering as camp rolls on into next Wednesday’s tilt:

– The run left a LOT to be desired on both sides of the field. Defensively, the Alouettes let Winnipeg walk all over them at certain points, including a huge 64 yard run from Alex Henderson & 2 rushing TDs. Even with a lot of the D playing their first game, it’s something defensive co-ordinator Tim Tibesar will have to address this weekend.

Offensively, the running game for Montreal was stifled by Winnipeg. Despite Emmanual Marc punching in a touchdown, the RBs just couldn’t get anything going. Marc Trestman even admitted that it was a concern & Winnipeg was ready for them, confounding them to the point of the Als relying almost exclusively on the pass. So there’s still no clear-cut leader in the rushing sweepstakes.

– The kicking game didn’t fare much better. Sean Whyte looked a little shaky, missing his first FG attempt but recovering with some great punts & even throwing down a block, preventing the Bombers from going past midfield. Sandro DeAngelis did connect with 2 field goals in the second half, but his punts didn’t quite have the oompf to pin Winnipeg back. Both guys will get a lot of chances & hopefully all that was needed was the possible opening-day jitters to be dealt with.

– I think Ricky Santos has a ton of potential & even connected with London for a TD last night. But he also looked rusty & had 2 picks last night.

Over 21,000 took in the game, always encouraging as there’s still a lot of people that consider pre-season games pointless. I think people in Montreal were starved for some football and they got a heaping helping of it yesterday. And don’t be surprised if the veterans didn’t take note of the young guns & what they did. You never stop practicing in football, never stop being better.

The team is back in Sherbrooke this weekend for camp, which is open to the public. Next home game is the official home opener on June 30th vs. the B.C. Lions. Can’t wait!