N.B.: There’s a LOT of ground to cover so I am breaking up this season preview into four parts, this column being Part 2. In case you missed it, here’s Part One. Tune in tomorrow and Saturday for the remaining parts as we lead into Sunday’s first official day of training camp. Enjoy!
There’s no question that defense wins championships. But you still have to be able to put SOME points on the board, even last year when you had some putrid scores like 7-5. That’s right, a Canadian football game ended with that very score in 2014. As much as I can appreciate a great defensive effort, hopefully this year will produce better results when it comes to putting points on the board.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at who will be asked to do that for the Montreal Alouettes this 2015 season. Each position will be detailed along with who will be competing for a roster spot.
Last year at training camp, Troy Smith was named the starting quarterback and that blew up in the face of the Montreal Alouettes, as he was injured during training camp and never truly came into form. After the team started 1-7, he was put on the 6-game injured list and eventually released. His replacement came in the form of Jonathan Crompton, a casualty of the Edmonton Eskimos QB depth chart. Crompton came into the lineup and with the help of QB Coach Jeff Garcia, turned around the Alouettes’ fortunes. While not winning games in the prettiest of fashions, Crompton came within one game of leading the Alouettes back to the Grey Cup.
Not wanting to make the mistake of last year, Crompton has not been handed the starting job for 2015 on a silver platter. The Alouettes have added some competition to ensure that no one is resting on their laurels.
Tanner Marsh backed up Crompton last year and has excelled as the Alouettes’ third-down QB, able to use his height and mobility to gain more than the one yard needed for a first down. Many are still seeing this youngster as the future QB for Montreal and going into his third CFL season, he will have to show he can do more than run the ball. Dan LeFevour is known as an Alouettes killer, having been responsible for a few marquee wins by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats over Montreal. An ACL tear kept him off the field last season and he signed with the Alouettes this past February. When healthy, he’s that same style of mobile QB that Marsh is. Early reports don’t have him ready to play until the second pre-season game in mid-June.
Every year, the Alouettes seem to invite at least one former NFL player to training camp. This year’s notable invitee is former Arizona Cardinals QB John Skelton. Still a young man, he feels he still has something to prove. A strong training camp can make all the difference, despite not seeing serious playing time in recent years. And rounding out the QB club is this year’s fourth-round draft pick Brandon Bridge. Many were expecting this Canadian-born QB in an NFL training camp but instead, he’ll be wearing red/blue/silver this Sunday. He’ll have a tough road to hoe in order to get some playing time, but having this prospect in camp learning at the feet of this QB-laden coaching staff will be a tremendous asset. In young Brandon, the dream of a Canadian-born quarterback one day starting in the CFL has been rekindled.
The biggest challenge is getting reps in a league that is very pass-happy. But this is an area that is rich with talent and the backs featured here will get plenty of chances to run the rock.
Heading the pack is veteran Brandon Whitaker. When healthy, there’s simply no one better than “2-Way”. But every year, he’s been forced out long-term due to injuries and that surely is taking its toll on his body. And now he has some serious competition to the top RB spot with Tyrell Sutton, who came in late the previous two years and caught fire at the best possible time. Sutton’s ability to slash through D-lines and turn on the jets just may edge out Whitaker. Hot on their heels is Brandon Rutley, who had to bide his time on the 2014 practice roster but then played the game of his life in last year’s Eastern Semi-Final. He too is lightning fast and hasn’t had the injury issues that both Whitaker and Sutton have.
Also playing a monster playoff game in late November was Chris Rainey, who has the tools but never had the chance to properly use them. He’ll be in tough, especially with another veteran looking for redemption in free agent pickup Stefan Logan. Cut loose by both the NFL and BC Lions, he will be looking for reps in the backfield as well as returning kicks. As if there wasn’t already a wealth of talent wanting a spot in the run game, there’s also a dearth of Canadians wanting to stake claim as well!
One name I am keeping my eyes on is Jean-Christophe Beaulieu, who’s got the size advantage of all the running backs in camp. I’m expecting him to be in that goal-line muscle spot that used to be occupied by Steven Lumbala and Dahrran Diedrick. You also have Carl Volny, Mackenzie Sarro & Byrn Roy listed on the depth chart as well though if they make the field at all, it will likely be on special teams.
The area that is a true embarrassment of riches for the Alouettes is the receiving corps. Regardless of who wins the starting quarterback’s job, these will be the hands that will catch the ball thrown.
Without question, S.J. Green is the leader of the receiving corps. His re-signing with the Alouettes was a huge topic as free agency drew close; many teams hoped that he’d want to try his luck elsewhere. No dice, as S.J. has committed to three more years in La Belle Province. That’s three more years of highlight catches for Alouettes Nation! Next up is Brandon London and Eric Deslauriers, who provide clutch catches at the right time. These are the guys who will have to step up huge in 2015 as they will have some serious competition this year for their spots.
The Alouettes have added Samuel Giguere, Nik Lewis and Fred Stamps to offset the loss of Duron Carter to the NFL and Kenny Stafford to the Edmonton Eskimos. Giguere was the model of consistency in Hamilton while Stamps is looking to regain his all-star form. Lewis just added another Grey Cup to his trophy case, but was deemed expendable by the Calgary Stampeders. Rounding out the youth movement will be Andrew Smith, Brandan Green, Cody Hoffman and the recently drafted Alex Charette & Mikhaïl Davidson.
Of those youngsters, I’m really excited to see what Hoffman and Davidson will add to the Alouettes. Davidson reminds me of Ben Cahoon while Hoffman was actually coached by Ben Cahoon! And to think that Anthony Calvillo will be given these weapons to work with for his first coaching gig! Talk about going to work with a smile on your face!
I hesitate to include him, but Chad Johnson is still technically a member of the Montreal Alouettes. He had stated at the end of last season that he would return in 2015, but just from reading his twitter feed during the off-season, there`s no indication that he is interested in returning. Like so many others before him, the grind may have simply become too much for the ex-NFL superstar and his time as a professional football player is likely done.
Here’s a fun riddle for you: This is the Montreal Alouettes offensive line. Spot the American!
……time’s up. There is none!
The Alouettes currently boast the only all-Canadian O-Line in the CFL and this year, it just got deeper. Joining the talented group that features Luc Brodeur-Jourdain, Jeff Perrett and Josh Bourke is Philip Blake, who spent some time in the NFL and was a standout at Baylor University. You also have Kristian Matte, Ryan White, Simon Legare and Jake Piotrowski, who will be looking to step into the slot vacated by Ryan Bomben’s trade to Hamilton.
As if this mass of humanity wasn’t enough, you also have newly drafted Jacob Ruby, James Bodanis and Quinn Lawlor who will be trying to crack that lineup. That’s a lot of all-Canadian beef, Alouettes Nation! Opposing defenders are going to have a very hard time getting to the quarterback in 2015. Offensive line coach Kris Sweet has to be going out of his mind with all of this talent at his disposal. Much like the receivers and backfield, there is a tremendous amount of talent at the Alouettes` disposal. Trying to find a spot for everyone will not be a simple task.
So there you have it, the offensive lineup that is vying to crack the final Montreal Alouettes roster for the upcoming season. Tomorrow: The defensive stars will take center stage in this week-long season preview. If you thought the offense was impressive, wait until you see who will be looking to prevent all these points from being scored!
Until tomorrow, GO ALS GO!!!