Als head into second pre-season game with plenty of questions

While training camp sessions are now officially in the books for another year, the pre-season still marches on in preparation for the 2015 Canadian Football League season. Tomorrow, the Montreal Alouettes will play their second pre-season game in front of their hometown fans as they take on the Toronto Argonauts at Percival Molson Stadium.

After this past Saturday’s game in Quebec City, certain roster cuts had to be made. Most notable was Chris Rainey, who rushed for a touchdown versus Ottawa. He’s got great speed but missed several key blocks for his QBs during that game and with fellow running backs Brandon Whitaker, Tyrell Sutton and Brandon Rutley all having terrific 2015 camps, Rainey became the odd man out. Brandan Green also failed to show up when the bright lights came on and with as strong a core as the Alouettes have at wide receiver, he too got that dreaded plane ticket back home.

By 10pm this coming Saturday, the Alouettes will have to make several more hard decisions as they determine who will remain on their 46 man roster as well as their 10-man practice roster. Even with several key players injured right now, there will be a number of terrific football players that will simply not become full-time members of the Montreal Alouettes. So to those who say that pre-season games are meaningless? Try saying that to the faces of the guys on the bubble that will have to play the game of their lives tomorrow evening.

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Position-wise, not too many questions were answered in Montreal’s first pre-season game, which is usually to be expected as individual talent evaluation is the main focus. Tomorrow’s tilt will give you, the fans, a better idea of what to expect on June 25th when the Ottawa RedBlacks visit the Alouettes at Percival Molson Stadium to kick off the 2015 CFL season.

Jonathan Crompton was underwhelming in his first go last Saturday at Stade Telus. Last year’s saviour at quarterback was unable to connect with his receivers, looking uneasy in the pocket. He didn’t score a touchdown in his one quarter of play and typical of some bandwagoners/negative media types, everyone is freaking out and ready to throw JC on the trash heap.

Now comes the waiting with baited breath for the debut of Dan LeFevour behind centre; those same people ready to jettison Crompton are already heralding LeFevour as a possible Week One starter if Crompton doesn’t play lights-out tomorrow. I think these people need to slow down and take a moment here.

In the near three weeks since camp has opened, I’ve watched LeFevour every single day. The first week he didn’t even line up for drills with his teammates; he was off to the side with the other injured players. He’s attended the coaches’ meetings with the other QBs and has surely gone over the playbook numerous times, so he is mentally prepared. But when it came to actually getting behind center and putting that surgically repaired ACL to the test, LeFevour had looked all right but wasn’t any better or worse than the other QBs. And that’s including a pair of talented but hardly battle-tested rookies.

If Tanner Marsh had not been injured in camp, I would have said that LeFevour would have to really come out flying in order to even be considered a viable contender to the starting quarterback position. Yes, LeFevour does have CFL experience and can potentially become a weapon in this offense. But for folks to all of a sudden make this guy out to be the next Ricky Ray? Without having seen him in action while coming off a major injury?!

Simma down, as the kids say.

I do think Crompton will come out guns a-blazing tomorrow, feeding off the energy of the Molson Stadium crowd and playing with his two targets S.J. Green and Fred Stamps. Let’s not also forget that this will be the home debut of youngsters Brandon Bridge and Rakeem Cato. These two studs notched their first CFL passing touchdowns last Saturday and will be battling to see who will join Crompton and LeFevour in the 3rd QB spot for Montreal.

The running back position is pretty well set and Jean-Christophe Beaulieu will be the starting fullback for the Alouettes. He’s been extremely versatile in the backfield, not only carrying the rock and blocking well but also having a very capable set of receiver hands going downfield. He’s got some serious size and with Marsh injured, I expect this young Québécois to be called upon several times this season to break the plane of the goal line for the Alouettes.

The only receivers that can be considered 100% safe from Saturday’s chopping block are S.J., Stamps, Samuel Giguere and Nik Lewis. Everyone else will be vying to back them up. Cody Hoffman played pretty well versus Ottawa and stands a really good chance to not only make the team, but possibly start the season. Dobson Collins, Mikhail Davidson and Alex Charette will also compete for the spot opened up by Brandon London’s retirement. Chandler Jones is a name that popped up late last week and he’ll be one of those guys who will compete to the bitter end. But unless he puts up serious yards and hauls in a touchdown or two versus the Argos tomorrow, he may not survive Saturday night’s final cuts.

On defense, this squad will be lead by the usual suspects of John Bowman, Chip Cox, Marc-Olivier Brouillette, Bear Woods and Geoff Tisdale. Joining that cast are solid powerhouse contributors like Khalif Mitchell, Dominique Ellis, Mitchell White and Jonathan Hefney, all who have been nothing short of impressive since camp opened. As far as guys who will likely back up, I think that it will be very difficult to keep Nick Shortill, James Tuck and Anthony Coady out of the lineup when the season gets underway.

The abrupt departure of Michael Sam and an injury to Michael Klassen opens the door for Asante Mizan to show out and have himself a great game tomorrow. This young man played alongside Chris Ackie at Wilfred Laurier and while Ackie got all the hype from his strong showing at this year’s CFL combine, Mizan is no slouch himself. Known as “The Silvaback”, Asante will be a welcome addition to an already powerful Alouettes defensive line.

But perhaps the biggest question of all that tomorrow’s game may answer involves the Alouettes’ kickers. Sean Whyte always plays this game well and his field goal accuracy is on par with the rest of the league. But then Boris Bede came out last Saturday in Quebec City and booted some very deep balls, much to the delight of the Rouge et Or fans who were in attendance to see their former university star.

If Bede plays another outstanding game tomorrow, there will be some serious Canadian ratio issues to contend with should the Alouettes elect to keep both Whyte and Bede as their respective kicker and punter. Not to mention the potential taking of an additional roster spot.

For several years it’s been one person handling both duties for Montreal. But now possibly having to choose between Whyte’s accuracy (and National status!) versus Bede’s booming leg? Oof. If Special Teams Coach Kavis Reed had any hair left on his head, he would surely be pulling it out in chunks come Saturday evening if he was told to pick only ONE of these two talented kickers.

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For those of you visiting the friendly confines of Percival Molson Stadium tomorrow, expect a fan experience like no other! As I’ve reported before in The ALSternative, the Alouettes will be adding to the tailgate atmosphere by providing BBQs and picnic tables on site for fans to use. All you have to do is bring your own food to be cooked on the grills! There will also be the Alouettes cheerleaders on hand, specials on alcoholic beverages and a new signature dish will be featured at the concession stands in 2015: Smoked Meat Poutine. It simply doesn’t get any more Montreal than that!

I still urge you all to come be a part of the ORIGINAL Alouettes Tailgate, which will be even bigger and better as well in 2015! The instigators of the good times on the stadium’s east side, they have some new tailgating gear and will be ready to welcome every single one of you! I mean, these guys now even have their own calendar (!) that Alouettes President and CEO Mark Weightman has proudly displayed for all to see!

It’s finally summer time in the 514 and you better be ready to take flight, Alouettes Nation!

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If you can’t make it to the game itself, it will be broadcast on both TSN and RDS. No need to fool around with wonky web streams, this game will be on a real TV station tomorrow. But CFL fans are still demanding for more streaming content and the league is still reluctant to satisfy that need. The Canadian Football League is very innovative in a lot of mediums but in others, the wheels of progress turn very slowly. Let’s hope that will change for the 2016 pre-season.

I’ll be back this weekend to break down the game and be sure to keep an eye on Twitter Saturday as the Alouettes decide who will stay with the Flock in 2015. Enjoy the game tomorrow, no matter where you watch it.

GO ALS GO!!!

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