In the Canadian Football League, you have to be able to score points. A great defense will keep you in games but if your attack is putrid, then you will be in for a long three plus hours. Once upon a time, the Montreal Alouettes used to have the most deadly offense in the league, led by the legendary Anthony Calvillo.
And to complete the circle, it will be up to AC to return this team to glory, this time leading as the team’s offensive coordinator. While he will have a lot of help in his first full season as OC, Coach Calvillo is still looked to as the face of this franchise and is expected to come out firing on offense. Let’s take a look at the weapons he will have at his disposal.
Last year saw a virtual merry-go-round of quarterbacks for Montreal, as injuries and inconsistent play led to the Alouettes players and their fans alike wondering just who was going to be the leader of this team. Ever since Calvillo’s brilliant career ended abruptly due to injury, this franchise has struggled to find its leader behind centre.
This year, a seasoned pro will be handed the starter’s job while his heir apparent could very well be lying in wait to assume the role, hoping to add his name to the likes of Etcheverry, Wade, Ham and yes, Calvillo as the next great quarterback of the Montreal Alouettes.
When training camp gets underway this Sunday, it will be CFL veteran Kevin Glenn taking the first team reps. Glenn has been the model of consistency and is finally being looked at as a starter, not a team’s backup plan if their starter is injured. It’s an opportunity that Glenn has not had since he was with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. I can’t think of a better situation for both Glenn and Calvillo; two superstar QBs that have been at the top of the food chain for some time and are the epitome of hard work.
After the struggles that this team had last season with scoring, a calming presence like Glenn should be music to the ears of Alouettes fans. But naturally, people are concerned with the future. Glenn is not a young man and while he’s not ready to call it a career, he knows that the youngsters are chasing right behind him.
Glenn has stated that he is ready to help mentor the future, regardless of who it might be. If Kevin can continue to bring his solid, consistent play to Montreal while helping to mentor the potential new leader of this team, this future Hall of Famer’s legacy will be set.
We know that Glenn is the NOW answer for Montreal. But who will be backing him up in 2016 and possibly even replacing the Detroit native when he calls it a career?
The Alouettes made a lot of noise last weekend when they traded their 2017 1st round draft pick to the BC Lions for the negotiating rights to Vernon Adams. Coming off a phenomenal NCAA career with the Oregon Ducks, this explosive QB was expected to commence his pro career in the NFL.
But he got nary a sniff from anyone down south, so he wisely decided to head north and put in some actual game time, which he will see in Montreal. The Alouettes will be getting a young, determined player in Adams, who moves quickly out of the pocket and has pinpoint accuracy. He has already drawn comparisons to many QBs of both leagues despite not yet taking a pro snap. If AC can be given the chance to groom this young man properly, the sky’s the limit on Adams’ potential in this league and beyond.
When both Jonathan Crompton and Dan LeFevour went down to injury in the season opener last year, Montreal had no choice but to start one of their youngsters from camp. Then-head coach Tom Higgins went with his gut and called upon the name of Rakeem Cato to lead the attack for the Birds of Prey. And in a game that no one could have predicted, the former Marshall pivot notched a victory of the defending Grey Cup champions!
But success for Cato came in small doses, as a pedantic offense led by OC Turk Schonert exposed a lot of weaknesses and even when the dynamic rookie did well, the Alouettes’ opponents were able to figure him out. Cato’s season ended with a stint on the injured list and with Kevin Glenn in tow, the likelihood of Rakeem being given a chance to lead again seems slim.
Now with the addition of Adams to the ever-swelling QB corps in Montreal, Cato will have to find a way to re-capture the imaginations of fans and coaching staff alike. I will say that he is determined to make everyone believe in him again; he has been devouring Calvillo’s playbook for weeks now. We shall see just how much Cato wants this opportunity to be the next one.
That being said, let’s not forget another young quarterback that had tongues wagging late last year. Brandon Bridge not only has a lot of potential brimming, he also was born in the right country for this league! Last season, Bridge became the first Canadian-born quarterback in almost 2 decades to start a CFL game. Despite not getting the win in his lone start, Bridge showed that he too should be considered a project for AC and his crew.
Bridge spent the majority of his rookie season holding a clipboard on the sidelines, waiting for his chance to shine. He’ll get his opportunity to wow everyone in camp and with the endorsement of one Kevin Glenn, this young man will not be denied his spot on this roster.
A name that Alouettes Nation should keep an ear open for is Tajh Boyd. Much like Adams and Cato, Boyd had himself a very successful NCAA career. Boyd led the Clemson Tigers to a pair of Orange Bowl appearances and won it in 2014. He has set numerous records for Clemson and even set an ACC record by notching EIGHT touchdowns in one game (five throwing, three rushing) If you’re looking for offense, Tajh is your Boy(d)!
But with all these QBs on the Alouettes roster, Boyd will really have to stand out when called upon. His playmaking ability is not in question, but he will need to gain the confidence of his teammates quickly. Simply put, he cannot afford a misstep while in Lennoxville. Boyd has been keeping active in his community and football is in his blood. I wouldn’t bet against this young man.
Bringing up the rear is Jonathan Crompton, who will be starting the year on the injured list. Last season was supposed to be the one where he would continue to lead the Alouettes to victory, but injuries early and often led to some very ordinary football at best when he did play. Crompton had surgery on his shoulder earlier this year which will keep him sidelined. And even when he is cleared to play, he may very well find himself on the outside looking in.
Hard to believe that it was just two seasons ago where he emerged out of nowhere and nearly led Montreal to a Grey Cup appearance. Fate has not been kind to this still young man; I do believe that he will have a very high hill to climb once he is able to strap on his pads again. But his infectious attitude and work ethic will give him a fighting chance every time.
The Alouettes will also be inviting two young QBs from the CIS to get a taste of a professional training camp and help grow the Canadian game. Between that and drafting the Ontario-born Bridge, this team is not afraid to let Canadian talent come aboard.
Next up, the Running Backs and Receivers!