It’s finally here…. GAME DAY!!!
Tonight, the Montreal Alouettes kick off the 2016 regular season on the road as they take on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Investors Group Field. The last time that the Alouettes opened a season in this building, they waltzed out with a victory. Anthony Calvillo led the charge that day and a mere three years later, very little of that sentence has changed.
Except now Calvillo is not taking this field in pads and rocking the #13, but rather with a myriad of plays on a laminated sheet to bark out to his quarterback Kevin Glenn. The now offensive coordinator of the team he led to three Grey Cup championships, it’s now on the shoulders of Calvillo to restore the glory of this team and establish himself as a new kind of saviour for this Alouettes franchise.
Throughout training camp, there was a sense of hope and even relief from the offensive players of this team. For years, this team has struggled on offense as they trotted out American-based OCs that likely couldn’t find Canada on a map, let alone direct a Canadian team to victory in this league. For the first time in ages, this team has a coordinator that has grown with the game and is well-versed in its intricacies.
This won’t translate into instant success but if you’re an Als fan, you have to feel a small sense of hope. Especially when you consider the amount of talent taking the field tonight. Names like S. J. Green, Duron Carter and Kenny Stafford have tasted success and have made it their goal to return that to Montreal.
This is no one-dimensional attack either; in addition to the receiving corps, you also have a deadly ground game with the CFL’s rushing leader in Tyrell Sutton leading the charge. Both he and Brandon Rutley will provide a well-balanced attack and anyone sleeping on this team is due for a rude awakening. They won’t win every game this year, but the Alouettes will certainly put points on the board.
On defense, this team is still a force to be reckoned with. There is a big question mark in the secondary as both Dominique Ellis and Mitchell White were shown the door at the end of training camp. It will now be up to raw rookies like Greg Henderson, Ethan Davis and Jonathon Mincy to pick up the slack.
Thankfully, they can rely on the veteran presence of Billy Parker and Jovon Johnson to guide them in this uncharted territory. Both Parker and Johnson will split the secondary so that an experienced pro like Drew Willy won’t carve these birds up like a Thanksgiving turkey. Rather, he should concern himself with the front seven that will no doubt be in his grill all evening.
This D-Line is going to put this league on notice starting tonight in the ‘Peg. The last time he played here, Alan-Michael Cash had himself an epic game, knocking down passes and even picking off Willy in a losing effort. Cash will have Vaughn Martin at his side and both of these mammoths will be looking to eat tonight and won’t stop until their dinner plate is cleared.
The strength of this Montreal team has been on defense and that won’t change anytime soon. Their big challenge will be limiting the production of local Manitoba product Andrew Harris. He’s broken out for some big games in years past and fully expects to carry this Bombers team on his back. And what better place for him to do so than in his hometown? Expect Harris to get a lot of touches this evening.
The key for Montreal tonight will be to capitalize on every opportunity they get. They are facing a Bombers team that is also searching for a new identity as they repatriated Paul LaPolice to fix a pedantic offense and perhaps even supplant head coach Mike O’Shea if this team doesn’t produce in 2016. Winnipeg is also being looked past in the Western division and want to catch people napping. They will need to find a way to get to Kevin Glenn early and often, making him uncomfortable.
This Alouettes offensive line will be tested far more than they were a mere two weeks ago. This time, the results matter and mistakes will not be so easily forgiven. Montreal needs to give their quarterback as much time as possible to stretch the field and get their receivers some prime real estate. Kevin Glenn knows how to win and he’ll be extra motivated so well to help out his OC and fellow QB legend.
This game could come down to special teams play as well. Kavis Reed has done wonders for this area of the field and he too will have to be prepared. Having a Stefan Logan in your back pocket does help and if Montreal can create some lanes for him, he can have another MOP-caliber season in red/blue/silver.
I’m expecting a tight, entertaining game and you can catch it tonight on TSN, RDS and also on ESPN2 if you’re in the United States. I’ll be live in Winnipeg tonight and looking forward to the experience of being at Investors Group Field!
On the most recent edition of the Alouettes FlightDeck, both myself and Tim Capper talked about what we expect from the Alouettes this season. Realistically, a third place finish and nudging into the playoffs is very much an attainable goal for this team. It’s easy to see why many people are writing off this team.
With all the erratic moves made this off-season and the uncertainty of the coaching staff, it’s easy to have doubt. But this team on paper has a wealth of talent and I just can’t see them missing the playoffs for a second straight year. This team will be competitive and fight for everything they have. It won’t be perfect, but I am confident that this Alouettes team will be in the mix in 2016.
That’s all for now. Be sure to follow along on Twitter as I take in the Winnipeg game experience and share it with you good readers. With any luck, the Rum Hut won’t enslave me and the Beer Snake won’t envelop me in its deadly grip 🙂
Enjoy the game tonight, regardless of where you watch it.
GO ALS GO !!!