For the first time since Week One, the Montreal Alouettes hit the road to play a football game. And as the trend seems to go in the Canadian Football League, the hope is that a match played elsewhere puts the team’s second victory in the ledger.
The Birds of Prey invade the Big Smoke as they will play the Toronto Argonauts at BMO Field, the new home of the Boatmen as well as the site for the 104th Grey Cup later this season. This game is the start of a grueling stretch where the Als must play three football games in eleven days.
Once they are done in Toronto, Montreal heads back home for a pair of games at Percival Molson Stadium. There is very little prep time between opponents and even time to recover from these games will be minimal. With the Alouettes going through a tough grind already with its uninspiring offense and injuries to top stars, they will have to hope to steal a couple of victories out of this near two-week odyssey.
If there’s any immediate hope for Alouettes Nation, it’s that quarterback Kevin Glenn will be back under centre after missing the last game with an eye infection. It’s his head and throwing arm that will need to be on point as he re-inherits an offense that has not looked great in recent weeks. There is a lot of doubt starting to surround Alouettes OC Anthony Calvillo and the playbook that he’s co-authored with Jacques Chapdelaine. You would think that the two of them would be able to put together a series of dazzling plays and perhaps have they have, but Montreal’s fans are still waiting to see it.
Glenn has stressed the importance of getting Duron Carter as many looks as possible, as he is still the focal point of this Alouettes offense. Both he and B.J. Cunningham will benefit from having Glenn back in the line up, as he will have the faith in those two to heave the ball deep in their direction. I have to believe that KG’s overthrowing in his last game versus Ottawa was just an unfortunate bout of bad timing.
There’s no Vernon Adams in the lineup due to him suffering a concussion in practice last week, so expect to see the Ontario-born Brandon Bridge coming in on third down action. If Glenn goes down to injury for any reason tomorrow I would expect to see Bridge get the nod, as Rakeem Cato really didn’t impress and the Argos have likely prepared for him instead of the lanky Canadian QB. While Cato is no doubt very eager to erase the mistakes of the last game from people’s minds, he may be better suited to simply watch and learn some more.
Montreal’s defense will have to find a way to get and keep Argos QB Ricky Ray off his game. While the Alouettes have mostly been successful against this legend, he’s made them look foolish in recent outings. When the grizzled vet is on his game, there’s few QBs who are better than him.
Montreal’s rookie DBs will be tested early and often by Ray, who’s been known to drop the perfect pass right into the hands of his receivers when least expected. Ray will be looking to connect with his preferred target Vidal Hazelton along with Kenny Shaw while also employing the ground game of former Alouette Brandon Whitaker, whose career has been given a new lease on life in the Double Blue.
On defense, the Argos possess a D-line that is every bit as stacked as Montreal’s is. DC Rich Stubler has put together a very dangerous unit with names like Bryan Hall, Justin Hickman and Shawn Lemon jumping out and causing havoc for opposing QBs. They will give the young Alouettes O-Line a lot to handle right from jump street.
Former Calgary Stampeder Keon Raymond has flourished in his new home, notching a pair of QB sacks as well as causing a pair of turnovers in 2016. Add those stats to his 23 tackles thus far and this former Grey Cup champion has shown that he still has a lot of fuel left in the tank.
The Alouettes will be facing a Toronto team that is eager to finally give their fans their first home victory of the season. After years of sparse crowds inside the cavernous Rogers Centre, the Argos are finally playing in an open-air stadium and have promised their supporters a football experience like never before.
The Argos have poured a lot of money and marketing in making BMO Field their new home and there are no plans of leaving, much to the chagrin of the Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC and THEIR fans who feel that this multi-purpose stadium is their sole birthright.
A new stadium and the ability to finally tailgate is great for Toronto CFL fans, but it still comes down to the team putting a successful product on the field. And if the Argos don’t start winning soon in their new digs, the initial novelty of grilling your own food while drinking $4 beers in the parking lot will lose its appeal real fast.
I’m expecting this particular game to be a real shootout. Both teams are coming off a loss and Toronto is looking to avoid their first two game losing streak of 2016, while Montreal will be desperately trying to snap theirs. Remarkably, both teams are very effective when they get into the red zone so while both teams will want to take risks, they may be better off just moving the ball a few yards at a time and extending drives.
A lot of people feel that had Scott Milanovich never left Montreal to become head coach of the Argonauts, perhaps this Alouettes organization wouldn’t be in the coaching pickle that it finds itself in currently. Despite going through an unbelievable amount of turmoil within their front office, this Argos team has persevered and remained competitive in this league.
The Montreal Alouettes would be well-served to learn this lesson as they look to dig themselves out of their current state of affairs. It can all start with a big win in potentially hostile territory against a long-time nemesis.
This game marks the beginning of a very busy week on The ALSternative. We will barely have finished talking about this Toronto game when we have to prepare ourselves for this Friday’s tilt versus the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who managed to upset the Ottawa RedBlacks at home for their first win of the season. It’s also the retirement of Ben Cahoon’s #86 and emotions will be at a fever pitch for this game.
We’ll be discussing all this and more both here on The ALSternative and on the Alouettes FlightDeck podcast, so be ready for a busy week of Alouettes football! Be sure to follow along on Twitter to help stay as informed as possible.
Enjoy the game against the Argonauts, regardless of where you watch it.