Maybe the second time will be the charm for the former leader of the Marshall Thundering Herd.
In a bold attempt to shake things up, the Montreal Alouettes are foregoing veteran leadership at quarterback and letting youth take control. It was announced this past Sunday that Alouettes quarterback Kevin Glenn would be taking a seat in favour of backup Rakeem Cato for Friday night’s game versus the BC Lions.
Cato has already started one game for Montreal in 2016 due to Glenn suffering an injury. Suffice to say, it was a performance to forget. But after two subpar performances by the 16 year pro, this team is desperate for a change and it’s the hope that Cato can replicate the magic that happened last season.
If this week at practice proved nothing else, Cato is likely to go into this game with nothing left to lose. He got into a heated argument with Duron Carter and even turned to this coaching staff and voiced his frustrations to them for their perceived attitude in handling players like Duron. It’s a risky position for the former Marshall pivot to take, but if nothing else he’s showing everyone that he is determined to make this team his own.
When he first came onto the scene as a virtual unknown, Rakeem dazzled the CFL with his debut performance at home versus Calgary. But it’s been a tough road for the former college dynamo as Cato was eventually figured out by opposing defenses and had a hard time adjusting to the CFL game. Last season, he was essentially thrown into the deep end of the pool while having rocks in his pocket. It didn’t help that the plays being given to Rakeem were not taking full advantage of his skill set. As a result, the recent news of Cato playing tended to elicit more groans than anything else from most members of this Alouettes fanbase.
Now that he’s been asked to replace the veteran Glenn for this game at least, will Cato be given the tools needed to succeed? That’s my major concern as he takes control of this team; he’s not Anthony Calvillo nor is he Kevin Glenn. Asking this mobile quarterback to play like a pocket passer well into his prime is a very heady task and a potential recipe for failure.
Unless Calvillo has a special series of plays just for Rakeem Cato tucked away in a safe deposit box that’s being busted out for Friday’s game, I can’t say that I’m 100% confident in this move to change the QB. You can blame the quarterback for a lot of things, but he’s only as good as the plays being given to him. And with the plays that Calvillo’s been barking out this season, I’m understandably leery of entrusting the young Cato with the task of turning this Alouettes team and season around.
It’s not helping that Cato is being asked to win in a very difficult place. Until last year, the Alouettes couldn’t buy a win at BC Place, having not tasted victory there since 2000. The odds of Montreal repeating this feat aren’t favorable when you look at how well this BC Lions team has played this season.
Led by their young quarterback Jonathan Jennings, the Lions are a legitimate threat in the CFL’s Western division. They even completed a perfect sweep of all four Eastern teams while on the road. This Lions squad plays hard and doesn’t know the meaning of quit, winning their past two games in dramatic comeback fashion. When these two teams played earlier this season, it was a competitive defensive battle until Montreal fell apart in the fourth quarter. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
It’s interesting to note that both quarterbacks in Friday’s game are in their second season. But both are trending in two very different directions, as Jennings has been given a lot more to work with while Cato has been hung out to dry when he’s played and not given the chance to showcase all of his talents.
BC also has some deadly weapons in their defensive corps, especially when you look at the linebackers on this team. The names Solomon Elimimian and Adam Bighill are notorious already in this league, but you can add the name Loucheiz Purifoy to that list. Purifoy has already punished the Alouettes once this season and will be looking to repeat himself in front of the orange-clad spectators in Vancouver.
But perhaps the biggest threat to this Alouettes team is a former member of the flock who has done quite well for himself in BC. Chris Rainey has been an absolute beast on kick returns and he’ll be looking to have a monster game against a Montreal special teams unit that has been sporadic at best against opposing returners.
I wish I could guarantee that the Alouettes will continue the 2016 trend of road teams winning, but they really do have their work cut out for them Friday night. This Lions team is not perfect at home, but they do feast on weaker teams like the Alouettes. But if this Montreal defense can put forth its usual outstanding effort, there’s always a chance to shock the world.
This will not be an easy game for the Alouettes, but they have posted two of their three wins while away from Percival Molson Stadium. Nobody gave Montreal a hope in hell versus Ottawa at TD Place a few weeks ago and look what happened there. Perhaps this is the trap game that Montreal desperately needs. And if Rakeem Cato can make a statement and post his SECOND win (!) at BC Place, perhaps another kind of conversation needs to take place within this organization.
Another blowout loss will mean more questions and more calling out of this beleaguered coaching staff. Montreal can’t afford another loss at this point of the season. Wins are needed badly as a complete housecleaning seems more and more likely when this campaign comes to an end.
No matter what, this Montreal Alouettes team will solider on. Enjoy tonight’s game, regardless of where you watch it.