The first full week of Montreal Alouettes training camp is in the books. And let me tell you, it’s been quite the week!
This was the first opportunity that fans had to see all the changes made by the new Kavis Reed-led regime. After months of speculation, the time had finally come to see the new players that are vying to be on the field June 22nd to open the 2017 CFL season. It was also time to get re-acquainted with long-time players that have invested so much of themselves into this team and its fans.
This past week took the loyal fans on an emotional roller-coaster ride and in many ways, tested their faith in this team and the new front office leadership. Like any good amusement park ride, many were thrilled, many were terrified and many probably wanted to throw up at some point.
Let’s take a quick look at the week that was in Lennoxville, Quebec.
Day 2 of camp got off to a VERY rocky start with the early morning news that much-beloved Alouettes star Bear Woods was being released. The news dropped a lot of jaws league-wide, as it seemed unfathomable that the Alouettes would release a two-time nominee for the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player in the prime of his career. If Bear were a free agent this past February, he would have been easily the most sought-after. And despite all that, now the Alouettes were just gonna let him go?!
Naturally the move didn’t sit well with Alouettes fans, who have watched Woods develop into one of the league’s best linebackers. What didn’t help the cause was how the whole matter was handled in the media. GM Reed stated that this was a football-related move while Head Coach Jacques Chapdelaine said that this was a business move, possibly suggesting that Bear’s salary was what ultimately led to his departure.
We’ll never truly know the motive behind this move, but it wasn’t a particularly good look for both of these football bosses. If letting Woods go had to be done, so be it. But there’s no excuse for everyone to not be on the same page as far as getting the message out. If Chapdelaine wasn’t happy with the move, that’s absolutely his right. But there’s a right and a wrong way to convey that message and unfortunately, the head coach went with the wrong way.
But what’s done is done. It appears that it’s training camp for everyone, so here’s hoping that the next time such a football move is made that everyone will at least be reading from the same script. This release does now give an opportunity for Nicolas Boulay to showcase more than his incredible special teams play. Also, Anthony Sarao is next in line and this former USC Trojan really turned some heads at rookie camp.
Bear will be missed, there’s no question about that. He was a class act the entire time he was in Montreal. Historically, the Alouettes have always been able to fill the MLB position without truly missing a beat. So if they feel confident that the next Bear Woods in already in camp, then that guy will get his chance to shine.
The next moment to test the resolve of the Alouettes fanbase came on Day 3 with the images of Darian Durant being helped off the field and his knee wrapped in ice.
For the most part, the Alouettes have put nearly all their quarterbacking eggs into the Durant basket. The move to trade for this veteran signal-caller was not without risk, as Darian has had some injury woes the past couple of years. The Alouettes and Durant himself were confident that this was not going to be a major injury and sure enough, that news was confirmed over the weekend.
Durant is back to practicing but will not play in Montreal’s pre-season game this Thursday in Toronto. Quite frankly, that’s for the best as this gives the opportunity to see what Montreal’s other quarterbacks can do with extra reps. Last year in the pre-season, then-starting QB Kevin Glenn played longer than what was needed in both games. Thus not leaving a whole lot of game time for the other Alouette quarterbacks to show what they can do on the field.
This year, we will get a better look at what all Vernon Adams, Jacory Harris and Matthew Shiltz can do in game situations under centre. We may even get to see former Laval quarterback Hugo Richard in pre-season action, as he was a late addition to the training camp roster.
Believe it or not, it wasn’t all doom and gloom at Bishop’s University. There has been a LOT of highlights and several players have stepped up and made themselves noticed
B.J. Cunningham: I stated in the season preview that I thought that B.J. was going to ascend to the next level of CFL stardom in 2017. I’m officially doubling down on that statement. He has looked outstanding so far and no matter who the quarterback is, Cunningham seems to be the first look. Obviously everyone will still be looking to Ernest Jackson as the #1 target, But don’t be surprised if B.J. ends up being the true playmaker on this receiving corps.
Danny Anthrop: This young man came out of nowhere, dazzled everyone at the Alouettes’ rookie camp and simply hasn’t stopped since. Danny has been making plays and ridiculous catches on a daily basis. He’s a natural in the slot and has even gotten comparisons to such CFL luminaries as Jason Clermont and Ben Cahoon. It’s early still, but this is a name to keep an eye on for the future.
Malcolm Carter: Even since I saw him at the CFL Combine, Carter has never stopped impressing me. His physical gifts aside, he is eager to learn and has gotten better and better. The similarities to him and Devon Bailey are remarkable; both are tall, lanky receivers born and raised in the Greater Toronto Area that can make plays happen. The original plan was to send Carter back to school when training camp was finished. But he’s been making such a strong case that Kavis Reed may want to re-consider that decision and keep Malcolm at the ready.
Deandre Reaves: Every year, you expect to see someone truly stand out at the intra-squad game. This year’s player is a former member of the Thundering Herd of Marshall and has been electric in kick returns. Not surprising when you look at his three years in college, averaging nearly 28 yards per return. He’s also had 64 receptions and has taken a few scores to the house. The best part? ZERO fumbles in his college career. This kid has got some hands!
I’m still convinced that Stefan Logan knows where the fountain of youth is and is discreetly having bottles of its water shipped to camp. But Logan will eventually need to hand off the returner baton to a younger man. He can do worse than to give it to young Deandre, who I am very much looking forward to seeing in an actual game situation starting this Thursday.
There’s still a lot to be decided before the team takes its first trip to Toronto in 2017 to face the new-look Argonauts this coming Thursday. Both Darian Durant and Samuel Giguere will not play and I expect more than a few veterans will be staying at camp to let the youngsters get some quality in-game reps.
As of this going viral, the only way to follow the action on Thursday would be on the radio at TSN 690. The Argos did do a webcast of their pre-season game in years past; hopefully they can do that again for fans who want to follow the action visually. If anything changes on that front, I’ll be sure to let you know.
As always, training camp is ongoing daily and still very much welcome to the public. If you’re in the Lennoxville area, stop by and see your team in action! Training camp schedule can always be found by clicking here.