It’s intriguing to think that perhaps the most valuable free agent acquisition by the Montreal Alouettes in 2018 is actually a 45-year-old former quarterback.
Ever since former offensive coordinators Scott Milanovich and Marcus Brady jumped from the Alouettes to the Argonauts, this Montreal team has been sorely lacking in offense. Many a coach has tried to be the offensive coordinator of this team and every one of them has failed miserably. Without question, the common denominator among those who have tried has been, simply put, lack of experience and/or knowledge.
When this new coaching staff was assembled, two issues HAD to be addressed. It had to have CFL experience because new Alouettes head coach Mike Sherman has none. The other would be that it had to put points on the board. This team has forged an identity as a defensive powerhouse in recent years, but that too had gone by the wayside with last year’s dismissal of Noel Thorpe.
So rejoice Alouettes Nation, as this organization has finally hired a REAL offensive coordinator with CFL experience! Former CFL pivot Khari Jones is now overseeing this offense and while it’s early, he has drawn a lot of praise for the playbook he has come up with for the 2018 season.
There are a lot of questions in regards to the quarterbacking position on this team, but there’s no shortage of weapons at the disposal of whomever will lead this team under centre. Let’s have a look at the offensive weapons for the Alouettes.
Two words: Tyrell Sutton.
And now for a few more words; There’s no more complete running back in the Eastern division than the man they call Sutty. Despite Montreal’s numerous OCs abandoning the run time and time again, Tyrell still manages to rack up yards and make plays happen.
Despite missing four games in 2017, Sutton still came very close to another thousand yard season on the ground. There’s a lot of power on his 5’10 frame and yet he can still turn on the jets at a moment’s notice. Averaging 5.5 yards per carry last season, it still baffles the mind that the Alouettes didn’t put the ball in Sutton’s capable hands more often. Especially when Darian Durant‘s passes were connecting more with the turf than with his receivers.
Tyrell led the league in rushing a couple of years ago and can still compete with the best of them. I’m hoping Coach Khari finds a way to re-establish Montreal’s ground game this season with this beast at his disposal.
The Alouettes decided to shake things up and traded Brandon Rutley and J-C Beaulieu in the off-season. So who will help Sutty in Montreal’s backfield? For the first time in a while, the Alouettes will have a bit more of a Canadian feel to its running game.
Shaquille Murray-Lawrence was used primarily on kickoff returns in his time with the BC Lions. His speed and quickness will be a nice complement to Sutton’s ground-and-pound style of play. Still a young man at 24, Murray-Lawrence has the potential to develop nicely and be a potential ratio-breaker on offense for Montreal.
As part of Montreal’s campaign to bring back some former Alouettes to the nest, they swung a deal with the Ottawa RedBlacks to re-acquire a man they lost in the expansion draft of 2013. Patrick Lavoie has returned to the team that originally drafted him in the second round in 2012.
Lavoie’s rookie season was beset by injuries and as a result, he went unprotected in the expansion draft. He was taken by Ottawa, remained quite healthy and helped the RedBlacks appear in two Grey Cup games with them winning it all in 2016. A dual threat in running and receiving, Lavoie will be a great veteran option to use on offense.
If Khari Jones is the best free agent signing that the Alouettes made this season, the runner-up could also be a former CFL player turned coach. New receivers coach Jason Tucker has turned a fantastic (albeit too short due to injury) playing career into a great coaching career. I believe Tucker will be only too happy at the talent he has at his disposal.
The biggest name on the list is Ernest Jackson, one of Montreal’s big-time signings for the 2017 season. He didn’t produce as well as many had hoped last season, but that would pretty well sum up nearly everyone on offense. Jackson still managed to haul in 60 receptions and with the retirement of Nik Lewis, should be able to return to his natural position as slot receiver. I can see 2018 being a year of redemption for E-Jack.
This next young man gets better every year, plain and simple. B.J. Cunningham is the name that should be on the lips of everyone watching the CFL. With over 1100 receiving yards and four touchdowns in 2017, B.J. was one of the lone bright spots on an otherwise dismal offense. He has a great football mind and finds ways to get open every time. If Montreal can get their QB sorted out, getting the ball in Cunningham’s hands should be a top priority on game day.
Looking to redeem himself after a less than stellar comeback is Chris Williams, who was a major sparkplug on offense for the Ottawa RedBlacks before suffering an ACL injury. Williams recovered and signed with the BC Lions, but wasn’t able to find his form out West. A trade for Gabriel Knapton brought the speedster back East and Montreal is banking on him as a deep threat. Williams can also return kicks as well, something for the Alouettes to consider with Stefan Logan now in his late 30s.
The National receiver spot is up for grabs as Montreal sent the under-performing Samuel Giguere packing in the off-season. Instead of pursuing a known Canadian commodity, the Alouettes are banking on their draft resources from the past couple of seasons to fill that void. Keep an eye out for these National names:
George Johnson was given the chance to perform last season when Giguere missed camp due to injury and did quite well early, hauling in 117 yards and a pair of TDs early on. He will be the first name looked at for this roster spot. Malcolm Carter and Alex Morrison have tremendous pedigrees and were very effective in training camp last season. They are back and will be ready to compete in 2018. Steven Adekolu appeared in five games last season, mostly on special teams. He will also compete and put his versatility to good use.
Rounding out the receiving corps are Eugene Lewis, Lonnie Outlaw and Jamal Robinson. Lewis got some limited game action in 2017, most notably this wacky play in Montreal’s heart-breaking loss in Winnipeg. I’d like to see more of what this former Oklahoma Sooner can do here. Outlaw is a former Arena League standout and is a big-body receiver that can make an impact. Robinson is the other part of this year’s CFL draft trade that saw Montreal move down to #2 and bring Ryan Bomben back. A strong camp from this young bull will prove that he’s not some spare part used to sweeten a trade.
So there you have it, the potential 2018 line-up for the Montreal Alouettes on offense. Tune back in tomorrow as we will take an in-depth look at the Alouettes’ defense.