Training camp is finished and the preseason has come to a close. The dust has settled and your 2018 Montreal Alouettes have been finalized, ready to kick off the season in Vancouver versus the BC Lions.
The final preseason game was played this past Saturday afternoon as the Alouettes welcomed the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. As this was Grand Prix weekend in the 514, only half the seats at Percival Molson Stadium were filled for this final showcase of training camp. The Alouettes took the lead early but ultimately let the game get away from them, losing by a score of 30-15.
Montreal looked solid, as they left their projected starters in for the first half of this game and they were able to finally find the end zone with a Tyrell Sutton touchdown run. Boris Bede contributed points with a field goal and some rouges. The Alouettes defense gave Hamilton QB Bryant Moniz plenty of fits, with the Tabbies unable to move the ball downfield and Mitchell White was able to take advantage with a terrific interception.
Having seen enough, Tiger-Cats head coach June Jones summoned the next QB in his lineup to take over. The city of Montreal got to experience Johnny Manziel for the first time and thanks to a muffed punt return by Stefan Logan in the second quarter, Manziel was able to take advantage of some choice field position and notch his first CFL touchdown. For those keeping track, Alex Green will be the answer to the trivia question, “Who caught Johnny Manziel’s first CFL touchdown pass?”, hauling in a simple 3 yard lob from the former Texas A&M Aggie.
As the first half gave way to the second half, Montreal’s offense stalled as the starters gave way to the other players vying for a roster spot. Alouettes QB Garrett Fugate had some nice passes but one of them unfortunately ended up in the hands of Ticats defender Joel Ross. The Hamilton prospect brought Fugate’s pass back 38 yards to score the touchdown that would give the Tiger-Cats a lead that they would not relinquish.
There was a lot to like and dislike about this game for Montreal. This year’s draft class was well-represented as Ryder Stone, Jean-Gabriel Poulin and Khadim Mbaye all made solid contributions in the second half. How much playing time they will get this season remains to be seen. But they certainly helped their cause and this coaching staff may not have much of a choice but to factor them in sooner rather than later.
Drew Willy played it safe while under centre, but didn’t make any crucial mistakes in his final tuneup of the preseason. He did just enough for Alouettes head coach Mike Sherman to give him the starting QB job for Week One of the regular season. I remain steadfast in my opinion that Willy is a very serviceable option, but not the long-term answer for a team in search of their next great quarterback. Let’s see what he can do when the games count for real.
Saturday was not a great day for Stefan Logan. His inability to corral one of his punt return swung the momentum in Hamilton’s favour and they never looked back, scoring 30 unanswered points. While Logan still has some of his speed, he wasn’t able to break out like he has in years past. This was likely a case of not having to expend all your energy when you know your roster spot is secure. Still, you want your players giving their all when possible.
As mentioned before, Bede was not precise in his field goal attempts, going 1 for 3. Perhaps like Logan, he was also certain of his roster spot within this organization and didn’t need to exert himself as a result. Boris was one of the few offensive bright spots last season and his ability to send a ball flying via his foot is never in question. Now that the games count in the standings, I’m certain Bede will find his groove and split the uprights with ease yet again.
All nine CFL teams had to submit their final rosters to the league yesterday by 10am ET. In addition to the releases made earlier, here are the final cuts made by Montreal:
Quinn van Gylswyk
The most notable names on that list are the last two, as Tims was a 2016 draft pick and was looking to unseat Martin Bedard as the long snapper for the Alouettes. Van Gylswyk had some decent punts, but he would have had to been outstanding in order to unseat Boris Bede as the Alouettes’ kicker/punter.
Should either Bedard or Bede go down to injury this season, I have no doubt that Alouettes general manager Kavis Reed will have no problem inviting these two National players back into the fold.
Speaking of Reed, there was some initial confusion early Sunday as offensive lineman Xavier Fulton‘s name was initially on the list of players who had been released. The team then quickly corrected the error and confirmed that Fulton had NOT been cut. If any of the other CFL teams committed such a clerical error, nobody would think twice of it. Or at worst, have a light chuckle at said team’s expense and go about their day.
But because the Alouettes seemingly can’t do anything right, this was a moment of glory for anyone looking to further degrade this organization. Once again (and this surely has to be getting old for the management team), the Alouettes are the laughingstock of the Canadian Football League.
Kavis Reed and assistant GM Joe Mack are the ones who make the football decisions here in Montreal and CFL fans are only too happy to blame them for everything that has gone wrong in this world. Let certain fans tell it and they’ll blame Reed/Mack for the Great Chicago Fire and/or why they can’t find their car keys. As a result, it’s easy to see why so many Alouettes fans have given up hope, as this clearly is not the same team that was successful for so many years.
But this is why it’s called a rebuild. Mistakes are going to be made. Favourite players are going to be traded or even released for any number of reasons. And even some players who should be put out to pasture are kept on board for those same reasons. Since we’re not in the board room when these decisions are made, all we can do is speculate as to why certain moves are made (or not made).
However, it really does behoove the Alouettes to really go through such details as player releases with a fine-toothed comb. There is no more goodwill being afforded and everything can and will be used against you in this day and age of merciless social media barbs. They say “Don’t feed the trolls” and missteps like this, however unintentional, are tasty morsels for them to feast upon.
Nobody’s perfect and people will make mistakes, especially in the public eye. But for a team looking to rebuild trust in their fan base as well as their stock in the eyes of the league, a stumble like this doesn’t exactly provide the best look. Why make extra work for yourself when you don’t have to?
The Alouettes will now prepare to face the BC Lions on the road, where the annual West Coast trip has typically produced more L’s than a can of alphabet soup. The Lions are looking to bounce back from a sub-par 2017 season and were able to handle both Calgary and Winnipeg with ease in this year’s preseason games.
We’ll be back later this week to preview this first game of the 2018 season as the Alouettes look to end the malaise that has befallen them in recent years. There is a lot to like here and it’s clear to see that a foundation for the future is being laid down.
The official practice schedule has not been released yet but it’s safe to assume that sessions will be held at the field between Olympic Stadium and Stade Saputo, same as where training camp was held this year. The public is welcome to attend, as always. Be sure to check the Alouettes web site for more details.
We know now who on the Montreal Alouettes have “earned their wings“; it’s now time for them to soar.