The ALSternative — 2019 Season Preview Part Five

This much-maligned area of the football field is never an easy one to predict for the Montreal Alouettes. It’s had its up and downs (mostly downs) yet fans remain hopeful that the new season is the one where it all finally turns the corner.

Hired last year to run this unit, Special Teams coach Mickey Donovan should now have a vision as to where he wants this team to go. There’s been improvement in both offense and defense, but what about this group? Are we going to see some fresh faces or the same old same old?

Some of the mainstays on special teams are no longer here in Montreal, including Nicolas Boulay and Chip Cox. There will be some new members of the team and as training camp unfolds, we’ll know more about who will be a part of this squad.

Let’s take a look at the special teams for the Montreal Alouettes:

Kick/Punt Returner

Some way, somehow Stefan Logan is still a member of the Alouettes. That’s not meant to be insulting so please don’t take it as such. His numbers over the years can’t be denied but the one number of his that I’m having a hard time getting past is 37. As in, his age. Even that number will increase after June 2nd.

I honestly thought Logan was a free agent this off-season, but it appears not. He’s also had some legal issues that had me thinking that the Alouettes were going to let him go. But he will be in camp on Sunday. No one doubts Logan’s work effort and readiness on game day. But his numbers have taken a hit over the past two seasons and it really does feel like he’s not as fast as he was when he first joined the Alouettes.

Which means that someone will have to wrest the title of K/P Returner from him. For my money, I still say that T.J. Graham is the name to beat. He hasn’t wowed anyone at the receiver position but his speed is beyond ridiculous. I think as the Alouettes shift to getting younger, Graham will be given a great many chance to become this team’s new full-time returner.

Last season saw William Stanback return kicks for the Alouettes when Logan was injured and he did not look out of place. But I can’t see the starting tailback take these kinds of reps now. Ryder Stone remains a solid option as well. Montreal also has some National receivers that can handle such duties if called upon, such as Malcolm Carter, Richmond Nketiah, Kaion Julien-Grant and Chris Osei-Kusi.

With no disrespect to everything that Stefan has brought to the Alouettes, this is a young man’s game. In this instance, youth will have to be served.

Kicker/Punter

As it has been since 2015, Boris Bede is the kicker to beat in training camp. There have been attempts to replace him over the years but none have worked out. There were reports that the Alouettes were thinking of bringing another kicker in via free agency, but nothing materialized.

Bede is still a very good field goal kicker, making 85% of his attempts in 2018. But the kicks he misses are the crucial ones that fans seem to remember the most. Despite being one of the most consistent scorers of the league, there’s been calls for something different. Asking someone to perform both kicking & punting duties is a lot and it may serve Boris well to concede one of the kicking duties to someone else.

This is where Enrique Yenny comes in. The first Alouettes pick from the Liga de Fútbol Americano Profesional draft, Yenny has been a very impressive kicker for the Osos Toluca in Mexico’s premier football league. A look at his Twitter profile features many videos of some highlight-reel kicks and punts, showing off a very impressive leg.

Like Bede, Enrique can handle both duties with no problems. So it may actually benefit everyone to have both Bede and Yenny on the roster in 2019. I expect this to be a good competition and the real winner will be the Alouettes’ fans.

Long Snappers

Like a rock, Martin Bedard is there. Year after year, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone as good and as consistent as Marty. Long snapper is a position that gets no love or glory. But when your snapper is hurt, you can’t help but notice the impact of his absence.

Giving some competition to Bedard is fellow Quebecois Maxime Latour. This will be Latour’s first time in a CFL camp, as the Universite de Sherbrooke alum had been trying his hand at landing with a NFL team. But Latour is here now and may have plans to unseat a long-time Alouette at a very tough position. This should be a lot of fun to watch.

Other Notables

If I were to make an educated guess on special teamers to look out for, I’d say Paul Kozachuk, Lekan Idowu and Ty Cranston will be some names to keep circled in your programs. These are some terrific playmakers who are not afraid to get their hands dirty. But Mickey Donovan will obviously try a lot of folks out to find that right fit.

As per usual, any number of Montreal’s draft picks that survive training camp will likely have to pay their dues by logging time on special teams. For the rookies/young players, this remains the best option to get some film of your play. The more you hustle, the better your chances of having your number called to get out on the playing field.

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So that concludes your look at the 2019 Montreal Alouettes. There’s no denying the talent that is on this team as well as the potential to become something special. The biggest thing for me is whether this coaching staff can make the most of the talent that they’ve been given. This is pretty much a boom-or-bust season for both the coaching staff and general manager Kavis Reed.

With new ownership on the horizon, failure is simply not an option here in Montreal. If these aforementioned men wish to remain employed, it behooves them to ensure that Montreal finally makes a playoff appearance, their first since 2014. This team hasn’t had a winning record since 2012 and even if the East is in it’s usual state of disarray, something has to change for the Alouettes.

Nothing would make me happier than to be pleasantly surprised and see this Alouettes team take advantage of everyone napping on them. As I have said numerous times, this team looks to be a real contender on paper. But we all know that the games are not played on paper.

My prediction for the Montreal Alouettes’ 2019 season? I won’t give you any specific numbers but I don’t think they will go 18-0. Nor do I think they will go 0-18 like some Twitter trolls like to think (or hope they do). I feel confident in saying they will win between 1-17 games this season. For what it’s worth, I did place a $5 bet in Atlantic City on the Alouettes winning the Grey Cup this year. If those 14-1 odds pays off, that’s a cool $75 in my pocket!

In closing, all I can say is enjoy the ride because it only lasts for six months. If you don’t like my predictions, feel free to ask for your money back.

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Camp will be held at Percival Molson Stadium this year. All sessions are free and will be open to the general public. You can get the entire Alouettes training camp schedule here.

Be sure to stay tuned to The ALSternative for all your training camp thoughts, analysis and so much more. Don’t forget to check out the Alouettes Flightdeck podcast to hear myself and Tim Capper discuss all things Alouettes as well. You can find the podcast by searching “Alouettes Flightdeck” on iTunes, Google Play Music, Stitcher and Spotify.

As always, here’s hoping for a great season of Canadian football. With a new CBA in place, the players, coaches and fans are ready to get back to what they love.

As always, thanks for reading. See you on Monday afternoon!

GO ALS GO!!!

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