The Montreal Alouettes have completed their training camp sessions for the 2019 season. The final test for this team in transition comes on Thursday as they host the Ottawa RedBlacks at Percival Molson Stadium. For many of these players, this is their last chance to prove that they should stay in the 514. But for a good number of these players, this week will end with a handshake and a plane ticket back home.
As this final week of camp progressed, we are starting to see things take shape and a lot of questions are being answered. The biggest question still remains, “Who will be the starting quarterback for the first game?”
Many experts throughout the league immediately penciled in Antonio Pipkin as QB1 and understandably so. He did lead Montreal to 2 of their 5 wins in 2018, despite being cut from camp this time last year. Pipkin has made the most of his opportunity and he’ll certainly want to prove any doubters wrong in Thursday’s final tuneup game.
But based on their solid play in the pre-season game in Toronto, one cannot count either Vernon Adams or Matthew Shiltz out of the equation. Both were the only QBs that managed to put points on the board in a losing effort. Adams also has CFL experience in his back pocket and has worked hard to learn this offense. Shiltz is no slouch either, putting his remarkable mobility on display every day at camp and making very few mistakes under centre.
Thursday’s game will likely see more action in the second half from bubble QBs like Jeff Mathews and Canadian QB Hugo Richard (who will get the hometown pop from the crowd). This may be the only true opportunity for them to shine, especially with the game being broadcast on TSN/RDS.
I’m looking forward to seeing how this defense will play out, as there are some good pieces in place that will be looking to make the highlight reel. Taylor Loffler will make his Alouette debut Thursday and while he may only play a series or two, I’m eager to see how he will set the tone for 2019 in this preparation match.
Another player who will have to have the game of his life is Tevin Floyd, a young bruiser who made his bones playing for The Citadel. He’s made his presence felt several times in camp and will be ready to lay the wood down. While Floyd is not going to unseat Henoc Muamba or Jean-Gabriel Poulin in the MAC linebacker position, a strong game against Ottawa will certainly give the coaching staff plenty of reasons to keep this Tallahassee native up North in some capacity.
I’m also ready for Ty Cranston to make like his fellow 2017 draft class member Malcolm Carter and take that step to the next level. Both Ty and his younger brother Cody have been making a lot of noise in these camp sessions with their smart ball-hawking skills. While Cody will likely go back to the University of Ottawa for more seasoning, I think Ty will show that he can be a major contributor to this Alouettes secondary and on special teams in 2019.
The most intriguing battle could go down between the feet of France and Mexico’s finest. There hasn’t been a clear-cut winner in the camp battle between incumbent kicker/punter Boris Bede and global upstart Enrique Yenny. Both of these guys have strong legs and will send the ball sailing into orbit. But is there room on the roster for both of these kickers? If so will they split the kicking/punting duties, something that hasn’t happened here in Montreal for a LONG time?
As I said earlier, this camp has the potential to shock just about everyone. I don’t think very many positions are as set in stone as one might imagine.
There’s been a lot of news off the field as well for the Alouettes, as the 20+ ownership reign of Robert Wetenhall and his family has come to an anti-climactic end. After investing a lot of time and money into this team, they have bowed out and now the Alouettes will be run by the Canadian Football League until further notice.
This certainly wasn’t how I expected things to turn out. As Mr. Wetenhall’s health became a concern, the idea that his sons would continue to oversee the franchise well into this millennium was, on first blush, a very hopeful one. The idea of someone else running this team just seem so far-fetched.
But alas, Mr. Wetenhall’s sons didn’t seem to have quite what the old gent had when it came to ensuring the viability of the team. With reports of the Alouettes losing several million dollars per year and fan support dwindling with each losing season, it was becoming clear that this team needed some fresh blood with new ideas on how to bring the Montreal Alouettes back to glory.
So now the league has met with and remains in talks with several potential new owners for this team. There’s certainly a want and desire for the next owner to be locally based and someone who has a passion for this great game of ours. The pressure may be on to get a new owner in place but in all reality, I think it’s better to play the long game.
Take the time to ensure any and all parties are properly vetted and see how this Alouettes season unfolds. Then during Grey Cup week, you announce the new ownership group and let them be ready to start business the moment the championship trophy is handed out. Also, I think it behooves the league to ensure that the ownership group that does take over be allowed to make their own decisions, be it personnel hires or what flavor of Gatorade is in the big jugs on the sidelines.
If you believe what CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie has to say, there’s a lot of people who all agree that this Montreal Alouettes team can be a success story once again. But a lot of work has to be done and you need the right people in charge.
I sincerely hope that when the dust settles, this team finds itself with owners as passionate and dedicated as what Robert Wetenhall was 20+ years ago. This city deserves a winner once again.
That’s all for now. The final roster will be set by the end of this weekend and the Alouettes will start preparing for their first two games on the road as well as the challenge of an early bye week. We’ll be discussing all that and more here on The ALSternative as this new season kicks off next Thursday.
Enjoy the pre-season game Thursday, regardless of where you watch it.
GO ALS GO!!!