Let’s hope that the week off did the team some good…..
The Montreal Alouettes will be back on the field tomorrow to kick off a new month and a short homestand, facing the Toronto Argonauts and then the Edmonton Eskimos the following week. The first of two bye weeks are done for the Als and now they need to take advantage of a weak Eastern division.
Despite all the doom and gloom that July brought, the Alouettes are actually tied for first place…with every team in the east. So games like tomorrow’s are crucial to make up ground on divisional foes. Toronto is reeling from some tough losses as well and the injury bug has bit them all season.
Ricky Ray is considered one of the elite QBs in the Canadian Football League but has looked very ordinary of late. If the Argos are going to win, they have to solve Noel Thorpe’s dangerous defense and Ray’s young receivers need to give him a chance to throw the ball to them. Right now both teams are as evenly matched as you will find in the CFL.
Montreal is not giving up on Troy Smith, as he has been taking first team reps at practice this week. But you can tell from those who were watching that Smith is now on a very short leash. Should Troy start to falter Friday night, both Tanner Marsh and Alex Brink will be called upon to line up behind centre before too much damage is done.
A different wrinkle to the game tomorrow as S.J. Green will be out due to injured ribs and coming in will be Duron Carter and Mardy Gilyard. Gilyard had a decent training camp and has bided his time on the Als’ practice roster. He’s had several cups of coffee with numerous NFL teams but will he get a chance to shine with this Alouettes offense? He now has a very small window to make something happen.
Carter will be a welcome return as this exciting youngster can make plays out of absolutely nothing. Troy Smith has had difficulty connecting with his receivers in 2014 but a healthy Duron Carter could very well be what the doctor ordered for the former Heisman trophy winner.
Duron’s cousin Kenny Stafford has been quite effective for the Alouettes and those two together could cause a lot of headaches for the Argos’ defense. Stafford probably got the least fanfare when he was re-signed by the Alouettes, but a few more games under his belt and he could be a real threat in the CFL.
Oh, and there’s also this other former NFL superstar in the Alouettes lineup….Chad something or other….Maybe now that he’s gotten his feet more than wet, Johnson can finally emerge and be more than just a supporting cast member. I did state that I personally have been pleased with what he has done so far for Montreal, but if Ocho Cinco can snag a few touchdowns (And make good on his promise to celebrate with a female in the stands!), that’d really help the Alouettes’ cause.
During last year’s bye week, the Alouettes turfed then-head coach Dan Hawkins in order to restore some sense of order to the season. This year’s bye week also saw some staff changes, but in a surprising move to some no one on this year’s coaching staff has lost their job.
Rather, General Manager Jim Popp has called in some reinforcements. Returning to the Alouettes in a consulting role is former head coach Don Matthews, who guided this Montreal team to several Grey Cup appearances and winning one in 2002. Surely he’s got to feel like Michael Corleone from The Godfather movies at this point in his life: “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.”
And so once again, this Alouettes team reaches all the way back to the past for a key element to what made them great for many years. While I think the brash, cocky Matthews that had endeared himself to so many Alouettes fans is gone, his knowledge of the Canadian game is second to none. There’s no doubt that Matthews gets it as far as what will be involved in teaching this group, “The Alouette Way”.
Also joining the Alouettes as a consultant is former NFL coach Turk Schonert, who will help Ryan Dinwiddie in preparing the offensive attack for the Alouettes. Dinwiddie is clearly in over his head and has already lashed out in frustration at his charges earlier this week at practice.
A former QB himself, Schonert’s biggest strength is developing plays, so ideally he will be the guiding hand in helping Dinwiddie create an offense that will maximize the strengths of not only the quarterbacks but the entire cast of playmakers on this Alouettes team.
While I am not terribly enthused about the team hiring yet another coach with zero CFL experience, here’s hoping that Schonert is a quick study in the nuances of the Canadian game. Let’s also hope he chooses his words to the media more carefully than when he was offensive coordinator with the Buffalo Bills.
Thanks again to everyone who checked out my last column, detailing why I believe a move to the Maritimes is the best course of action for the Toronto Argonauts. Just to be clear, it’s not something I am necessarily hoping for, but rather a possible solution to what some see as a major problem. No one is happy with what has happened this year when it comes to waning attendance. Crazy as my suggestion may sound, this could very well be the shot in the arm that this storied franchise sorely needs.
That’s all for now. Enjoy the Alouettes game tomorrow wherever you watch it and if you’re in Montreal, be sure to check out the tailgate party tomorrow afternoon.
GO ALS GO!!!
About the Author
Written by Clifford Pine
Montreal born & bred, lover of sports. Passionate about the Montreal Alouettes. Also a great cook & not too bad a dancer.