Just over this past weekend it was announced that the CFL and the CFL Players Association have reached a tentative agreement which will put off the looming reality of a players’ strike. Good news for a league that due to the nature of the weather in this country has a relatively short and compact season. The 2014 CFL season seems like it will go ahead.
This is good news for fans of Canadian football and the Montreal Alouettes. The upcoming season should be an interesting one on many levels. First of all, it will be the first for new head coach (but CFL veteran) Tom Higgins. Tom Higgins is a fresh face in Montreal, but has had a 23 year career in the CFL as a coach and/or administrator. Previously he has been with the Edmonton Eskimos and Calgary Stampeders. He will bring his knowledge of the league to a team whose roster has undergone plenty of change.
Gone from the 2013 roster are QB Anthony Cavillo, LB Shea Emry, WR Arland Bruce III, OL Andrew Woodruff, T Michael Ola, J.P. Bekasiak, and OL Scott Flory. Now, fans might be a little panicked with all that veteran leadership and quality gone from the squad (especially since it is the first time in over a decade that the team is going into the season without quarterback Cavillo being their starter), but as general manager Jim Popp has shown over the years, the guy knows how to fill holes. The off-season was a busy one for him. He has signed WR Chad Johnson, Jermaine McElveen, LB Diamond Ferri, WR Dave Stala, KR Larry Taylor, and QB Collin Klein. While Klein might not be a name familiar to many the former Kansas State University Wildcat was a runner up in the Heisman Trophy race in 2012. The 6’5”, 226 pounder is a physical specimen who can also run with ball. Plus they will have important veterans RB Brandon Whitaker and WR Jamel Richardson back from injury.
The job seems to be his to lose for quarterback Troy Smith, a Heisman Trophy winner in 2006. He got in 5 games of experience last season and demonstrated his live arm and scrambling abilities. As the season goes on and he gets more familiar with the CFL game he will only get better. If he falters Tanner Marsh, who also played a couple of games last year and has recovered from injury, can step in. With a wide receiver corps comprised of S.J. Green, Brandon London, Johnson, Richardson (who won’t start the season, but the Alouettes are hoping he’ll be ready at some point), and last season’s break out star, Duron Carter, Smith should have some great targets to get the ball to. As for the running game, Whitaker has looked great in camp and the team will also have Jerome Messam and Tyrell Sutton ready to fill in. Offensively the team will be looking to be a more mobile
Defensively the team will be lead by veterans Ferri, John Bowman, Kyries Hebert, Jerald Brown, Billy Parker, Geoff Tisdale, Ed Gainey, Marc-Olivier Brouillette, McElveen, and Alan-Michael Cash. Bear Woods is projected to replace the departed Emry. The Alouettes led the league in several defensive categories and with defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe back for 2014 I don’t expect things to change much.
As for the kicking game, veteran Sean Whyte had a tough season last year which sets up a nice competition going into this season. Whyte was re-signed by the team, but he will have to fend off Delbert Alvarado in regards to being the team’s field goal kicker. Alvarado has the strongest leg of the three kickers in camp this year.
I think the Alouettes, as long as they get some steady play from the quarterback position, will surprise many with their quality. One thing for sure is that they should provide Montreal football fans with plenty of entertaining football.
The 2014 season gets underway shortly with the Alouettes playing their first of two pre season games on June 14 against the Hamilton Tiger Cats and with the regular season beginning on June 28 in Calgary against the Stampeders.
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