Alouettes Look Dangerous for 2014

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There was always one constant in Montreal, one of the main reasons why the Als competed for as long as they did, one key presence who always made the team worthy of Grey Cup consideration.

In three-down football, teams are only as good as their Canadian talent and depth while no team will win a championship or be in the hunt for a title without a quality quarterback.

In Anthony Calvillo, the Als would always begin any season with a head start, a calming presence, a proven winner whose absence will now be filled by either Troy Smith or Tanner Marsh.

The Als got a glimpse of life without A.C. during last year’s season of upheaval and injury, a crash-and-burn kind of football experience that featured a rookie CFL head coach, but a stout defence that would rank among the best.

The Als would end their season in Guelph, where the host Ticats required overtime and a non-call in the end zone that should have resulted in a pass interference penalty to advance to the East final.

It’s a big if, but if the Als can establish consistency at quarterback, they’ll be once again knocking on the door of a East Division title and a berth in the Grey Cup.

Tom Higgins is back as a head coach, taking over a program in Montreal where the roster has undergone what could be best described as a tweak.

With so many injuries to front-line, established players last season, a lot of relatively unknown players were given an opportunity, namely Smith and Marsh.

In GM Jim Popp, there’s no better executive in finding talent, no one more adept at addressing a roster need in Montreal than the man who virtually assembled all the pieces.

Make no mistake about the Als being relevant and competitive, refusing to hide behind any excuse.

Higgins knows how the league operates given his time as its director of officiating, has a good grasp on the talent in the CFL and exudes this joy at being back on familiar footing, away from the office life that was his football existence.

At a recent mini-camp, Smith took most of the first-team reps with Marsh not far behind, a scenario Higgins envisions when camp rolls around, assuming players have a new contract.

During an availability Tuesday with members of the national media, Higgins was asked the inevitable question about his quarterback depth chart.

“That’s very premature,? Higgins said. “Everything’s written in pencil.?

There’s an experienced arm under contract in Alex Brink, last seen in Winnipeg, a low-maintenance, high-character pro whom the Argos brought to their mini-camp last season.

There’s a potential star in waiting in Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, whom the Als recently signed.

As of today, it boils down to Troy Smith and Tanner Marsh.

“Troy and Tanner will be competing nose to nose,? Higgins said.

Eventually, Higgins will have to name an incumbent, but that time isn’t now.

As someone who has been around the league for as long as he has, Higgins knows how a team must have two quarterbacks to turn to in an 18-game schedule.

Popp ended last season as the Als’ interim head coach, filling in for the ill-fated Dan Hawkins.

For as long as Popp has guided the Als, there’s always been this question of finding a replacement for Calvillo.

There was a plan in place for Calvillo to replace Tracy Ham, a decision that would pave the way for countless seasons of success.

What offers Popp encouragement is how Marsh and Smith both lead the Als to wins last season, how each endeared themselves to their teammates.

“I feel very good about it,? Popp said of his quarterbacks.

He also feels good about the Als roster, which did its main makeover last off-season.

Like any executive, Popp can’t control injuries and the Als were hit hard last season, especially on offence in virtually all areas on the field — quarterback, tailback, offensive line and at receiver.

Defensively, the Als need to find someone to replace Shea Emry, who signed a free-agent deal with the Argos this off-season.

Emry, a non-import, is a ratio-changer, his absence forcing the Als to look at different options when managing their roster.

Jamel Richardson and Brandon Whittaker are back, but it remains to be seen if these two quality offensive players are back to their stellar ways.

Popp brought back Larry Taylor, a special-teams dynamo who had some great seasons in Calgary, a key addition Popp hopes will jump-start a special teams unit that regressed last season.

Popp also mentioned on Tuesday how he’d like to see Duron Carter get some touches in the return game following his breakthrough season last year.

Assuming the locker room is conducive to winning, the Als will be good, even as the quarterback situation resurfaces.

“I think people will be pleasantly surprised at how good the Montreal Alouettes will be out of the gate,? Higgins said.

All teams are GC bound at this time. :wink:

Montreal has question marks at the QB position, Kicking/Special Teams, MLB position, a new coaching staff and some major players attempting comebacks from serious injury.

well at this point, nobody's going to Vancouver in November..

For all the hand wringing over how long it took for the Als to figure out the coaching situation and whether Popp was coming or going, I think the Als have made some good moves.

Hanging on to Bourke who was easily going to be one of the biggest sought after FAs was huge.

Never mind that they have Smith and Marsh, Collin Klein could be another guy who could develop into a QB asset over the next couple of years.

Foucault was a risk in the draft but I think they picked up a couple of bodies that can give them some depth.

Richardson, assuming he's recovered with no adverse residuals from the injury last year, should still be serviceable. He may not be as quick but the hands and knowledge on how to get open should still be there. And he'll start the year with a knowledgeable CFL coach in Higgins and not the fiasco they had last year.

Chad Johnson, say what you will, but this is a huge get. First, just the publicity of having him attend the OTA on a tryout was good for the Als. And IF he makes the team, he will sell a lot of merchandise - good for the team, good for the owner, good for the CFL as well.

There will be a lot of eyes on Duron Carter this year, on and off the field. Enjoy while you can because if he has another monster year he likely will be NFL bound.


The key to the Als quest for the GC hinges entirely on keeping Troy Smith from finding out about Harvey's. 8)

I am really impressed by the Sun News System. They maintain a good coverage of the CFL- perhaps better that other newspapers.

Right you are; I’m glad I hadn’t booked my trip yet. . .

winnipeg free press is another good source for CFL news.

I hope you aren't impressed because you thought that the Sun had the headline "The Alouettes Look Dangerous for 2014" that was added by the OP. The title of the Sun article was "Alouettes ready to start over" NOT that they look dangerous.
But it was a good article about the Als.

Just the fact that frank listened in on the conference call for a team that is not in his market is awesome. Your not going to find any reporters from MOntreal covering the other teams conferences, maybe Herb but even he I'm not sure.

Well let us is after the play 2 games. Probably not so dangerous.