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ALOUETTES' DEFENCE IN DISARRAY

Wednesday, October 26, 2005 - 10:00AM

Injuries plague unit coming off big loss to Argonauts

By Herb Zurkowsky,
Montreal Gazette

Things appear to be going from bad to worse for the Alouettes defensively, only days after allowing 49 points in a loss to Toronto in their biggest game of the season.

Weak-side veteran linebacker Duane Butler, who attempted to play in the second half against the Argonauts after fracturing his thumb, underwent surgery yesterday and is expected to miss Montreal's final two regular-season games. With the Als already missing linebacker Timothy Strickland with a groin injury, they'll potentially line up against Ottawa this Saturday with a trio of rookie Jeremiah Garrison in the middle flanked by Canadians Patrick Dorvelus and Michael Botterill.

Newcomer Ricky Bell, who replaced Strickland against the Argonauts but struggled, didn't practise yesterday and is questionable with a groin injury.

The Als also will make changes to their defensive line.

End Mark Word, who took two unnecessary-roughness penalties against Toronto on the same play, costing his team 30 yards, wasn't at practice and has left the team. Word's penalties came late in the first quarter, moments after Ben Cahoon's touchdown narrowed Montreal's deficit to 12-7. Six plays after the penalties,

R. Jay Soward scored, increasing the visitors' lead to 19-7.

"He left the team on his own, after my meeting with him," head coach Don Matthews said cryptically.

Reached later by telephone, Word pointed the finger for his departure squarely at Matthews.

"I don't like the way they do things. I sense no loyalty," he said. "They bring you in, you play a couple of games and then they make you out to be the scapegoat. There was one penalty on me, but we had allowed 12 points at that time and ended up allowing 49 points. It's not because of me that we lost."

Word, a free agent, joined the Als last month and started the last six games. He had one sack, one tackle for a loss, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble. He had eight tackles and knocked down a pair of passes.

"They told me they didn't know if I was going to start or play," said Word, who played for Hamilton in 2000 and '01 and spent time in the NFL with Cleveland and Kansas City. "If I'm not going to play, I don't want to be here."

Word, who had a history of taking penalties with the Als, got into shoving matches with Toronto receiver Robert Baker and offensive-lineman Jerome Davis. He said he acted out of frustration.

Felipe Claybrooks, another Montreal defensive end, didn't practise yesterday. He's suffering from a heel injury and could be replaced by Mawuko Tugbenyoh. Newcomer Omari Hand would be activated for Word. It also appears Dedric Mathis will make his Montreal debut at weak-side cornerback. Mathis spent the last four seasons with the Tiger-Cats and has seven career interceptions along with one touchdown.

Almondo Curry would be benched under this scenario.

While nobody associated with the Als organization is pleased with the team's humbling defeat to Toronto, especially because it probably cost Montreal a shot at first place, everyone is attempting to look at the situation philosophically, while shedding a positive light on the matter.

"I'm still irritated from the weekend," president Larry Smith said. "People will begin to write us off. Maybe that's a better position. When you're not taken seriously, you develop a positive mindset."

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Ohh my god... we're in worse shape than I thought!
So we're going to have all-rookie LBs!! Plus rookie DEs!!!
Man things are bad guys.. things are very bad!!

What A fu**** mess!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And Curry is going to be benched again????????????

This is a nightmare on Defence.
Butler, Strickland, Claybrooks and Bell all hurt, Word quits the team and they are going to bench Curry again?
And suddenly Johnson, Brown and Stewart are good enough to play again after being benched off and on all year?
And they are going to start Tugbenyoh and Matthis and Hand?
And they are going to start Garrison, Dorvelas and Botterill?

This is unbelieveable! God help us!

I am changing my pick to Ottawa Saturday and probably Hamilton the week after!!!

Well pointless games anyway.
Everybody rest up for the playoffs

Thank god they're pointless, this is going to be ugly. I still fail to understand why, right from the start of the season, the Als just refused to play the defensive system that had served us so well the past few years. We just don't have the personnel to play another way (and with all the injuries we don't have the personnel to play the old pressure defence either).

I have to disagree with you, our system served us for 2.5 years (2002, 2003 et half of 2004 season).

Teams could now predict our "rush"/blitz defense and still get the yards....our system was overdue for a change, and we are paying the price right now....

Another thing, Matthews problem with some players like Curry, Megna (in the past)...it sure didn't help having these guys on the bench.

Well XGamer I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree.....

I don't think our defence was letting us down in the second half of last year. After all, we still finished first rather comfortably.....only reason we didn't go to the Grey Cup was due NOT to the Argos figuring out our defence but the major injuries to Calvillo and a few others.

Anyway, we never even gave that defence a try this year, even though it was the same personnel at the start of the year. Surely it could not be any worse than the "defence" we've been playing this year....we are surrendering Waaaaay too many points per game, and would miss the playoffs if it wasn't for a stellar offence.

Well after handling Ottawa pretty well, especially in the second half, I was wrong to panic about our defence with these injuries, and I'm glad I was wrong. They started to get aggressive and look like there old blitzing selves at times, it was good to see. Of course they still have work to do and made some mistakes and got burnt, but they will get some injuries back, and I feel better about them after this game than after the Toronto game, even if this wasn't Toronto. Cavillo had 4 td's and leads the league.

Als_Molson, allow me to disagree with you.

Our defense sucked big time against Ottawa. We were lucky Kerry Joseph would throw anywhere but to his receivers. Had we played any playoffs-bound team, we would have lost that one.

I'm not convinced our defense can take us anywhere in the playoffs. We give up points in bunches, we can't pressure the quarterback, and our coverage is average at best, and horrible on some nights. We may sneak past the Roughriders just because they are in turmoil right now, but even if we do, the Argonauts are going to bury us alive in the East Division final.

In any case, unless we somehow miraculously make it to the Grey Cup final this year, if I'm Jim Popp, I fire Don Matthews and Chris Jones. I know it's harsh, but we've been on a downward spiral ever since our 2002 Grey Cup win in the Don's first year as coach. In 2003, we went to the final and lost because Matthews insisted on starting a pair of rookie cornerbacks who got absolutely abused by Ricky Ray. In 2004, we lost the East Division final to Toronto partly because of A.C.'s injury, but also because Matthews was too stubborn to use the running game to compensate. This year, we finished second in the East, our defense has fallen apart, we can't stop anyone in the ground or the air, and Matthews seems to have lost the locker room. How much worse do things have to get before Wetenhall tells Popp to pull the trigger?

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Matthews certainly hasn't endeared himself to the locker room by arbitrarily benching players (Curry, Johnson, Brown), releasing or trading players for no reason (Whitley, Cavil), and making certain players the scapegoats for wider team problems (Megna, Stewart). So why should he expect to be treated any differently by the Alouettes brass? I think that Kevin Strasser is ready to become a head coach in this league.

I guess, but I can honestly tell you I expected a lot worse defence than they showed.
However, of course I am worried about our defence going into the playoffs.