The Alouettes have made a number of changes along the offensive line this winter, but that doesn’t mean all the questions surrounding the group have been answered.
General manager Kavis Reed has made it clear that the team will be moving from two Canadian tackles to two American tackles for the first time in over a decade.
Montreal acquired Brian Simmons from Hamilton for defensive back Ethan Davis, and yesterday, they landed All-Star tackle Jovan Olafioye from the B.C. Lions.
I’d expect Simmons to enter training camp as the team’s starting left tackle, while Olafioye will likely be on the right side.
But even with the tackle picture becoming clearer, there are still plenty of questions surrounding the Als’ offensive line heading into 2017.
No matter who is protecting Darian Durant this season, the Als will need to make sure they give up less sacks than the league-high 64 they allowed last season.
–What happens to Jacob Ruby?
Ruby only suited up in one game during his rookie season in 2015, but he played in 17 games in 2016 (mostly at left tackle). He struggled in his first full year, but he’s still just a 25-year-old Canadian with size (6-foot-7, 315 pounds) and potential.
If the Als were to release him, he’d get scooped up pretty quickly, so that doesn’t seem like the smartest option. Maybe they can get something for him in a trade, but assuming they don’t go that route, what are the other options?
He’s still on his rookie deal, which makes his cap hit affordable, so if there’s no room for him to be a starter in 2017, he could either move to guard or serve as the sixth lineman.
–Can Luc Brodeur-Jourdain become a full-time starter again?
The 34-year-old was limited to 12 games in mostly a backup role last season after he tore his ACL and MCL near the end of the 2015 season.
Brodeur-Jourdain got a few snaps at centre in 2016, but he served as the team’s sixth lineman. Kristian Matte moved from guard to centre, which is a role he wasn’t as familiar with before last season.
If Brodeur-Jourdain can get healthy enough to become a start again, it would mean that Matte could go back to his regular role as a guard.
That would leave one starting job for Philip Blake or Philippe Gagnon (both Nationals).
–So, Blake or Gagnon?
If Brodeur-Jourdain is healthy and Matte goes back to guard, which one of Blake or Gagnon would be likeliest to start at right guard?
There was a lot of hype surrounding Blake when he arrived from the NFL two seasons ago. He’s suited up in every game in 2015 and 2016, and he’s played both tackle and guard.
The fact that he’s versatile enough to play both positions is good for his chances of having a role on the team, but his high salary means that he’ll need to start to stay on the roster. Keeping a six-figure backup won’t be an option for Montreal (or any other CFL team).
The Als invested the third overall pick in last year’s draft in Gagnon, and the selection paid dividends immediately. He was able to start from day one, which is rare for a player coming out of U Sports (formerly CIS) and he played in every game.
If it comes down to Gagnon vs. Blake, I have a hard time envisioning Montreal going away from Gagnon.
–Which under-the-radar offensive lineman could grab a starting role?
The off-season still isn’t over, so the Alouettes can add another offensive lineman or two, but there are some players on the roster that could cause a surprise or two during training camp.
The 25-year-old hasn’t started many games during his career, but he’s still been dressed for 49 games over the last three seasons.
He’s entering a contract year, which means that a a string of solid performances could lead to a nice pay day on his next deal.
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