The Montreal Alouettes will play their preseason finale at Percival Molson Stadium against the Ottawa Redblacks on Thursday night.
For many rookies and newcomers, it will be their final opportunity to impress management and coaches.
Since last week’s game against Toronto wasn’t televised, this will be many fans’ first opportunity to get a look at some of the new players on the squad.
Here are nine players to keep an eye on:
—Mathu Gibson-OT-Wingate: Gibson played his college ball at Wingate, which is the same small North Carolina school his teammate John Bowman attended. Veteran Brian Simmons, who the Als acquired from Hamilton this off-season, is currently starting at right tackle, but watch out for Gibson. The 23-year-old is athletic for a man of his size (listed at 6-foot-6, 295 pounds), which is exactly what you’re looking for in a CFL tackle. He also spent time with the Denver Broncos.
—Danny Anthrop-REC-Purdue: Anthrop has received glowing reviews for his strong performances in spring and rookie camps. The Als are planning to start the season with two Canadian receivers and three Americans (likely Nik Lewis, B.J. Cunningham and Ernest Jackson), so there might not be an opening for Anthrop right away. As we’ve all come to expect, 18-game seasons and short weeks lead to injuries. He could get a serious look if that happens. He spent time with the Indianapolis Colts.
—Anthony Sarao-LB-USC: Als management liked Sarao so much that they decided to cut all-star middle linebacker Bear Woods to create a spot for the USC product. The 24-year-old was a tackling machine in college with the Trojans, and although he’s too small for the NFL, he could eventually develop into an every-down player in Canada. Like Anthrop, Sarao spent some time with the Colts, too.
—DeAndre Reaves-REC-Marshall: Reaves was the primary kick returner during last week’s game against Toronto, but he suffered a head injury during that contest. Thankfully, he returned to practice on Monday. Reaves profiles as a Chris Williams-type of receiver. The 25-year-old is bigger than Williams, but probably not as fast. Still, if he can develop into anything close to what Williams is, that would be huge for the Als. There’s no opening in the starting lineup for an American receiver right now, but that could change.
—Ivan McLennan-DE-Washington State: The Als are likely set with their starting defensive ends heading into the regular season (John Bowman and Gabriel Knapton), but if someone can surprise it’s McLennan. In 22 games at Washington State, the 23-year-old racked up 10.5 sacks, which is pretty impressive. Like the other players on this list, a lot will depend on his ability to translate his dominance from spring and rookie camps to the practice field and games. He was with the Atlanta Falcons last season.
–Ray Drew-DT-Georgia: Unlike the other players on this list, Drew actually played with the Alouettes last season (he even got a couple of starts down the stretch). Coming into camp, the Als were planning on starting two Canadian defensive tackles, but that changed after they released Don Oramasionwu and Michael Klassen. Now, it looks like they’ll go with one Canadian and one American. Drew was terrific in last week’s game against Toronto. If he continues playing that way, he could find himself in the starting lineup on opening night.
—Matthew Shiltz-QB-Butler: Nobody really spoke about Shiltz coming into training camp because Montreal brought in CFL veterans Darian Durant and Jacory Harris (Vernon Adams was already here, too). But Shiltz was arguably the best Montreal quarterback during last week’s game against the Argos. Shiltz may not get many snaps against Ottawa on Thursday because Durant is going to make his Als debut in that game, so he’ll need to impress in limited playing time. Another strong showing could push him into one of the top three spots on the depth chart.
—T.J. Graham-WR-North Carolina State: Graham is a former third-round pick of the Buffalo Bills. After bouncing around the NFL a little bit, he decided it was time to come to Canada. The 27-year-old has good speed and more pro experience than the other players on this list, but he finished with less receiving yards than both Anthrop and Reaves in last week’s game. The preseason game against Ottawa will be huge for Graham.
—Branden Dozier-LB-UNC Charlotte: Dozier was very productive in college. Although he couldn’t stick with the Pittsburgh Steelers before coming to Montreal, he still made quite the impression during his first CFL preseason game. Dozier had three defensive tackles and two specials teams tackles in last week’s loss. If he makes the team, he’ll likely serve as a backup to Kyries Hebert on defence, but the fact that he’s coming up with special teams tackles improves his chances of making the team.
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